Mandy, Indiana Dance Through the FuryPhotos by Cal Moores and Harry Steel Music Features Mandy, Indiana
The music of Mandy, Indiana is not for the faint of heart. The band’s intense output over the past three years merges the best of punk, industrial, dance and more into an alarming sonic soup. After self-releasing a handful of singles, the band unveiled their first EP … via Fire Talk in 2021, solidifying their hallmarks: French-language lyrics, thumping beats and gnawing guitars. At some moments frightening and, at others, alluring, Mandy, Indiana is insistent: We are going to make something that we are proud of—that we feel is urgent—and it’s not going to slide under the radar. Mandy, Indiana performs with a creative passion that hurts so good.
Now, the Manchester quartet is on the brink of releasing their long-awaited debut LP, I’ve Seen A Way. As vocalist Valentine (Val) Caulfield notes, “This is the album we needed to make.” While … introduced a broader audience to the band’s vision and sound, I’ve Seen A Way is a deep-dive into the political motivations and instrumental approaches the band explores through their intense sound. Mandy, Indiana are plainly honest about their disaffection and fury; that Caulfield chooses to speak it in her native French reflects an aesthetic and artistic choice: The words lend themselves well to the band’s music, and they entreat English-speaking audiences to dig a little deeper. It’s enlightening to uncover the manifestos she’s delivering.
I’ve Seen A Way is also an exercise in unconventional recording. Guitarist and producer Scott Fair embraced the challenge of recording drums in a dangerously damp Somerset cave. Eccentricities in sound and process are not simply points of pride for the band; they embrace the idiosyncrasies that emerge when recording on-location. What the four-piece produces under duress is as natural as it is weird. That’s the beauty of a group like Mandy, Indiana: It’s obvious that they’re comfortable in the extreme, as if to say “get in, the water’s fine” while lounging in a pool of lava. It’s fun to wrap your mind around.
To help introduce the band to the world, Paste chatted over Zoom with Scott Fair and Valentine Caulfield, each reporting from different locales: Scott called in from his home outside Todmorden—a hotbed of Ufology near Manchester—and Val reported from outside a comedy club in Plouha, where she and her parents just caught a show.
Paste: How did Mandy, Indiana come to be the powerhouse it is now?
Scott Fair: The story I always love telling is that Simon [Catling], the synth player, first encountered Val when he was throwing her out of a club he was working at.
Valentine Caulfield: I’m never gonna get over that!
Fair: I remember Simon telling me about that at some point. He was like, “Val? She might be a bit nuts.” I don’t think he fully grasped the situation at the time.
Caulfield: I don’t think anyone did. The number of people who are aware of that situation is hard. The whole of the UK knows I’m insane. That’s why I’m changing countries.
Fair: Now, the whole world’s gonna know because this record is going to travel far and wide. This record is gonna sell 4-million copies.
What’s the origin of the “Mandy” part of Mandy, Indiana?
Valentine: We changed the name from Gary to Mandy and workshopped it for a long, long time. It came up, and we went for it because that sounded nice.
Fair: We wanted a nice cadence. We were drawn to Gary, Indiana because of the cadence. We didn’t necessarily realize there were implications. People keep saying, “I don’t think they’re from Indiana!”
Caulfield: Although, when we flew into Austin, that cadence kind of fucked us up. The one woman asked which band we were in and we said “Mandy, Indiana” and she looked at me and thought I was saying “Mandy and Diana.” The amount of times I’ve had to repeat it is intense. I’m gonna get the name tattooed on my hand at this point.
What made you want to make music on your own, before Mandy?
Fair: Nirvana. I think that’s both of our answers.
Caulfield: I started playing music long before I found out about Nirvana. I’ve been singing since I was about five or six. My mother forced me to get into music. I still really enjoy it, obviously!
Fair: I got myself a guitar and started teaching myself a little bit; never learned to play it properly. That’s why we sound like this.
Caulfield: I’ve got a Nirvana story. I was a classical singer for a long time and I went to music school; I discovered Nirvana at 13. That was when I decided I was going to start a band.
Fair: They’re so ubiquitous, but I’m so glad we’re all in agreement that they’re the best you can be. There’s something very poetic about the story of that band; it’s like it was written by Shakespeare in some kind of clumsy way. For me, I had this video called Live Tonight, Sold Out, and it’s this weird collage of performances and interviews interwoven in this dreamlike way. Dave [Grohl] and Krist [Novoselic] had a lot of involvement putting that together. I think it catches the magic of that act so well. There’s something otherworldly about them. I was obsessed with that growing up. That became my benchmark.
Who are some other musicians or pieces of media that are bouncing through your head? What makes you want to make what you make?
Fair: Lots of other media!
