By Robert Ham
While the continuing blizzard conditions have become downright obnoxious for most folks living in and around New York City, the members of MisterWives embraced it as an opportunity.
“We had three days to get ready for some shows,” remembers Will Hehir, bassist for the pop group, “and we knew everyone going back and forth from where we practice would be treacherous. So we decided to have everyone over to the apartment to play music all day and hang out all night. We all hunkered down, but it was more play than work, I guess.”
Not that the members of MisterWives need much of an excuse to hang out. The three friends that started the band—Hehir, vocalist/songwriter Mandy Lee and drummer Etienne Bowler—all bonded quickly after meeting at an ’80s-themed dance party near their hometown of Astoria in Queens, New York. Three weeks later, the trio were moving into an apartment together and bashing out the material that would make up Reflections, their 2014 debut EP that helped them hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart.
The title track from that release is also the anchor for the band’s first full-length Our Own House, out Feb. 24, a bubbly and emotive collection of dancefloor ready indie pop. It’s an album that exhibits the many elements that make up MisterWives’ collective musical personality: a bit of rocksteady reggae, a dash of Broadway balladeering, a splash of EDM and heaping helpings of neon-tinted new wave.
“The awesome thing is that we all come from different backgrounds,” Hehir says. “So what we personally listen to is so eclectic. We traveled so much in support of Reflections that we’d all take turns on the road playing our favorite songs for an hour at a time. That lent itself to a lot of experimentation once we started playing with each other and writing for Our Own House.”
Besides their shared interest in all things musical, what helps drive MisterWives is how well the core trio get along. Sure, it helps that Bowler and Lee are a couple but, even with that, as Hehir put it, “it’s an anomaly.”
“We never have fights,” he continues. “We all get along incredibly well. Our personalities really match one another.”
If you want to get a glimpse of this in real time, look no further than the band’s Instagram feed. Mixed in among the typical promotional shots advertising upcoming singles and concerts are some videos that capture their ebullient charm and some hilarious antics like Hehir riding—and falling off of—a mechanical bull or faux newscasts.
That mutual appreciation extends into how the band writes songs together. Though it is Lee driving the ship with her facility for earworm melodies and soaring vocal turns, once she turns these raw materials over to the MisterWives braintrust, anything can happen.
“Part of the reason we get along so well is that we never think that we have the best idea,” says Hehir. “We’re open to suggestions from anyone and are willing to do whatever is best for the song. There are no egos involved.”
The true test of MisterWives’ mettle has yet to come though. The band is setting off on their first headlining U.S. tour this month with another recent New Music to Know pick, Børns, spinning them as far west as Los Angeles before returning on April 7 for what’s sure to be a triumphal homecoming show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. If you’re looking to attend though, you’d better hope for a small miracle. Like many of the shows on this tour, tickets sold out weeks ago.
The buzz around the band has also brought them some very cool opportunities. Not only were they able to spend a bit of time last year supporting Bleachers on a U.S. tour, but MisterWives was also chosen by John Oates to participate in a cool project where a well-known artist picks an up-and-coming group to cover one of his/her songs—in this case, the Hall & Oates classic “Out of Touch.”
“It’s definitely very unusual to have this guy who has sold over 80 million records and plays a mean guitar to come calling,” Hehir remembers. “It was an honor to pay homage to him. And he liked our version of the song!”
For all the buzz and attention that the band has been picking up over the past year, the members of MisterWives are staying remarkably level-headed and humble about it all.
“I’ve got to be honest, if I tried to wrap my head around it, it’d probably explode,” says Hehir. “It’s definitely overwhelming. When we sold out Mercury Lounge last year, I kept thinking, ‘Who are these people? We usually play these shows and get to hang out with our friends, but I don’t know anyone here!’ But we just want to return the favor to all these people that come to our shows and support us. We don’t take for granted that we’re some of the luckiest people on Earth.”