It was the summer of 2010 that New York based eclectic ElectroPop duo of Amanda Warner and Pete Wade, better known to the discerning Pop world as MNDR, first came to out attention. A combination of stumbling across their track ‘Fade to Black’, and consequently the ‘E.P.E.’ EP, and then within a few months Mark Ronson’s MNDR & Q-Tip featuring ‘Bang Bang Bang’ blowing up, had us hooked.
MNDR manage to walk a line few people can successfully pull-off. Their music is both interesting, sometimes even experimental, and edgy, yet at the same time as catchy as the best Pop track and infectiously danceable. Thoughtful songs, loaded with meaning and a sense of humour, coupled with electronic music production that isn’t afraid to do something different, whist understanding the importance of melody, is a winning combination. The past year has seen MNDR go from strength to strength as Amanda has been touring extensively and releasing as string if acclaimed singles, most recently ‘#1 In Heaven’. All building anticipation for the release of MNDR’s début full length record ‘Feed Me Diamonds’, which promises to be one of the electronic albums of the year.
Synth fetishist Amanda Warner has a style and charisma that puts most frontwomen to shame, a prolific songwriter (she’s also written Pop songs for a publishing company), producer and performer with a clear vision of what she wants to achieve, took some time out from her schedule touring with The Ting Tings to speak to electronic rumors about, y’know, synths and stuff.
ER. Tell us a bit about your musical history leading up to MNDR, have you always been into making electronic music or have their been Rock bands along the way?
AW. I have been into and making music all of my life. From Classical all the way to noise and experimental and lots in between. So yeah there has been a few Rock bands…but always left of centre out of the grip.
ER. So what influences you, both from an electronic music point of view, and what inspires your actual songs?
AW. I have always been inspired by production and sound/sound design. I think it brings out melodies and micro melodies that can be lost a bit using traditional Western instrumentation. I think pop music is about connecting with as many people as possible. I took a break from pop music and was really involved with Experimental/Noise music, which felt more about exclusion than inclusion. When I decided to start making Pop music again I thought I should try and make it about connection and inclusion as much as I possibly can. I think people connect with emotion. For me, sounds can be as emotive as lyrics and melody. However, I think the challenge and what is inspiring about Pop music is writing lyrics and melodies that people can connect with. It is difficult to write a song that is direct and from the heart. It is a challenge to not drench it in metaphor. You can say I Love You or I Feel Sad many different ways using metaphors, but the challenge is to just say it…without irony and straight from the heart. I try and do that everyday with Pop music.
♫ MNDR – Fade To Black
ER. From the outside, it looks like New York is one of the only places in the US you can get away with interesting electronic music. The big dance acts seem to be working all over now but New York still seems to be the home of more eclectic synth stuff. Do you think MNDR could have kicked off anywhere else in the states other than New York? Has being based in NYC now given you an audience you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
AW. I have to respectfully disagree with you. Chicago, LA, SF, Berlin, Toronto, Minneapolis…truly electronic music is growing and changing everywhere. I don’t really think NYC is the centre of electronic synth music. I think this style of music is sort of beyond geography. I’m sure the best EDM is happening in Lawrence, Kansas right now….or Fargo, ND. That’s usually how it goes.
Truly I don’t know if MNDR would have changed into pop music if it weren’t for NYC. That is really odd to say come to think about it. I think NYC sort of focused me and what I wanted to do with pop music. NYC has a way of not letting you fuck around too much…the game is deep here.
ER. Does Pete ever play, or have any intention to play, live with you? Or appear in the videos? Or is he more comfortable holed up in the studio?
AW. MNDR is a duo in the studio with Peter and I, but as far as live performance and everything else that goes with doing an artist project, it is more of a solo endeavour.
ER. One of the coolest things about you, other then the music obviously, is that you’re apparently a massive synth geek. Where did you obsession with studio noodling come from?
AW. I grew up on a farm in rural North Dakota. My dad was a “blue eyed soul” Rock musician and moved onto more Dad music as the years rolled by. He built an extremely modest 4 track reel-to-reel studio in the basement of our old family farm house. It is cold as hell there and I just wanted to multi-track record. So finally when I was about 9 or 10 my dad taught me some basics of multi track recording and it went on from there. There was always music and musicians at our house.
