Amanda Warner, better known as MNDR, is a GRAMMY-winning songwriter, producer, and electro pop artist.
Working alongside everyone from Mark Ronson and Q-Tip to Charli XCX and Flume, MNDR has played a key role in re-shaping popular music for well over a decade.
MNDR recently launched the Diamonds channel on the Splice Discord, a safe space dedicated to under-represented genders and LGBTQIA+ music creatives. In celebration of the launch, we had the opportunity to sit down with MNDR to discuss her beginnings, creative process, goals for the channel, and more.
A lifetime of music
While MNDR has been writing and recording music for her entire life, her formative days took place in a unique and unexpected environment—a small basement on a farm. “My dad had a very modest reel-to-reel four-track studio in our basement on the farm where I grew up,” MNDR recounts. “As a small child, I also took piano lessons and played at funerals, weddings, choirs, and concert piano competitions. I picked up the bass when I was about seven years old via my dad, and began learning every bassline off of every album I loved that I could get my hands on.”
“After high school, I deepened my studies in sound design and recording, and also earned a music degree in double bass. I played in a professional jazz trio and also started my band, Triangle. All of that culminated to touring and recording non-stop for many years; there are a lot of twists and turns throughout this journey, but I won’t bore you with the details. I can tell you that music has truly been 100% of my life—consuming it, playing it, and living it. Most of the time, music is consuming me.”
The birth of MNDR
“I started MNDR in 2006 as a side project to my band when I was living in Oakland,” MNDR shares. “Since I loved sound design, noise music, techno, minimal, footwork, and other micro-niches of dance music, I wanted to start a live experimental electronic project that combined all of those genres. At that time (and still today), I wanted to be solely judged by the music, and not by my gender, age, or sexual orientation. I thought that as a name, MNDR transcended all of those boxes that I did not want to live inside of or be defined by.”
“As MNDR, I also nurtured my love of pop music, which brings me to where I am today. I had spent so many years making experimental music, which is by nature divisive, that I thought it would be interesting to completely switch into pop music, which is about inclusion.”
A career-defining collaboration
As MNDR began experimenting with different styles and sounds, she found herself collaborating with a wide rage of musicians. “The biggest collaboration in my career that was life-changing was working with Mark Ronson and Q-Tip for our song, ‘Bang Bang Bang,'” she tells us. “I also toured in Mark Ronson’s band for a couple of years and met a lot of other iconic artists and musicians.”
“Mark reached out to me based on my FADER article about my music on Myspace, in addition to my blog, which chronicled my favorite gear and how I was using it to make songs. As a song, ‘Bang Bang Bang’ changed the trajectory of my career drastically, and I am forever grateful for all that our little bop has done. Some other collaborations that have truly been humbling and enlightening are my work with Santigold, Killer Mike, Dua Lipa, Carley Rae Jepsen, Babydaddy, Giorgio Moroder, and the legendary Mavis Staples.”
“I also met my long-term writing partner Peter Wade, who helped shape the pop version of MNDR into what it is today. He is by far the most important collaborator in my life. I am a terminal collaborator—once I connect, I pretty much never disconnect from a creative relationship. I love it when collaboration becomes a secret language that’s developed through a billion hours of co-creating. That’s when you can truly get to something great.”
Hell To Be You Baby, and what lies ahead
In close collaboration with Wade and Babydaddy, MNDR released Hell To Be You Baby in 2021, her sophomore solo album that seamlessly combines a wide array of influences spanning everything from ’90s grind core and punk to IDM and big beat.
“Hell To Be You Baby is my ode to living in a time where the realms of physical and digital realities have been hyper-blended, pop stars have gained even greater cult followings, and cult leaders have taken to pop stars for status,” she tells us. “The like-share-subscribe mass mentality caused by social media consumption has led to a severing of natural serotonin receptors and the loss of human connection in favor of a quick dopamine hit and digital ego stroke. While the world braces for a new normal under the constraints of cyber existence, will it be pop stars or cult leaders who get the most clicks? Is there a difference anyway for the cult-of-me generation? Hell To Be You Baby is my vision for the future of pop music and its obsession with cult status.”
