Below, Lee chats about what MisterWives has been up to, and what’s in store for this new era.
What made Fueled by Ramen feel like the right fit?
We've been a massive fan of them forever. The first time I ever met [Elektra Music Group co-president] Mike Easterlin was waiting for the bathroom at Jack Antonoff's music festival, Shadow of the City, years ago -- right when our band first started. He came up to me and was like, "Hey, I'm Mike, I work at Fueled By, I just want to say I'm such a big fan and I hope one day we get to work together if the opportunity ever comes about." When we left our label years later, they were the first people that reached out and I was like, "I don't care what the deal is, I really respect you guys." They don't feel like a label -- it really feels like a family.
[When we were signing] they invited us to Twenty One Pilots at Barclays. Usually at a show, industry folks are in the back on their phones, talking, and I just couldn't believe that they were all down in the pit dancing and singing the whole time. I was like, "Oh, you guys genuinely care about music." It just doesn't feel rigid or sterile, these people are passionate and they care and we feel so lucky. They also got me tickets to Lizzo [who’s on Atlantic]. I was like, "What? This is the best!" That's incentive to sign enough. I'm like, "You got me tickets to Lizzo, where do I sign the record deal?"
Can you catch us up on what’s been happening over the past few years?
Yeah, we've not been on the road much, so it's really just been focusing on the music. I've written, like, 40 songs at this point, which is the most I've ever written for an album, ever. Usually we're always on tour and so it's like, "OK, go time, whatever you write while you're out there, and those 12 songs will be the album." So to have the year that I did, just needing to write regardless of a label or the time constraints of an album or career or any of that shit, everything fell into place. I can't stop writing. I don't know, maybe we'll put out four records at this point or something. [Laughs]
What was it like being off the road and getting to soak up that time?
It felt like an eternity for me! It was the first time we've ever not been on the road for a substantial amount of time and I was like, "I feel like a shell of a human being." You don't realize how much you need that like the energy of connecting and that high that you get from a show -- nothing compares to that. It really made me appreciate what the show is and how therapeutic it is and how much it gives me. It makes you feel the most alive and drained but fueled all at the same time, so it's been good putting everything in perspective. I've always been thankful for what we get to do and it's been my lifelong dream to do music, but to be removed from it really made me crave and need it and feel empty without it.
[I also had some major] life changes. This has been one of the hardest years of my life [personally], but I've been the most thankful for music again. You get caught up, and it was nice to forget about all of that noise [and use] music to help get me through it. This year has been a rollercoaster of emotions -- I feel like I have died and come back to life multiple times. I was very broken, and [music has] pieced me back together and given me purpose for it again. I feel very fortunate that it has happened at a time where we also had to write a record!
When did you start to sit down and write music again, did the idea for the album come right away?
I really started writing, not thinking about the album. I just had to write. "Whywhywhy" was one of the first songs that I wrote and that was maybe a year, a year and a half ago. It's all very recent. It's so funny when you start to write a record you're like, "I don't know what this is gonna look like, how this is gonna form," and just now on my way here, I saw a massive mural on the sidewalk that looks like one of the images on my mood board, that was one of the big inspirations for the album's artwork. There have been so many little signs from the universe like that, saying, "Oh, this is the right track." All these little tiny moments of kismet, like, "OK, this feels right." ‘Cause you doubt yourself the whole way through, and during and after!
In terms of the album’s sound, what can we expect?
There's a departure, but it’s still MisterWives. There's still the backbone of the band and the sounds and what we've created. And we did that accidentally! It was never like, "Let's be this sound, or be sonically this way," it's just that's what happens when you're six friends that have all grown up on different music and it blends into one genre.
But yeah, it was fun to experiment sonically. Lyrically, it's the most honest I've ever been in my music, so that was scary, to out something so personal, like, "I don't know if I can share this, is this gonna make me too vulnerable, is this gonna make me too seen?" and then I was like, "Mandy, that's the whole reason why you write music. You can't limit yourself to being not as open and not as honest because you're worried if it's going to be too invasive of your truth." So letting down that wall was a big step, and then also just exploring.
It's also the first time you’ve written with other people, right?
Yes! For a long time I was always like,"'No, I gotta write on my own," because when you see a song and there's like 20 names on it -- it was something that I was very stubborn about, like, "No, we have to do this on our own." But it came about from meeting friends on the road and really respecting people that you love and look up to where I was like, "Oh, this would be fun to collaborate," and it to be organic. Co-writes can be the most incredible thing when you to come together from two different worlds and make something. When it's right, it's the closest thing to magic to me, getting to speak the same language musically with somebody.
Anything else you want to tease about the album or new music?
Every detail, from the artwork to the music videos to the concepts, all of these themes, it just feels like I had a baby. I'm like, "I'm so proud of this," and it makes me very thankful that I have this outlet or tool and I hope people connect with it. I think it will. no matter what anybody's going through. Everything I went through isn't all that special -- it's not like this rare thing that no one's ever experienced -- but it's nice that it can take on new meaning and new life. If it helps one person, my job here is done. It's helped me, but one more person besides myself! [Laughs.]
How did the rest of the band react when they heard these very vulnerable lyrics?
They're like my brothers, so sometimes if I write about things, they’re like, "Ahh, this is uncomfortable." But they're very supportive and have been really amazing through all this. There are some times where I'm playing them a song and I'm like, "Can I leave? This is very awkward." But there's just a lot of really fun things that we've gotten to explore and play around with in making this big piece of work that extends beyond the music, you know what I mean? I hope it really takes people into this other universe.