ER. So, what’s in MNDR’s studio? Any favourite or go-to bits of kit?
AW. I ended up selling a lot of stuff when I moved from California to NYC. So I was pretty in the box for a long time. I just recently started to purchase gear again. I finally rented a proper production room in Brooklyn. Right now I have a Moog Voyageur, Dave Smith Evolver, Nord G2 Engine, a replica of an EMS MK1 suitcase synth, Electrix Repeater, and some pedals…bits of this and that. I am super into the Roland EP series vintage keyboards. I believe Fela used them or I know that Antibolis has them. I have a 1974 Telecaster, 1970 Fender P-bass, and some other great guitars. I am getting way back into playing guitar and bass…I guess that’s where I started. I imagine by the end of the year I will be sleeping under a pile of MIDI cables and modules. Oh yeah I just bought an OP-1 and I LOVE IT!!!!!! Also I have heard great things about the Tempest. Does that answer the question? I think I rambled a bit.
ER. And how does the writing and recording process work? Do you and Pete write together?
AW. Generally it starts with a beat that Peter and or I started and then it goes from there. We write almost everything together. Our goal in the studio is to always just start from pure creativity and emotion. I truly hate starting music with “we need a fill in the blank song” sort of mentality. I don’t think it lends itself to good song writing….or at least it doesn’t for Peter and I.
ER. If money was no object, what synth (or bit of studio kit) would you love to own?
AW. I pretty much want everything. If I had to choose, I am super into a vintage Eventide Omnipressor. I would also love a Yamaha CS-80 or maybe a tubon. I also would love a 300 year old baroque double bass with a 500 year old bow. I also want every vintage Danelectro and I want to live at Steve Albinis or John McEntire’s studio…maybe Carl Craig. I think I truly want everything. I really like old studio gear that has a ton of character.
♫ MNDR – C.L.U.B.
ER. Your new video for ‘#1 In Heaven’ sees you sans huge glasses, was losing them for the clip a hard decision? What’s the thinking behind the video?
AW. There’s more to life than glasses…but I do need them and they are my actual prescription. I have some new pairs of glasses….so you will see some of my four eyes again. The video directed by Cody Critcheloe (SSION) is a manifesto. We were inspired by Valerie Solanas, Patty Hearst, zines, and posters. The song is about Patty Hearst and her involvement with the SLA. The video is a live action zine and manifesto being created in real time. We wanted the political/zine undertones to be involved with the video. Cody is a genius…so he can make anything come together.
ER. So, I didn’t really know much about Patty Hearst and the SLA, although it was news over here I don’t think it made the same impact in the cultural psyche. So when I read that the chorus of ‘#1 In Heaven’ was based on her arrest statement I read up on the subject. Is the whole song based on those events or just those chorus lines? What about that situation inspired you to write about it?
AW. The whole song is inspired by her sympathizing with her captors (SLA). I am inspired by heroines and people who have moments of clarity and are willing to throw everything away for their beliefs. Patty Hearst is a million times more wealthy than let’s say Paris Hilton, and she believed in something so much, she was willing to throw away her fortune and fame. The SLA was a violent organization, which I don’t agree with, as I am a humanist, but I can appreciate on some level extreme idealism. I guess I am SO BORED with everyone these days selling purses instead of doing something interesting.
ER. When can we expect the MNDR full length album? And what can we expect from it?
AW. MNDR album entitled ‘Feed Me Diamonds’ is out this summer in late July/early August on Ultra Records. This is a pop album. It has ballads, dance songs, mid-tempos and everything in between. I think you will find that it is not solely a “dance pop” album, but more of a “pop album” you catch my drift????
ER. Are you a cereal for breakfast person, or more of a pile of pancakes kinda’ gal? Would that change the night after a big show?
AW. I am an oatmeal girl no matter what sort of trouble I was in the night before.
Many thanks to Amanda for taking the time to speak to our readers (that’s you lot!), we can’t explain how excited we are to hear to new album.
‘#1 In Heaven’ is out now with MNDR’s full length album, ‘Feed Me Diamonds’ due out this summer, both on Ultra.
Buy MNDR’s music from: