Going Latin With Indietronic Angel MNDR

It’s a warm Friday night when I meet Amanda Warner, known professionally as MNDR, at TOY, a slick new Asian-themed restaurant in the Gansevoort Meatpacking District hotel. We’re here to chat about her music and to taste a selection of creative cocktails dreamed up by bartender Albert DePompeis that are inspired by Latin America. It’s a good time for Warner to take a breather, as she’s been working nonstop. “I’ve been on tour for like three years,” she explains with a laugh. 

That’s not hyperbole. The Fargo native has been in demand since coming to New York in 2008 for her mastery of keyboards, drum machines, and other electronic musical gizmos, not to mention her sultry, hypnotic voice, which helped make DJ legend Mark Ronson’s single “Bang Bang Bang” a party anthem two years ago. She’s been supporting Ronson as a member of his band, The Business International, and doing the club circuit on her own (you can often catch her at Le Bain, a posh club atop the Standard Hotel), using any available downtime to record her new album, Feed Me Diamonds. But on the eve of yet another tour, this time with Duran Duran, she’ll sample a flight of sublime cocktails that showcase DePompeis’ crazy skills behind the bar. A few highlights from a wild evening: 

 

Mi Corazón
Combine 2 1/2 oz Peruvian *pisco, 1/2 oz egg white, 1/2 oz sage-infused simple syrup, and 2 oz fresh lemon juice in a shaker filled with four ice cubes. Shake until egg whites froth, add more ice, shake again, and strain into a martini glass. Add two dashes Angostura bitters. Squeeze thick-sliced lemon peel over flame to ignite oil. Garnish with lemon peel and two sprigs of sage.  
 
“Bravo! So this is a play on a Pisco Sour? I can’t believe there’s fire involved. Do that again, I want to take a picture. Mmm, it’s super complicated, yet light and refreshing. This is what you drink at a really amazing barbecue hosted by your friend who used to play music and then became normal and married a lawyer. Their barbecues always have amazing food and the dude researches the drinks and brings these out. I really like it.”
 
In Bar We Trust 
Muddle 3 chopped strawberries, 1 sliced Serrano pepper disk (with seeds) and 1 oz rosé simple syrup in a shaker. Add ice, 1 oz lemon juice, 1 ½ oz Cointreau, and 3 oz mezcal. Shake and pour into a wine glass. Top with club soda and garnish with mint sprig. 
 
“Is this an eHarmony Drink or an OK Cupid drink? Oh, it’s definitely OK Cupid. I know that the guy or girl who buys me this drink isn’t down for a serious relationship. I absolutely love this. I think we’re having a good time, Victor, but I could see how this could totally bomb on you. As for this drink, it’s light, it’s breezy, it’s smoky. It’s a sophisticated one-night stand.”
 
Un Beso
In a shaker, muddle 5 raspberries with ½ oz cucumber juice and ½ oz simple syrup. Add ice and 1 oz Amaro Averna, 3 oz mescal, and 1 oz fresh lime juice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a pinch of black pepper. 
 
[MNDR applauds.] “Ladies and gentlemen, Albert from TOY! This is a sexy, sensual drink.”
 
I’m Getting Too Old For This
“It’s my 30th birthday. Let’s drink this and then I’ll tell you about it,” says Albert.
In an ice-filled shaker, combine 1 ½ oz blanco tequila, ½ oz lemon juice, and a splash of grapefruit juice. Strain into large shot glass. Add ¼ oz cherry herring, let settle on bottom of the glass. Add dash bitters. 
 
“Happy Birthday Albert! Damn that went down like nothing. We’re pushing the boulder over the cliff now. This one is straight up sexuality.”
 
*About that pisco:  The fiery grape brandy was first produced in Peru in the late 1500s, but now it’s now one of the fastest growing liquors in the U.S. Today, Pisco is divided between Peruvian and Chilean varieties, and I tasted one of each.  Representing the former, Pisco Portón ($40) has a gorgeous aroma of apples and melon and mildly sweet vanilla flavors with hints of buttered vegetables. Kappa Pisco ($34), from Chile’s Elqui Valley, is fragrant like a garden patch after a spring rain, and tastes of caramel with a bracing mint finish. Both are a pleasure to sip on their own, or to use in easy-to-mix cocktails like the pisco sour and pisco punch.

BlackBook Tracks #6: Is Your Summer Weird Yet?

It’s mid-July, and by now your summer’s probably getting really good or really weird. (My vote’s for weird, I don’t know about you.) Whatever’s going on, round out your soundtrack with this week’s musical picks.

JEFF the Brotherhood – “Six Pack”

Get to know another side of Nashville with JEFF the Brotherhood. The lead single from their new Dan Auerbach-produced album Hypnotic Nights shows how to stay optimistic about summer, even when it is too hot to live, also known as right now.

The Soft Pack – “Saratoga”

San Diego garage rockers the Soft Pack are getting ready to release their next album Strapped on Mexican Summer. First single “Saratoga” hints at the vibes to come.

Vampire Weekend – “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”

Remember when you first heard Vampire Weekend? Brooklyn’s finest have been keeping quiet while working on their third album, but they resurfaced at the Pitchfork Music Festival last weekend to remind everyone of just how great they are.

The Bewitched Hands – “Thank You, Goodbye, It’s Over”

The charming French indie pop band jangles its way through two and a half minutes of pure pleasantness.

Alt-J – “Tessellate”

See things in a slightly different way with these fast-rising Brits.

Lana Del Rey – “National Anthem” (Das Racist remix)

Nothing like a good remix to make Lana Del Rey more palatable, and Das Racist don’t disappoint.

