MisterWives’ Mandy Lee and Etienne Bowler discuss their band’s breathtaking fourth album ‘Nosebleeds’ and the importance of feeling all the feelings and giving yourself grace.
Stream: ‘Nosebleeds’ – MisterWives
We’re taught that happiness and joy are good and anger, sadness and depression are bad. I think it’s just the full spectrum of what our experience is and it’s about reclaiming that versus feeling like one is good and one is bad. They’re all normal, natural responses to life.
When I asked MisterWives what led to the creation of Nosebleeds, with its distinct fiery sound and breathtakingly raw lyrics, they earnestly responded, “It was just how we were feeling.”
It seems so simple, but the answer to that question is exactly what makes this band so special, and more specifically, this album. Released on July 14 via Photo Finish Records / Resilient Little Records, Nosebleeds sees MisterWives tap into something entirely new, while also pulling more from their roots than we’ve heard in albums preceding.
Following 2020’s acclaimed LP SUPERBLOOM – which Atwood Magazine called “explosive delivery of funk, rock, pop, and soul that will break your heart and put it back together again” – Nosebleeds is rock & roll, infectious, intricate, delicate, and beautiful. It’s as therapeutic as it is entertaining.
I’m not ok, but I am ok with that. It’s just how life goes. I feel like we need to give ourselves more grace towards not having to have it all together and not having to always find the growth – it’s not sustainable or realistic. It’s important to feel at peace with life and find comfort in the discomfort.
Atwood Magazine sat down with MisterWives’ lead singer Mandy Lee and drummer/producer Etienne Bowler for a deep dive into Nosebleeds and how the band created this raw, beautiful record. They explain with such clarity and freedom that Nosebleeds was them letting go of all industry standards and goals, and simply creating something that felt good and right to them.
By doing just that, they managed to create an album that is getting consistent radio play as well as playlisting across the board. The music that often connects most is music that is the most authentic and honest, and Nosebleeds is one of the most refreshingly honest albums we’ve heard in a long time.
Enjoy our conversation with MisterWives on all things Nosebleeds and the importance of feeling all the feelings and giving yourself grace.
Stream: “Nosebleeds” – MisterWives
A CONVERSATION WITH MISTERWIVES
Atwood Magazine: Congratulations on the album! It is so incredible. There are a few very exciting things with the Nosebleeds release. First, this is the first album you’ve released under Resilient Little Records, and second, you’ve been able to enjoy this release out in the world with the fans whereas SUPERBLOOM was a deep COVID release. How has it all been?
Mandy Lee: Thank you! Oh my god it has been the most refreshing experience – getting to do all the stuff with real people. I’ve had the biggest smile on my face getting to do these album release shows and signings. We did a popup at a donut shop where they made a Nosebleeds donut – all the fun things where you get to celebrate with people and connect in person. I’m not a phone girlie whatsoever so this has been my prime time.
Everything we’re doing now – It’s all the stuff that reminds you why you do it. There is so much hard work that goes into getting to the final release. It’s such an emotional rollercoaster and then when it comes out and you get to actually play a show and hear people singing the songs back with you. It’s what always keeps us going.
Etienne Bowler: With SUPERBLOOM too, when we finally got to tour it – it felt like we were playing old songs. Now, we get to go on tour right after Nosebleeds comes out. We’re so excited to program the set and play the songs. It all feels brand new and exciting.
Absolutely. The intimate shows you guys have been playing seem so great.
Mandy: Thank you! And they’re acoustic! I’m like if this is this much fun acoustic I cannot wait for what a proper show is going to be. The energy was so high and everyone was singing everything so loud. And this was us with a stripped down performance. We’re very excited for the fall.
Etienne: We might need to do an acoustic tour!
Do it! So, I want to dive into a few songs specifically, but first I want to talk about the overall sound of the album. It has such a Rock and Roll feel, but it’s still MisterWives. It’s elevated and different and distinct. I love it so much. Curious about what led to the overall sound of the record. Where was the departure from songs like “Easy” and “Wrongside” into Nosebleeds?
