MisterWives frontwoman Mandy Lee has been busy during quarantine. Her band just released their third studio album, SUPERBLOOM, and the journey to get here has been anything but smooth sailing. Born out of a life-altering heartache, the record is an ode to self-growth and finding the light on the other side of pain. Out on July 24th, SUPERBLOOM is a 19-track epic that feels immediately essential to the trying times we’re living in.
With release day just on the horizon, we caught up with Lee to discuss what it’s been like to put out an album in the middle of a pandemic, that aforementioned self-growth, how she’s been keeping busy in lockdown, and more (including her new foster cats).
First of all, how’s it going? I guess I’m the best one can be right now.
I was going to say it’s kind of a weird question to be asking anybody right now, isn’t it? I know! We need a new question to ask when we greet people — something like, “I know you’re probably doing horribly, but I’m here for you.”
Agreed. So, SUPERBLOOM is out on July 24th, that’s pretty cool. It is! I’m nervous and scared, but excited. It feels like I’ve had this album now for like, 100 years, so I’m ready to put it out into the world.
I’m guessing that putting out an album during all this shit is pretty different than any other time you’ve done it before. Would I be correct in assuming that? One million percent yes. Since we’ve been a band, touring has been our bread and butter. Everything has been our live show and getting out on the road, and growing our fan base that way. And we don’t have an online presence whatsoever, so I’ve had to learn to live stream and all these things and I’m like, I’m too old. I’m a grandma. It’s been interesting having to take on a new side of things that we’ve never really utilized, which is good and bad. I’m on my phone all the time now and am using it to connect with fans in a way I haven’t before.
Yeah, it’s like this time has forced us to get technologically savvy very quickly. And if you look at the phone I’m talking to you on, it has a crack in almost every corner. So you can imagine how much of a struggle it is to do all of these things for me.
With SUPERBLOOM, can you talk a little bit about the kind of themes you’re looking to tackle in the album? The record is a breakup saga for sure. And during the world’s climate right now, I think that’s the least of anyone’s worries. So, it is taking on a higher meaning of holding up a mirror and representing growth within yourself no matter the trials and tribulations you face, that you have the power to get to the other side of difficult times, is something that everybody can lean into. During the time that I wrote this album, it felt like the end of the world for me because of what I was going through. And it’s still incredibly difficult. I hope [the album] allows people to be reminded that you can make it to the other side and get through the impossible, and the unthinkable.
Do you think that being quarantined and being forced to spend some time with yourself has helped facilitate that kind of growth that you’re talking about? Oh, yeah. And in a very different way than what I experienced the last couple a couple of years. When you’re on the road so often, you’re always able to put life on hold. So, to strip that all away and feel like you don’t know who you are anymore definitely causes you to look inward and tell yourself “I want to be okay, and happy, and proud of myself without that stuff,” you know? Like, be okay with the mundane, simple things in life and not think I need a relationship, or touring, or anything else to make me feel complete. The cats that I got to foster and am now definitely keeping help with that, too.
I feel like I know a lot of people who have been taking the time to foster animals at the moment. It’s amazing. I don’t know who I was kidding. I was like, “I’m gonna foster these perfect little angels,” and now we’re keeping them. I got them harnesses and leashes and I’m going to teach them how to be road cats.
Nothing cooler than a cat wearing a leash. They look so goofy in their harnesses. I’ll send you a photo that you can put in this interview because it’s the most important part of the story now.
Yes, please. Okay, getting back on track — I’m guessing that when you first started embarking on making SUPERBLOOM, you weren’t really expecting that we’d all end up trapped inside and feeling more disconnected from the world than we ever have. Do you think the themes of the album have become even more relevant given the context of the times? The interesting thing about this is that we’re all experiencing the moment together and for the first time in our generation. Everyone has been talking about getting to the other side of this pandemic, and when we put out [the single] “SUPERBLOOM,” the lyrics were literally “I deserve congratulations because I came out the other side,” and that’s really on the nose for the time we’re in even though that wasn’t intended at all. You know, that was all about my own personal struggle. So, I do think that these songs have the ability to take on a bigger meaning.
I was watching the music video for “decide to be happy” and was laughing to myself a bit because it fits so perfectly into what so many of us are dealing with in our daily lives right now — spending too much time in our pajamas, getting on Zoom calls, etcetera. Can you talk a bit about how that video came to be? That video I’m very proud of. My boyfriend is an incredible photographer and this is the first time he’s ever directed a music video, and we shot it all in our apartment because obviously you can’t go anywhere else right now. We made our apartment look way cooler than it is because it’s actually just one room and very, very tiny. So, we had to get creative with the set dressing and making everything look like a totally different environment. But the song “decide to be happy” deals with something I’ve always struggled with — depression, and getting out of bed, and being able to take on the day. And now I feel like that feeling is so heightened for everybody. It’s just like Groundhog Day. It was easy to pull from the routine that we’re all experiencing during quarantine, but it’s also something I experience with or without a pandemic, which I think a lot of people can relate to. But yeah, Zoom is something that definitely came exclusively with the pandemic for me. I never thought I’d be Zoom-ing all day long.
I don’t think anybody even knew what Zoom was until this whole thing started. Me too! And now I’ve even thrown my sister’s bachelorette party on Zoom. Actually, for my first few Zooms, everybody made fun of me because I couldn’t figure out how to turn on my microphone. But now I’m a Zoom wiz.
Besides throwing bachelor parties over Zoom, how have you been staying busy in quarantine? How have you been staying sane? Um, well, I haven’t — that’s the truth. I’m not sane anymore! Not that I ever was, but now it’s just very apparent. But when I’m not working on the album, I’ve been learning guitar, which has been really fun and something I never thought I’d learn to do. I’ve also been learning to use Ableton to make demos and have been collaborating with other artists, so that’s been nice. I go for my evening stroll every night and have a cup of tea… oh, and I’m also about to order a rocking chair. I’m just owning that I’m a grandma and loving it.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when the world is back to “normal?” Getting to go home and see my family — I’m super close with them — is the top priority. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to do a road trip across the country, but I don’t have a license either so that’s not really a viable option. I do miss going out to eat, too. I love to cook, but I’m tired of cooking. It’s a luxury that I get to do that in my own home, but I’d like to go out for a nice meal that isn’t in my kitchen.
Ok one more question, and it’s kind of a broad one: What have been your biggest takeaways from the experience of making SUPERBLOOM and releasing it at the moment that you are? I guess it would be that human connection is everything. For me, music is something that’s therapeutic and cathartic — not something that’s even a hobby, or a love. Like, it’s really been my catalyst for survival my whole life. But, it just becomes so much bigger when you’re able to connect with people and sing it all as one. And I feel like that’s something I’m missing right now. Even though I’m about to put out my third album and I’m the proudest I’ve ever been of anything I’ve ever made, it kind of doesn’t mean shit if you don’t have your bandmates to play with or the people who’ve always supported you around. We take for granted how powerful human connection is, and I never want to take that for granted again.