Before she linked up with four male musicians to form MisterWives (the name a gender-corrected take on the term “sisterwives”) in late 2012, singer Mandy Lee was a New York-based vocalist being groomed for solo stardom. When she began casually collaborating with MisterWives drummer Etienne Bowler and bassist William Hehir, however, she realized that she needed to rework her quirky indie-pop tracks, and write some new ones, with a proper band beside her.
“I remember my old manager told me about backing tracks, and I was like, ‘Wait, what?'” says Lee. “For me, that was something I was never going to touch.”
Lee often bestows the other members of MisterWives with homemade vegan treats: cookies, ravioli, dumplings, donuts. “She can cook pretty much anything,” professes Hehir. The 21-year-old singer also provides the energy of MisterWives, whose stellar debut EP, “Reflections,” was released last January and precedes a first album with a possible September release date. At a Feb. 27 headlining show at the Westway in New York, Lee controlled the hometown crowd by whipping of her curly red locks, wearing a tambourine as a crown and singing out MisterWives’ small selection of released songs — and a cover of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” — until her voice was hoarse.
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MisterWives played its first show in its current five-person setup (guitarist Marc Campbell and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Blum round out the group) at New York’s Canal Room on Feb. 1, 2013, and the next day, they were offered a deal by Photo Finish Records, an Island Def Jam subsidiary. Photo Finish president Matt Galle, who’s also senior A&R at IDJ, says that his 11-person staff has solely overseen MisterWives over the past year — although it’s nice to have the option of utilizing Island’s digital and radio resources if the band keeps growing.
“None of our acts will fully be upstreamed — I would never want that to happen to my staff,” says Galle. “But I love the buzz MisterWives is building.”
MisterWives’ co-managers, Jared Glick and Jonathan Pardo, got together with Galle last year and painstakingly mapped out a year-long blueprint for the group. “Ultimately, we mad a conscientious decision last year that we were going to spend the whole second half of 2013 with them out on the road,” says Pardo. The group toured with Glassnote artist Half Moon Run and then with American Authors, previewing the “Reflections” EP before its release earlier this year.
Recorded in Bowler’s Bronx bedroom last year, “Reflections” has sold 6,000 copies since its January release, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The soaring title track was produced by Eminem collaborator Frequency, and was named iTunes Single of the Week in early January.
After the group heads to South By Southwest and embarks on a spring U.S. tour supporting another Photo Finish/Island band, the Mowgli’s, MisterWives will clamp down on its first full-length in May, with a single out in June and a possible September release date.
“The EP came together at the last minute, because we recorded all the stuff independently,” says Bowler. “It’s going to be amazing to be able to live and breathe the making of an album.”