Mandy: The departure was the emotions. (we all laugh)
There was no conscious decision of going darker or adding more distorted guitars or anything like that. It was just really staying true to how I felt and not doing the classic MisterWives thing of sugar coating really hard times. We still love that for us sometimes, you need it to get through, but I just felt like doing that for this record was a disservice to where I was. I felt very raw and open, and I wanted the music to reflect where I was, rather than trying to race towards the silver lining of everything being packaged pretty and cleaned up nice for people to digest.
That’s what I love about this album - it gives you permission to be angry.
Mandy: Yes, all of the emotions are ok. We’re taught that happiness and joy are good and anger, sadness and depression are bad. I think it’s just the full spectrum of what our experience is and it’s about reclaiming that versus feeling like one is good and one is bad. They’re all normal, natural responses to life.
Etienne: Yeah, they both need to exist. And if you say you’re always happy you’re lying to yourself because you can’t have one without the other. Like Mandy is saying, “Superbloom” and “Decide to be happy” are the afterthoughts of going through something hard, but then being ok. Nosebleeds is what’s happening when you’re in it. Musically, it wasn’t a decision of any kind of “let’s do this, let’s do that” the production and the music always follow the lyrics so that’s where it all came from. They work together.
Mandy: I will say too, shoutout to my neighbors. There is a band that rehearses every Saturday. They’re young girls and every Saturday they would play Garbage, Alanis Morisette, No doubt, etc. all these songs and bands that I grew up loving. It totally permeated into what I was writing and the sounds I wanted. I wanted it to sound more organic and raw and not as polished pop as we’ve done prior. I need to bring them a record. I reference them in “All the Same” – I want to thank them for inspiring me.
*Shout out to the neighbors!*
I felt very raw and open, and I wanted the music to reflect where I was, rather than trying to race towards the silver lining of everything being packaged pretty and cleaned up nice for people to digest.
That’s amazing. They would love that so much. So, we can’t talk about Nosebleeds, the album, without talking about the success of the song “Nosebleeds.” Obviously, you made it a single, so you knew it was something special, but were you anticipating this much success with it?
Mandy: Man, at the start probably not. I did it with Dylan Bauld from Flor and K.Flay, who I love and are dear, dear friends. I was in such a dark place when we were working on it. I remember coming home from the session and I couldn’t tell if it was good because I was just so raw. I was recording those vocals trying not to cry so it’s wild to see the journey of it and how much it evolved. It became the whole backbone to the record and inspired the album name. This is why it’s always good to keep going. I almost threw in the towel on that song and then revisited it a year later and I was like “What the fuck was I thinking! This song is amazing!”
Etienne: Yeah, I listened to her demo and was like this is incredible you absolutely need to finish this.
Mandy: So I would say in the start, probably not, but then when we came to revisit the song I knew it had to be the single. It’s the whole crux of the record and to see what it’s done right now has just been, honestly, hard to process. It’s been so joyous and such a huge success for us. Radio is something that at the start of this record I gave up on. I let go of radio or any of the industry success goalposts. I didn’t care. I just wanted to make something that was true to me, that we loved and had fun making. Those were the priorities. I literally remember saying “I don’t care about radio – I’m good on that. I don’t need it.” And now it’s on the radio.
Etienne: When you stop looking for it, you find it. That’s how it works.
Mandy: It was the white knuckling, ya know? When you go into things and you have all these preconceived plans of how you want it to go and then it never does. This time around I learned my lesson. With SUPERBLOOM I had such big dreams that for the most part got squashed, outside of what the fans did for it. This time around I just wanted to make something that felt good and was honest. I wanted to forget about all of the goals that you get stuck in a hamster wheel chasing as a band.
Totally. It really comes through in the album that you did it for you. I think that’s why it is so great and is resonating so much. I want to talk about “Sideways,” which is also starting to gain some traction in the playlisting world!
Etienne: Spotify likes “Sideways”!
Yes, it’s so catchy from the first second.
Mandy: Yes! I’m a ticking, ticking time bomb.
Yes! So, tell me about this one, from the lyrics to the production it’s so great.
Mandy: Etienne slayed the production on this one.
Etienne: Thank you! I had the opportunity to work off some stems from a session that Mandy started with Cal Shapiro and Louis Schoorl.
Mandy: Who I did “Rock Bottom” with – this album was all working with friends. With “Sideways” I knew it was going to be a good time even if we didn’t come away with a song. That immediately alleviates the pressure.
