She writes and produces all her music in her bedroom, she kills all the club competition when she performs solo and her club cred is so wild that anyone and everyone in the dance music business wants to be her friend. We could only be talking about the tomboy-spirited Amanda Warner, better known to the music world as MNDR – electro dance wizard.
When I first discovered MNDR, it was another uneventful thumb-twiddling day at work, browsing through the new music review pages of New Music Express online. Interested to hear what a tomboyish-bespectacled DJ singer and her partner Peter Wade sounded like, I clicked on the SoundCloud embedded audio file under the one-paragraph review and to cut a long story short, I really dug what I heard.
Not bad for an American electronic music duo who had their beginnings closeted in the bedroom and fiddlign around with knobs and buttons to come up with catchy dance-tapping music.
Not bad either for a geek-chick like Amanda Warner in certified geek-chic glasses, to push the envelope for performing DJs of the woman-kind to another level.
The 2010 EP entitled “E.P.E” helped lift the mood off those really mundane, dry as breadcrumb days, when the only thing you look forward to is when the clock hits six. Tracks like the droning throb of “C.L.U.B” and “Jump In” really hits that sweet spot of bouncy bunny hopping club effervescence that you can’t get anywhere now except watching that 90s film “Hackers”.
MNDR is a techno-culture influenced band whose name is an anagram of Amanda Warner’s name. It was officially formed in New York in 2009, but they were around way before that when Amanda was growing up with her audiophile father in a four-track fitted basement at her hometown of Fargo (yes, THAT Fargo) in N.Dakota. I guess the bitter cold winters and perhaps even long evening conversations with reindeers eventually drove her out to Minnesota, for college and then to Oregon where she formed her first electronic pop band, Triangle.
Triangle managed to keep the beat going for 8 long years from 1998 to 2006 before they threw in the towel and Amanda headed out to the Big Apple to be a songwriter for hire. It was there that she met record producer, Peter Wade and they began writing ultra-sonic grooves together for months before Wade told Warner that she release an album under her own name.
Hence the clever monikor, MNDR.
What sets MNDR apart from the other cheesy-bubblegum-rap-flake of Nicki Minaj and heck, even Rihanna is that MNDR’s beat drives the beat down hard and deep into the dance floor. Your feet will be shackled to her club beats and your soul driven crazy by the electro-bass undercurrents which take a large page out of early hardcore 90s Detroit techno and industrial new wave. It’s a combo that’s a definite win for MNDR fans as she keeps the melodies simplistic without compromising on your dancefloor IQ.
Ditties like “Faster Horses” and “Fall in Love with the Enemy” from her ‘Feed Me Diamonds’ album keep the adrenalin pumping long after the songs fade to the next track, with the music influences coming from labels like dirtybird and Kid 606’s Tigerbeat6.
“For the Feed Me Diamonds album, I wanted to make a straightforward pop album; not something electro-pop-defining but I have a feature coming out with RAC that will be more electronic-sounding.”
While she’s just now coming out of her geek-glasses chic and experimenting with Lady Gaga-ish styles, make no mistake about it, Amanda Warner is a serious tech and gear geek. Her early exposure to music gadgets, thanks to her father who was an audio junkie, was a huge part of her current obsession with tech now. As you all know, girls who get the ‘tech bug’ usually never recover. (Can I add myself to this list?) It’s always about how different functions work coupled with a fascination with new hardware/software and how machines can make interesting sounds and beats. Those are the drivers of the addiction: Something that tech-obsesseed tomboys like MNDR can relate to.
With Amanda she’s taken it so far with her obsession with sound that she even has a sound design blog that talks about obscure stuff like Shepard tones. (NOTE: As of this writing, this blog ceases to exist.)
“Yeah. Some people maybe think it’s put on a little bit — like it’s not real, or it’s smoke and mirrors. But I really think about gear a lot. I really care about that because I think machines have personalities, and if you learn what their little personalities are, you can make really great music with them. Someone built them, and someone’s personality is in that — you know?”
Guardian has called her the ‘geeky Gaga’ although for the life of me I don’t get it. Gaga’s got a whole fashion house behind her look and style while Amanda Warner, not to make her sound pathetic or anything, pretty much has those amazing oversized glasses to make her cooler than any of those scary Gaga shoes.
“My style is really what I can afford. I guess I’m broke, so it’s usually stuff I see in my head or in a thrift store that reminds me of this or that. It’s an organic sort of style, but I would say it’s subconscious and conscious. I don’t really work hard on it, but I like certain things that are very hard to find. If I see it, I’ll know it right away.”
As to working her way into the Mark Ronson partnership lounge, let’s say Amanda didn’t exactly waltz into the place in a dress, batting her eyelids. Ronson has the reputation of working with artistes he has a respect for and Amanda’s melodic and audio technical prowess definitely impressed the seasoned DJ since she was still quite the underground artiste and hadn’t a clue about Ronson and Co when they collaborated on the track “Bang, Bang, Bang”.
“This is only because I’ve been involved in experimental music communities for many years — really, really underground — but I didn’t know who he was. When I first met him, he was doing his last show at East Village Radio, and there was a blizzard outside. I was leaving to go visit my parents in the Midwest, and they were like, “Mark Ronson’s in the studio.” And I said, “Oh, well. Maybe next time.” And my friend who hosts this radio show called me and said, “No, you really need to come in.” So I met him and really liked the tracks he gave me. I liked his new record. But I didn’t know any of his other music. I Wiki’d him.”
Yup – that sounds like a girl who grew up Google around analogue and digital reverb because that’s just how the MNDR rolls. Get with the programme people!