Nerdcore lovers and geekcrits rejoice! Last year, I introduced you to the infectious beats coming out of one terrifically-talented artist, went so far as to name her a "Bea[s]t to Watch in 2010" and continually spun all three of her available songs on a consistent basis. So when an opportunity to chat with MNDR before a show this past fall presented itself, I geared up faster than the beats she bumps.
There's a lot to learn from Amanda Warner, a now-Brooklyn-native via California, whether it be musically-inclined or not. Focusing on her artistic skill set, however, is what I had aimed to do...gathering exclusive information regarding shoes, name pronunciations and pre-show jitters along the way.
SB: Ok, what's your story?
MNDR: I came out here because the publishing company I was with a long time ago, we were signed there and one of the girls there was like I thought you'd be a good top writer, pop writer...stuff which I thought meant write full songs and then you try to pitch them. So I came out here with a bunch of songs I had fully done back in January. At that same time the Yeah Yeah Yeahs needed a new bassist, guitar, keyboard player and programmer because they were dropping their new record which was more electronic. So they hired me to set it up and be their new touring player so I was in LA for two months during winter [laughs]. So in between I'd go to producers and start top line writing. I didn't fully understand the difference between artist and writer because I'm a little bit new to that world. So then I met this producer Peter Wade, and he heard C.L.U.B.
SB: Which is a totally killer song by the way. So uniquely rad!
MNDR: I'm glad you like it! I wrote it in Oakland and I gave that to him and he was like “let me bounce these sounds” and starts to work it a little bit and starts to develop it off. Before that MNDR was kind of straight IDM (intelligent dance music), minimal techno, and juke. Before that I did not go lower than 140 bpm.
SB: Oh damn...people had to be sketching out everywhere!
MNDR: It totally cracks me up now. Yea, but that's the speed of that music, so I'm a big fan of juke, that's a big influence. But then we worked it out and then I was like “yea this turned out pretty cool” and he challenged a lot of parts and I wrote it for an artist so the lyrics and melodies were a little different, so the lyrics weren't as good and just kind of dumb. They weren't so much about me so he was like “well write about your life” which 'Il write about partying in Oakland and San Francisco which is crazy. So we started writing more together and then it was like “well why don't you do a solo project?” and I was like “ehh ok!”
SB: So when did this start as a solo project?
MNDR: Well, I've always been touring with other bands, or my band, or doing MNDR strictly. In Baltimore, I opened for Dan Deacon so strictly house party. I bought a sound system I got a sync on a fucking sub and they gave me a g, and I was like "I wanna party and tour and I don't give a fuck about anything." I just wanted to party and reach people that way. Then I decided my writing was going so well that I don't really wanna go on the road for a couple years. So after the YYY's gig, I just came back here writing, and Peter really encouraged me to put out a solo record, and every song just got better. I'd come in with just an idea or sketch and every song just got better and better so I was like “fuck this, this is awesome!” So that's how it came to this point, and Juliana over at Fader heard my music on MySpace!
SB: Whoa! Like who finds new stuff on MySpace anymore!
MNDR: I know! I just thought no way, someone told her, because its Fader. She told me straight up that she found me on MySpace. She really liked my record, Fade to Black, and then they took an interest, and I played them my records and even joints like C.L.U.B., some mid-tempo joints, and some slow joints which you'll hear. So now everything seems mega rad!
SB: That's killer!
MNDR: Let me tip my hat to how fucking dope Brooklyn is. Brooklyn has a really warm music community. I've only been here a year and I had been on a really minimal tour, like played a couple shows with some friends and that was two years ago. I just reached out to them and they were like “What is up?!” Everyone has just been like that. My friend and I did a Major Lazer remix with Ninjasonik. Brooklyn has a really great music community, I don't know if it always has, I've never lived here. But right now, it's great.
SB: So before moving here, had you ever been to Brooklyn? Visited or anything substantial?