Etienne: Yeah, so I got some of those stems and I chopped it up and reworked a couple things. I actually did it on my laptop in New York out of my old bedroom. My parents were listening and they were like “This is a big song you gotta finish this!” Mandy came over the next day and we finished it together. We set up a netflix fire thing. The yule log thing? We set up the fire on the TV – we made fire so we could make fire.
(We all laugh.)
But no, I heard the demo and I knew we had to finish the song. It’s incredibly catchy. And it has that vintage MisterWives sound that was important to capture on the record.
Mandy: And funny, that one too took so many turns. I feel like for these songs – every song we exhausted all the ideas. We went as far as we could and then we were like ok yeah no the first one was better.
Etienne: There was about seven or eight days of “Sideways.”
Wow, yeah so how does that all typically go? You start a song and how long is the process to finish typically - or is it all different?
Mandy: It all depends, but I feel like for this album in particular we had the attitude of really trying to lay all the ideas down and if they didn’t work we would go back to the original one, but we let ourselves at least try. And for “Sideways” I remember I wrote a bridge and then it felt like we didn’t need it. I was so stuck on the fact that it was such a short song. I was like “It’s too short! We need a bridge!” I still am one of the rare people who believes in bridges. I feel like they are a dying breed, but it just didn’t feel right in the song.
And then Etienne and the drop out – we got into it for the first drop out. He didn’t want the drop out, but I was like it needs that epic drop out moment where we’re going to hear the crowd sing it back and the music pulls out there.
(Note to fans: be ready to sing it at the drop out!)
Etienne: I feel like we met in the middle. We both had different ideas for what we wanted to try in this song. We tried everything. We put a lot of days of work into it and now I can’t unhear it this way. I’m glad we did it exactly how we did it.
It’s exactly as it should be.
Mandy: And then you’re not left wondering if it should be something else that you never tried. We didn’t want to have that regret so we gave ourselves permission to be as neurotic as possible on what we wanted to try and if we couldn’t beat it – Etienne didn’t love this part.
Etienne: To a point. If after 7 days you’re still trying things – It’s a 7 day policy here at Etienne’s recording studio.
Well it did pay off. It’s a perfect song. Speaking of the OG MisterWives sound, “Trip Around the Sun” is one I love so much and it does have that “classic” MisterWives feel. I love the guitar lick in the beginning and how it starts just with that and vocals and then kind of explodes. Tell me about this one.
Mandy: This one started with Cal too. A lot of these songs were baby ideas that were in demo stages and if it was an ear worm and it stayed stuck in my head I knew we had to see it through. Then Etienne would come in and help with the production. “Trip Around the Sun” was a fun one of just being really playful. I love how the song starts soft and then it’s this big explosion of all the band playing. I do this rhythmic singing, not beatboxing, but kind of me verbally singing the drum beat. I loved being really playful with it and showing the highs and lows through the music, which felt like what that song is. The acceptance of “another trip around the sun, I’m still coming undone” that’s really sad. It’s about growing and learning but still feeling like you keep unraveling. It’s two steps forward and one step back, and that’s kind of just the process of life. It’s making peace with it not being not linear.
I remember Etienne hearing that song and he said it made him cry. The first time he heard this one and “Vagabond” were the only two that made him cry. And he doesn’t cry.
Etienne: I don’t cry very often so if I hear a song and I start to cry it’s usually a good sign. Any of the demos I heard though, any chance that I had to work on them, I immediately would.
It’s two steps forward and one step back, and that’s kind of just the process of life. It’s making peace with it not being not linear.
Yes, and that song goes with everything, it’s ok to not feel like you're getting better with each year.
Mandy: You are still growing though! At the end of it when it says “I’m ok” – like I’m not ok, but I am ok with that. It’s just how life goes. I feel like we need to give ourselves more grace towards not having to have it all together and not having to always find the growth – it’s not sustainable or realistic. Social media really plays into how we think life is supposed to be vs. how it actually is. It’s important to feel at peace with life and find comfort in the discomfort, I guess.
I love that. I think that’s a great segue into possibly my favorite MisterWives lyric of the album and maybe of all time. In “Silver Lining” when you say, “Try to find silver lines, Tell everyone you’re fin , but you don’t know anyone who is.” That’s the one that made me cry! It’s so true though; no one is really ok.
