September 1 2014

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Beauty And The Beat: MNDR’s Amanda Warner Wants To Make Pop Music That Doesn’t “Feel like Purell”


With her oversize white glasses and impressive head of thick blond hair, MNDR’s Amanda Warner hardly needs catchy electro-pop songs to get attention—an area the New York-by-way-of-Oakland singer-songwriter hasn’t needed much help in over the past few years anyway. Since releasing the band’s first single in 2009 (although Warner is the group’s face and sole live performer, she works with Peter Wade on all the songs), MNDR has teamed up with everyone from Mark Ronson and Q-Tip to Lacoste. This month marks the release of her long-awaited debut album, Feed Me Diamonds, and between the dance floor-ready beats and lyrics inspired by the likes of Marina Abramovic and Patty Hearst, it’s destined to be more than just a party soundtrack. Warner spoke with about why she still believes in the power of pop music—not to mention bleached eyebrows and vintage Gaultier.

You’ve been releasing singles since 2009, but this will be your first full-length album. Why the wait?
Basically it took a while to find the right partner, a label partner who believed in my MNDR vision. I have a really interactive light show, the gear is all custom and lights up…the MNDR sound and visuals are very much their own thing—and it isn’t a cookie-cutter thing. Just like anything else, it can be more difficult to find the right people who want to elevate that process.

In trying to avoid cookie-cutter mundanity, have you also tried to deliberately step up your onstage style?
I’ve always had very individualistic, good personal style, but I never really in my head fantasized about what I would look like as a front person. I think it took me a while; I would say just until very recently, the past six months. I’m finding what I want to look like and where I want to jump off of from that, and that’s from working with a few really talented stylists. But with music and sounds and the way I like to construct songs, it’s the same with how I want the project to look; I want it to look like its own thing, and that’s always a bit more difficult.

What led to this newfound sartorial revelation?
I’m a consummate tomboy—I didn’t start wearing makeup until a year or two year ago! I would just wear shredded T-shirts and jeans and shoes, and you see that in the early footage. I certainly didn’t do anything with my hair—that’s still a huge struggle. I was able to start being inspired by vintage Gaultier, watching Neneh Cherry videos, and seeing all this fashion that was so artistic and creative—and that was less about body type; it’s just awesomeness happening. So then I just decided to pay attention to [fashion] and study it, and now it’s a creative outlet for me.

In a genre like pop, is there still a place for women to be subversive without becoming a novelty?
Oh my God, this is the most awesome question ever—yes! I don’t think it’s fair to criticize Britney Spears and these artists. They’re so much more [like] corporations, and criticizing them is like criticizing cupcakes. Freaking out about Paris Hilton deejaying is like getting mad about spaghetti—they’re just walking brands, and that’s totally their deal and go get it. But what I think is missing in pop music is questioning authority, questioning stereotypical things in society, and saying, “I’m not going to take it.” Twisted Sister; awesome example. The Clash, R.E.M., even Boy George had songs that were critical. People don’t want everything to feel like Purell; they want something different, they want to pissed about things, and they want to [have] a fantasy about it. That’s what I hope I can do with MNDR.

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