MNDR – “Faster Horses”

MNDR knows her way around a slick electro-pop tune, and “Faster Horses” is no exception. Keep an eye out for her debut LP Feed Me Diamonds next month.

Discovery – “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” (ft. Deradoorian)

The blend of efficiency and pop production on Discovery’s LP make it a summer record with lasting power.

Bear In Heaven – “World Of Freakout”

Bear In Heaven bring the fuzzy, washed-out synths for a song that’s more complex than it initially lets on.

Poolside – “Just Fall In Love”

A record called Pacific Standard Time is irresistable by default, and the California duo Poolside have the disco-inflected chops to back it up.

Kindness – “Anyone Can Fall In Love”

A slow jam for summer nights, British up-and-comer Kindness has a knack for universal pop appeal.

Moonlight Matters – “Come For Me” (ft. Gustaph)

Getting people to dance to songs they’ve never heard before can be a challenge, but this track, assisted by Hercules and Love Affair’s Gustaph, is probably a good place to start.

Itinerary: MNDR’s Amanda Warner Takes Us to Chelsea

Electro-pop up-and-comer, laser lover and self-professed sci-fi nerd, MNDR’s Amanda Warner takes us where no man has gone before—on a star trek of sorts through Chelsea’s best-kept secrets.

“Oh my god, I love Battlestar Galactica!” screams New York–based techno-pop juggernaut Amanda Warner. Apparently, she’s a science fiction fan. “You’re planning to write about how nerdy I am, aren’t you?” But the Fargo-born Warner—one half of retro-futuristic dance-pop outfit MNDR, alongside producer and collaborator Peter Wade—isn’t afraid to embrace her fangirl side. Over the course of an afternoon in May, she betrays a fondness for Blade Runner, legendary sci-fi author Robert A. Heinlein and, yes, Battlestar. Given the amount of time she spends in Wade’s Chelsea recording studio and the fact that she designed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ synthesizer rig, it should come as no surprise that Warner treats music-making gizmos like old friends. “Different drum machines have their own personalities,” she says. “Some were made to be really synthetic. Some are stiff. Some can swing. I like trying to understand what makes each one special. But machines aren’t my slaves like they are in science fiction stories—they’re my little buddies.”

Warner moved from Oakland, California, to New York a year ago to work as a songwriter for hire. But it was only after meeting Wade that she began to consider fronting her own act. Before long, MNDR was opening for bands like Yacht, Massive Attack and Deerhoof. “It was totally natural,” says Wade of his partner’s career shift. “She was confident as soon as she stepped out from behind the table. It’s like there are laser beams shining on her at all times.” Together, the duo uploaded four tracks to MySpace last year. Glowing word of mouth spread like wildfire, and the songs eventually morphed into MNDR’s debut EP, E.P.E. Mega-producers Diplo and Mark Ronson have already remixed two of their tracks, and the band is currently at work on their first full-length album, tentatively scheduled for release late this fall.

Prior to landing in the Big Apple, Warner had been skipping around the country with the careless attitude of a true nomad. But she intends to stick around Manhattan for a while. “New York has been really warm to me, which has been nice because it’s a really discerning city,” she says. “It makes me a better musician, because everything I do here matters on some level. I have to be good at every show. There’s something liberating about that.”

image This ‘N’ That Jewelry 124 W. 25th Street I got really into loud jewelry about four years ago. When I go home to the Midwest, there’s always hilarious grandma jewelry at flea markets. I have a collection of gaudy peacock broaches that are like that—sparkly and beautiful. It reminds me of my grandmas and my old neighbor, who made jewelry. She pounded metal and smelted stuff. It was totally amazing and not crafty looking, but loud in a way that only grandmas can pull off.

image Black Door 127 W. 26th Street I like a dry, dirty vodka martini if I’m drinking, or bitters and soda with lime if I’m not drinking. When I lived in Minneapolis, I would drink every night. And then I moved to California, to the Bay Area, and I’d be like, Hey guys, let’s go to the bar! And they’d be like, “What are you talking about? What bar?” The next thing I knew, I was doing yoga and running every day. Now that I’m in New York, I’m back on the sauce.

image Ace Hotel 20 W. 29th Street I come here [Stumptown Coffee Roasters inside the hotel] for coffee. Sometimes Peter and I make bets, and if one of us loses the bet, we have to buy the other one drinks at one of the bars at Ace. It’s really expensive here, so you don’t want to lose many bets. We were at South by Southwest recently at this shitty hotel, and we decided to go to the pool. I was like, I’m bringing a towel. He was like, “They’ll have towels at the pool.” I was like, Yeah right, dude. No way. In this shitty hotel? We got down there, and—of course—there were towels at the pool. I bought him drinks at Ace as soon as we came back.

image Madison Square Park We go here to eat lunch because Peter’s studio has no windows. I feel like we don’t get enough Vitamin D. Chelsea is like vanilla, in a weird way. I enjoy how blank it is—you don’t really run into anyone there. It’s just people living their lives. It’s a good place to focus. That’s why I come here, so we can judge people and talk about them.

image Johny’s Grill & Luncheonette 124 W. 25th Street I come here at least twice a week. On Wednesdays, I get the split pea soup because it’s the next level of delicious. Johny is sort of like my best friend. He makes great diner coffee. I haven’t eaten diner-style for so long, because in California I would only go to a taquería or a taco truck. Hey Johny! I think that’s my tuna fish sandwich.

Photography by Marley Kate Styling by Allison Miller Hair and makeup by Rika Shimada forMake Up For Ever