MNDR: [laughs] Not really! I'm from Cali. When they would call and say I should take a meeting, I would straight up tell them “Look, I don't have shoes, only flip flops!” So I was like what the fuck, I have to get shoes.
SB: So you grew up in California then?
MNDR: Actually no, rural North Dakota. My dad's a farmer.
SB: I've never met anyone from North Dakota, so you're my first!
MNDR: Well this is what its like!
SB: Ok, I have to ask, because I've heard it both ways now. Is it MNDR, as in "mander" or is it M-N-D-R, and you pronounce each consonant?
MNDR: [laughs] Recently I've been calling myself the latter because it feels more dramatic and indulgent in a way I like. Sometimes I will just say "Mander" because I feel like it's in a tradition of minimal and early techno-science fiction and cybertron, drexio, Paul Kreg...throws it back to people who really made an impact on me. The thread of futuristic, but not like my music wants to be the Matrix or some shit. But I do like saying M-N-D-R as in, "Em En Dee Are". I just played Baltimore and I met this kid and he was like “what's your name?” and I was like “MNDR” and he was like “awesome I gotta hear you.” So either is legit.
SB: [laughs] So when you started doing solo work, what was your first performance like on your own? What was going through your mind?
MNDR: There were two chapters to it, because originally it was live techno, and live juke, so slightly experimental. But now, it's like "What is my style now, pop?" It was a challenge because you have a body of your work and you have all these records. They are all in and of itself “dance” records, but I am very interested in making things live and organic But I realized then I was a pop act and connecting to people with my singing. So my first show, I felt like I needed to show my gear-ness and when I wasn't I thought it was lame, but I got good feedback about how it was awesome.
SB: Well the first time I caught you was at FaderFort during CMJ in the afternoon, and the response was like “Who IS this!” but by the end everyone was like “Oh hell YES!!!”
MNDR: Dude, 3pm. ROUGH.
SB: 3pm on a SUNDAY, no less!
MNDR: I've played a bajillion shows, but at that one I was so sick like ready to puke and barf. I just told myself, "You have like 30 minutes to get this shit done, lets do it."
SB: No one could tell from what I saw, it was like “damn, this is the raddest shit we could ever hear right now.”
MNDR: Yeah, the Fader crowd was awesome. That show was show nerve wracking because it was just me. And its like Fader people and here I am dancing around like a dork, so I thought, "Screw it, my hips don't lie.”
SB: [laughs] Dude...Shakira! I think I am one of the few that loves her latest album.
MNDR: No way man. I fucking love it. I love Shakira. She has her own vibe and she knows how to won it. But yeah, I'm really glad you loved the Fader show. I played the DFA Blackbook party the same night! It was RETARDED. There were some Oakland heads there, I was having a good time.
SB: So whats next for you?
MNDR: Well right now I'm still doing some writing for other artists, but my main focus, I'd say 90% of my time is finishing a full collection of singles. My goal is to make every song a single, that would be a fantasy. We are very close to having 15-20 full records completed. There are a bunch of labels on board. So by Spring, full-length out and then hopefully Europe. I'm also developing a sound and light show so it will be a very organic experience. Lights being affected by voices and like a total seizure.
SB: That would be the best seizure ever!
MNDR: When you come to my show the goal is to: make out, have the music coursing through your body and be in a glitterdome of absolute awesomeness. I just want everyone to hold hands and make out.
SB: That can be the prerequisite to going to your show! You're going to have to make out with somebody.
MNDR: You are going to be so moved by it, I don't care if you are straight or whatever and just get free. Just realize you need to grab someone and make out and you will have the best time of your life.
SB: That's what's great about you. You say how it needs to be and what it needs to be and that's seriously respected. I can't wait to check out more of your live shows! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk, and keep it chrome!
Reminder: MNDR plays Glasslands tomorrow, January 21. More information here.
mp3: MNDR - Jump In
mp3: Major Lazer - Pon De Floor (Ninjasonik Remix featuring MNDR and Tasleema)