Caulfield: Julia Ducournau. We just got a music video rough cut for the next single, “Drag [Crashed],” that is super, super Ducournau.
I’ve Seen A Way has many favorites for me, but “Peach Fuzz” blew me away. Can you tell me more about that one?
Fair: That’s one of my favorite tracks on the album, too. It was this kind of single-in-reserve that we intended to release without a video so it wouldn’t be the lead, but it’s one of the finest on the album, to me. I love doing it live. It’s quite unconventional for us; we’re a guitar band, not an electronic band. There are synths, so it’s decently electronic. “Peach Fuzz” was written with live shows in mind.
Val, I have a hard time being artistic or poetic or even cogent about anything that’s bothering me politically. How do you do it?
Caulfield: Writing is very much in my nature, it’s in my blood, I’m a journalist and I’ve been writing for such a long time. I think it helps that I have an idea of what I want to accomplish when I start. I find that the easiest way of passing on a message tends to be the best one. In [our Pitchfork feature], I was asked about “Drag,” which is the simplest thing. Every single line is something someone has said to me that relates to my gender. Like, I recite middle-aged men going up to my dad when I was an actual toddler and saying “you’re gonna need a gun to fend off the boys” and stuff like that, thinking about how, as a woman, you’re sexualized from birth but you can’t sexualize yourself—or you have to do it in a way that works for everyone around you, which is impossible. You’re always gonna make someone angry by being yourself. There’s a line from my ex-boyfriend who said to me: “You need to work on having a better ass.” There’s a lot of that in what I do.
I’ve been writing exclusively in French and a lot of people don’t understand what I’m saying. So, I use a lot of alliteration and consonance. I’m trying to create music with the words and get a more effective message to folks who may not understand what I’m saying. It adds something percussive that draws people in. It’s what I’ve wanted to do the whole time I’ve been in this band. I’ve taken my training as a writer and a lyrical singer to convey the message. I channel a lot of anger because I think it’s hard to look at the world and not be a little angry.
How do people react to your music?
Caulfield: Did you see that Guardian piece where the writer said “I wish this music didn’t scare my wife and cat?” Some people react like that.
Fair: I’ve been surprised by how normal some people find it. I was convinced that people were gonna freak out about it. But they haven’t. It’s pretty normal, it’s pretty accessible.
Caulfield: I’m gonna have to make up a language on the next album to really scare people. A lot of people react really well, some people really hate it. As long as you feel something, that’s better than nothing. There’s a universal message of working together and being angry that comes through in the danceability. People go along with it! It’s an amazing feeling.
Fair: Some of the more difficult moments are more palatable because it’s easy to dance to.
What’s the outlook of noisier music?
Fair: It’s nice to see it reaching a broader audience. Certainly bands like Gilla Band have helped make what we’re doing reach a bigger audience, because you don’t necessarily need radio play or tons of attention if it’s good music. Word-of-mouth might be enough for something like us. There are many paths you can take. We’ve been able to focus on our craft and we didn’t release anything until we were ready and felt like we had something to contribute. We don’t necessarily categorize ourselves as noise artists. We have lots of melody and rhythm. It’s very much not Merzbow. You can say it’s more like Cindy Lee; we dip our toe into the water of noise and pair it with melody.
What inspired your move to record in unconventional spaces, like the cave?
Fair: The cave, specifically, was just because we had already recorded in warehouses and other unconventional spaces, and we didn’t want to go into a studio for some of these things. The recording on-location would inform the writing throughout the recording process, generally. We gave it a try, and it very easily could not have worked out. We’re not strangers to recording on location—we’ve done this before—but there were a lot of elements that were difficult. It’s all about curiosity and experimenting. We like to explore what Mandy, Indiana sounds like that makes us different. We tried to record somewhere different to impart something on the sound and let us forge our identity.
What do you hope people get out of this record?
Caulfield: Let’s be honest, I hope it starts a global revolution. But, I don’t think people are going to bother googling the lyrics. I’ve been playing music for a very long time, it makes me feel things. I just want to give people a bit of catharsis in this hellhole of a world. I hope people get a moment of “What the fuck has happened to me?” Get from it what you do and let me know.
Fair: We’re not thinking too much about that. I don’t have a proper answer for that.
Caulfield: We made the album we wanted to make. It was a long process. I gave birth to that thing for a year-and-a-half. I’m glad we did it and we wrote something we’re really proud of. We sent Scott into a cave that smelled like cheese. We did that because we wanted to do it. It would be nice for people to get something out of it, even if that’s not why we did it.
I’ve Seen A Way is out today via Fire Talk.
Devon Chodzin is a critic and urban planner with bylines at Slumber Mag, Merry-Go-Round and Post-Trash. He is currently a student in Philadelphia. He lives on Twitter @bigugly.