Performing under the acronym MNDR, 28-year-old Amanda Warner, who hails from Fargo, N.D., is taking dance floor tracks to new heights by stripping her shows way down. You won’t find a Gaga-esque throng of backup dancers and over-the-top fashions at her performances, but rather a bespectacled Warner alone with her keyboard rig, bopping in rhythm to her programmed beats and projected light show.
MNDR grew through a partnership between Warner, a seasoned musician with a publishing deal, and producer Peter Wade in 2009, after she moved to New York from Oakland, Calif., in hopes of building her song catalogue. After months of writing with Wade, he proposed she put out an album under her own name.
This story first appeared in the May 16, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I didn’t come to New York to be an artist,” she says. “I wrote [songs] with the intention of selling them.”
And she was busy with other projects at the time, like designing a touring keyboard rig for indie-rock band The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. She took a shot and posted four songs on MySpace as MNDR, which later became her debut EP, titled “E.P.E.,” released on Wade’s record label Wondersound. Later that year, producer/musician Mark Ronson caught wind of Warner and invited her on his radio show.
“I went down and played him one of my songs, and he played it on the radio,” she recalls. Ronson asked if she’d like to write on his third album, “Record Collection,” which was nearing completion. So she and Wade teamed up with Ronson and wrote what became the album’s lead single, “Bang Bang Bang.” Warner later joined Ronson’s band, on tour on and off, for a year while also touring as MNDR in her free time.
“The pace has been really rigorous; I have a tendency to not know my limits,” Warner says. When she’s not playing shows, DJing parties or producing other bands, she’s working on her debut full-length album, which she hopes to release this summer.
“It’s more pop than a dance diva electro project,” she explains. “It’s hook-driven music with ballads and some dance floor.”
Warner, who focuses on her live show while Wade plays producer, plans to add a full band to her performances but won’t give up her solo moments.
“Some songs don’t lend themselves to have a band; it ends up sounding silly to me,” she says.
Fashion is important to Warner when it comes to her shows, but she admits she’s still learning about designers while pointing out her Mara Hoffman jacket. Instead of going big with an outrageous stage wardrobe, she’s usually in skinny jeans or leggings paired with a black button-down shirt or a T-shirt layered with bold jewelry.
“I think when you’re a musician, style is a big part of it,” she says. “I don’t even think it’s conscious, they just go hand in hand.”
Not surprisingly, after wearing the same custom Seventies white-framed prescription eyeglasses almost constantly for the past five years, she says she’s really more about accessories. She counts Zana Bayne’s leather harnesses and Shape Shiftr’s tights and leggings among her current favorites for the stage. But it’s her beloved glasses that complete her ensemble.
“If you don’t have any money or anything to wear, it’s a really great thing to make a look,” she says. “There are a lot of glasses in this shape, but there’s something very special about these.”
Don’t be surprised if she suddenly becomes a favorite of the fashion world, though. Ronson’s previous leading ladies Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse were both courted by Karl Lagerfeld at the height of their careers. It’s a prospect Warner is more than willing to embrace.
“I’m probably more left of center than Amy and Lily stylewise,” she says of her music. “But if they embrace me, I think it would be great.”