“But, for my next album, which I am working on at the moment, I am making pure, unapologetic, electro-pop-juiced songs that will blast you in the face while you’re sweating on the floor. I am going back to the basics with song structure, but always with a twist of cultural-obtuse observations.”
An ever-evolving landscape
As she’s explored with Hell To Be You Baby, along her creative journey, MNDR has experienced the evolution of what it means to be a modern-day musician firsthand. “The music landscape is truly different from when I began my music career,” she reflects. “On one hand, recording, engineering, and all of the barriers to making recorded music have been obliterated, which I love. For me, music is solely about connection, and when the tools are easy for anyone to use, we get to hear new perspectives in music, and that is magical.”
That said, advances in technology have also introduced new challenges for musicians to navigate. “The bummer side of today’s music landscape is all of the data,” MNDR continues. “Musicians and bands should not have to be measured by their perceived following on web 2 social media platforms, streams, and algorithms that promote monotony. That really takes the entire excitement and mystery out of unique musicianship and artistry. There is no metric to judge anyone’s brilliance.”
“Also, back when I began, it was much easier to just climb into a shitty van and tour the country playing shows and building a fanbase and network,” she adds. “Those naive and simpler days seem to be more difficult to obtain in our current era. That saddens me a bit. There’s nothing better than touring.”
The merging of creative roles
The increased accessibility of music production in particular has also led to the intersection and merging of different creative roles. “I really just think of myself as a music creative, because I don’t draw any distinctions between songwriting and producing when I am making music or working with an artist,” MNDR says. “To me, producing and songwriting are not separate skillsets. They flow in duet to amplify an artist’s vision. Also, in the modern day, artists are not just songwriters or producers anymore. Everyone is blurring those lines, which really suits my sensibilities. Creativity shouldn’t have boundaries—it feels like being very bored in school when it is like that.”
MNDR on the Diamonds channel
In respect to Diamonds, MNDR emphasizes that she herself will be an active participant in the channel, whether it’s by creating unique opportunities or providing and facilitating feedback on works-in-progress alongside community members. “First off, my vision for the Diamonds channel has nothing to do with MNDR,” she says. “I am looking to help foster a community of aspiring non-male artists, producers, songwriters, and their allies to create a new online culture where creatives can connect, share tips, and build connections. Diamonds is looking to define a new space for a new creative. I will be in the channel answering any and all questions during the week and going live here and there while I am working on music or collaborating. I want Diamonds to be in-the-moment and reactive!”
“And I guess at some level, I have selfish motives for Diamonds—I really want to hear and help amplify the non-male creative voice and perspective, because we haven’t really gotten to hear or see it at a mass level… And that is a tragedy!”
Below, MNDR answers some questions that people who are interested in Diamonds may have:
- Who should tune in?
- “Anyone who is truly bored with the same music-making and livestreaming culture.”
- Do I need to be invited?
- “No! All you need to do is join the Splice server on Discord and then agree to the community guidelines for the Diamonds channel—and then you are in!”
- Is the community for all ages?
- Can men join?
- “Of course—this channel is for everyone! However, it is specifically focused on helping foster the non-male music-making community that has been left out of the narrative all too often.”
- Why is it called Diamonds?
- “Diamonds are beautiful, complex, and strong—and I also have a song called ‘Feed Me Diamonds!'”
- Who is your dream guest?
- “This is too difficult to answer—but I will try! My dream guests are Erykah Badu, SZA, TRAKGIRL, King Princess, Charli XCX, Kito, Starrah, Doja Cat, Mark Ronson, Questlove, Debbie Harry, Karen O, Thundercat, Caroline Polachek, John Carpenter, Sheila E., Arac, KAVARI, Hudson Mohawke… The list goes on and on!”
If you have any questions that weren’t answered above, feel free to ask them directly in the channel. We hope to see you there!
Join the Diamonds community on the Splice Discord:
June 21, 2023