Seattle – Singer Mandy Lee couldn’t have known that her desire to have an 80’s cover band play for her birthday party back in 2012 would lead to national tours with established bands, sold-out shows, and hit singles featured on television shows and commercials. If she had, she, Etienne Bowler, William Hehir, Marc Campbell, and Jesse Blum – otherwise known as MisterWives – wouldn’t be continuously “pinching themselves” to make sure it’s not all a dream.
MisterWives crafts elegant, effervescent indie electro-pop tunes, with a twist of 80’s throwback sounds (dance and synth) and jazzy, modern folk-rock elements. They recently released their debut full-length album, Our Own House, in February, an album whose songs were written by Lee while she was locked up in a tree house. They’ve also been on tour this spring, selling out show after show and captivating audiences with their “undeniable chemistry,” as Best New Bands’ Amaryllis Lyle witnessed in March.
Drummer Etienne Bowler took some time to answer a few questions, via e-mail, about their formation, rise to fame, influences, and that old treehouse.
Caitlin Peterkin: How did the band form?
Etienne Bowler: Mandy and I were working a block away from each other on the Upper West Side in Manhattan at separate vegan restaurants. We’d always go into each other’s restaurant to grab food, and talk music. After about a year she finally invited me to rehearsal where I met our bass player, Will. When we needed more members to fill out the live sound I hit up my old band mates Marc (guitar) and Jesse (keys & trumpet). After our first show all together at Canal Room we got offered a record deal with our label Photo Finish. We all were like, “How the heck did this happen so fast?!?!?”
CP: How did you get your name? Were you watching a lot of TLC at the time?
EB: Ha hah. Mandy actually has a Mormon uncle and always thought the term “Sisterwives” was a funny one. So we playfully twisted the term so that Mandy married all the guys and we became friends. BEST FRIENDS!!
CP: What were your biggest influences growing up?
EB: My personal influence was my dad, he played in a rock band as a drummer and taught me how to play. I still look up to him today as he is such an amazing drummer, owns a successful wine business in NYC and is an awesome dad! I also love Stewart Copeland from The Police…We all have such different backgrounds and influences though which help forms our sound. That’s the beauty of a band! Many personalities and influences blending together into a harmonious swirl of colors.
CP: What artists/genres do you listen to now?
EB: We listen to all kinds of stuff, but to name a few faves… No Doubt, Foster the People, Michael Jackson, Walk the Moon, Daft Punk, Half Moon Run, Handsome Ghost, LCD Soundsystem and the list goes on!
CP: How has the tour been going? Any funny stories, favorite venues/cities?
EB: Honestly we are all in shock. We expected to play very small venues on our first headlining tour but ticket counts were so strong we got bumped up to the bigger rooms. It all sold out and each night is so special and the fans and friends that have come out to support us is so incredible. We couldn’t be more thankful! Also BØRNS and Handsome Ghost are awesome people and everyone should check them out!
CP: In the past year, you have absolutely (and deservedly!) blown up. What have your reactions been to your rise in popularity and gaining more and more audiences?
EB: See [above]. Hah, we’re seriously just pinching ourselves and can’t believe our lives are real. Everything keeps growing and moving forward. We’re already looking at venues for our fall tour and cannot believe it… Ya know the term, “I can’t even”? Well we can’t even… not sure if I used that right but YOLO!
CP: Where do you draw inspiration from for your songs? Is every song secretly inspired by the treehouse?
EB: Mandy writes all the songs, lyrics and melodies and brings the skeletons to us and we do our thing to it until it gets to a place where everyone is happy. She wrote “Our Own House” in a tree house that I had built in high school. I’m pretty sure she was imagining me holding a hammer in a shirtless and sweaty hot summer day layin’ down 2×4’s and thought to herself… “We built our own house,” at least that’s my theory! She’s my girlfriend so it’s cool. Hope that answered the question…
CP: Do you think the writing and recording process will be the same for your next EP or LP? How do you see yourselves growing as a group?
EB: I have no idea how or what we are gonna do but it will definitely all be recorded from the ground up with live instruments and no auto-tune. Maybe we’ll do some songs that start with a guitar riff or a drum beat, or maybe Mandy will pump out 12 new singles. Honestly we don’t have any plan or “Direction” that we’re going in, we just wanna go with the flow and make the best music we possibly can each step of the way. Can’t believe we are even at the point where album 2 is coming up! Can’t wait to do it.
CP: If you could meet any 80’s icon, who would it be and why?
EB: Michael Jackson ‘cause he’s the king of pop!!
CP: What’s next for you later this year?
EB: Next up is more touring, festivals, France (hopefully) and more touring! Hopefully we’ll grab a few days off to catch our breath, but we are so excited to play Hangout Fest, Lollapalooza and all these awesome things we’ve always just dreamed of attending and we are now finally playing them! It’s pretty wild. Also we really hope we come across some $$ to get ourselves over to New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii!!! Aloha!!!
Keep up with MisterWives ’ whereabouts via their Facebook. Their festival calendar is beginning to fill up.
With degrees in journalism and music, Caitlin’s written for Paste Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and MajoringinMusic.com. She loves cheese, laughing at GIFs of corgis, road trip sing-alongs, and connecting with people over good beer and good music.