Probably no one was as surprised by the success of MisterWives‘ 2014 debut album as they were themselves. The charmingly oddball, genre-hopping New York sextet’s inaugural long-player Our Own House broke the Billboard Top 40 and spawned a pair of hit singles, “Reflections” and the crazy groovy title track.
Their follow-up, Connect the Dots, was released this May – and we’re loving songs like the funkified, over-the-top dramatic “Coloring Outside the Lines” and the Middle-East-meets-ska “Machine” – especially its awesome, Mad Max style video.
The band hit the road for a 23-date tour beginning in Nashville on September 21. Said road tripping actually presents a particular challenge for them, as singer Mandy Lee and drummer Etienne Bowler are dedicated vegans. So when we caught up for a chat with Lee, in true BlackBook style, we also asked her to turn us on to their fave meat-and-dairy-free spots when they’re back home in NYC.
Did the success of Our Own House catch the band by surprise?
We are forever surprised and thankful for all the support that has come our way. We are living out our wildest dream together, and to have people connect to Our Own House or come out to a show singing all the words gives us chills every time.
How is Connect the Dots a departure from the first album?
Connect The Dots was incredibly liberating to write and record because it was the first time we had the luxury of time to create together. Our Own House was recorded in between several tours with a lot of pressure and deadlines constantly weighing on us. For the second record we went out to Woodstock, far away from the chaotic city, to simply enjoy ourselves and get back to making music the way you did when you were a happy-go-lucky kid. Funny enough, getting to work in that type of environment helped us dig a lot deeper lyrically and sonically to create what we’d hope sounds like a graduation from Our Own House.
You’re launching a full tour in September. What will be new about the live shows?
Besides getting to weave a whole new album into the setlist, the stage design will be more Connect The Dots centric. Beyond all the technical differences, we just hope the infectious energy and sweaty fun that the crowd always brings continues to grow. That’s really where all the magic happens, and reminds us that live music is the most freeing, unifying language us beings have.
The whole band isn’t vegan, right?
I wish, still workin’ on that! Etienne and I are vegan, Jesse and Will are vegetarians and Murph eats everything and Marc survives off candy. The guys are incredibly open to veganism though, and are always down to eat out veg or eat the meals I cook on the bus – which always makes me a proud mama.
What makes NYC a great city for vegans?
NYC is the mecca for vegans! Any and every type of cuisine exists vegan in New York, and it just keeps expanding. It’s been ten years since I shifted to the lifestyle and it’s so amazing to watch how much it’s grown and evolved. Even spots that aren’t plant based are now adding vegan options to their menus, regular grocery stores are now carrying a vast selection of veg meats, cheeses, ice creams, etc. Going vegan for the animals, for the planet, and for your health is easier and tastier than ever!
Do you find it tough to keep up the vegan lifestyle when out on the road?
This is a question I get asked quite often and it makes me happy to always answer how it’s been super easy being vegan on the road. I have an app called “Happy Cow” that tells you vegan restaurants closest to you – fast food chains like Chipotle or Noodles & Co have super tasty tofu options, plus I’ve always cooked on tour. It’s really fun and kindaa makes me want to put together a vegan guide for bands on the road…or a cookbook when I’m too old to jump around on stage.
MisterWives’ Fave Vegan Haunts in NYC
Champs is my go-to hangover cure, so we frequent this place just about every weekend. It has a fun, old-school-diner feel to it, where a fat stack of pancakes, tatertachos and a milkshake will fix you right up.
Be sure to wear socks to this restaurant because you’re required to take your shoes off at the door! Korean food done vegan has to be one of my favorites, and their homemade kimchi, avocado stone bowl, and spicy baby dumplings always hits the spot.
“Donut” skip out on this place! World’s Best Donut (vegan or not) goes to Dunwell, hands down. And as if their donuts fluffier than clouds with flavors ranging from classics to PB&J to Almond Joy to French Toast weren’t enough, you can fill that hole with ice cream.
This colorful and vibrant oasis transports you to Cuba and makes it hard to believe you’re in the East Village. They serve the most flavorful vegan Latin small plates alongside massive rum punch bowls so delicious you will want to swim in them. Empanadas, fried guac, white bean ceviche paired with any punch bowl on a Monday night when they have live Latin jazz will rid you of those Monday blues.
Growing up in Queens, pizza is just as vital to your body as water. That being said, I couldn’t be more elated that the golden era of vegan pizza has finally arrived in New York – proving the “vegan cheese taste like plastic” stereotype so very wrong. Double Zero takes the cake – or should I say “pie” – for unmatched vegan pizza. Their wood-fired dough is topped off with the works such as farro-fennel sausage, spicy marinara arrabiata sauce, homemade mozzarella, smoked almond ricotta, the list goes on and on. Have a tiramisu to finish.
Created by the vegan mastermind Chloe Coscarelli, whose cookbooks are the bible in our household, it brings vegan fast food to those on the go who want to keep it plant based. Her mac and cheese is the most heavenly creation and you’d never guess that the main ingredient in the sauce is sweet potato; she’s a mad scientist! Do try the kale avocado caesar topped with almond parm and shitake bacon, paired with coconut water straight from the coconut itself, to help keep you feeling refreshed and energized.