Mandy: If it makes you feel better I cried while making all the songs. But yes – and that is the silver lining. This is another one that has a longer version.
Etienne: There was a second verse and another round of chorus but we cut it.
Mandy: It felt more like an interlude.
I need to hear the full version! But I agree - It’s a perfect A-side to B-side transition.
(The pair tease that we may be able to hear a longer version of “Silver Lining” on the deluxe release of Nosebleeds.)
The final song I want to ask about is “Ultraviolet.” It’s such a beautiful note to end the album on. It’s obviously such a raw and vulnerable song. I’m curious if when you wrote this song you knew it would be the closer or how that all came to be?
Mandy: At first we were talking about it opening the record, but that felt wrong. We had to come in hot with the rage and then work through all the rage to find this place of content. I think “Ultraviolet” is accepting the hard times and staying soft in those hard moments. It’s heavy and it’s delicate and it’s learning that it’s ok that it’s both. It’s not “I have to stay angry at these terrible things” or “I have to find the positive.” I’m just floating in-between all the extremes, and the sooner I make peace with that, the less resistance I have in my body and mind of how hard life has been.
I feel really thankful – I did that one with Jason Suwito from Sir Sly and Sean Van Fleet who did a few songs on this record. It’s rare in a session where you can go in and not feel the need to make the contrived “single”. Sessions can be really in and out and you’re trying to write a hit in a day – you’re not going to come in and be like “Hey I want to write a song that barely has a chorus and is just a stream of consciousness.”
Etienne: With a 30 second outro…
Mandy: Yes, a 30 second outro and is a slow ballad. But they were the people to do that with. We did “End of my rope” with them as well where there were just no rules. We were able to just make what felt right, which speaks volumes to who they are. I felt so comfortable talking about things that were really vulnerable.
I’ve never openly talked about being emancipated, which I do in the second verse. It’s 15 years later, still trying to forgive from where I was at 15 — emancipated and leaving home to pursue music. It’s a lot of painful parts of my life that I’ve always suppressed. When you let that stuff surface you just find such freedom in your existence. There is no shame and guilt about the things you’ve gone through. Finding the light in the darkness.
For that song I actually found these photos online of flowers under ultraviolet light. I saved them in my notes. They were illuminated – it looked like it was made in photoshop. All these glittering patterns and all the colors became electric. That felt like such a good visual that I wanted to put into a song. Only in complete darkness could you see all this light. It felt like a lot of what my experience is of how much good I have found through the really dark and difficult times.
I’m just floating in-between all the extremes, and the sooner I make peace with that, the less resistance I have in my body and mind of how hard life has been.
I love that so much. And knowing that brings it that much more meaning. I’m going to let you guys go but before I do - Tour is coming! What are you most excited for?
Mandy: Everything! We’re actually doing a day tomorrow where we want to brainstorm all the moments of the set and what we want to bring to life. This whole month will be putting the show together. We can’t wait for community and to sing these songs with people – that’s always the best part. We just want to bring a show to people that is pure escapism and fun from the crazy world that we’re all living in – so I’m looking forward to that.
Etienne: We have to figure out a way to play every single song in some way shape or form and we only have 70 minutes.
Mandy: I’m not looking forward to trying to curate a setlist, I will say that. It’s hard! We have so many songs now. We talk about wanting to do a show one day where each night is a different album and we play it in its entirety and create different sets for each record – kind of what we did for the live stream for SUPERBLOOM, but in person.
Sign me up! I'm coming to that.
We just want to bring a show to people that is pure escapism and fun from the crazy world that we’re all living in – so I’m looking forward to that.
We say our thank you’s and goodbyes, and the band is over complimentary of the support Atwood has shown them throughout their career. We explain that they’ve made it incredibly easy with the music they’ve brought into the world.
If there is one thing we know in complete certainty, it’s that MisterWives never disappoint in their live show, and these new songs are begging to be sung together at the top of all our lungs. Be sure to catch them at an upcoming concert; the Don’t Look Down tour,their coheadlining tour with Bishop Briggs, starts September 8th and runs through mid-October!
Stream: “Out Of Your Mind” – MisterWives
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© Matty Vogel
:: MisterWives ::