Meet Mr. Wrong, the Riot Grrrl-inspired, lady punk band from Portland, Oregon. We talked with Mof, Ursula and Leona about their recent Distraction Demo, their opinions on the female label in music and the musicians who inspire them to create music. Artwork by Hailee Evans.
Hey girls, tell us about yourselves and how you got to know each other.
There are three of us in Mr. Wrong, Mof plays guitar, Urs plays drums, and Leo plays Bass. We all sing!
Mof: I met Ursula in the winter of 2014/2015 at a house show. After discovering that we were both reading “Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution” and having a great conversation about how badass the women in it are, I asked if she wanted to be in a band. “The band,” initially, was myself, Ursula, and our friend Colette on bass. Nothing really came of it besides many good nights and a couple exciting moments where we were all synced up instrumentally – a huge feat since we were learning new instruments together. Eventually, Colette went her own way and moved to Berlin. It wasn’t until almost a year after she left that Ursula and I started to develop a sound as a two piece. We met Leona at our first show, she came up to us after the set singing “Distraction” and enthusiastically offered to be our bassist one day- we asked her to join about 6 months later *coincidentally* two days after she bought a bass- it was meant to be!
Leona: I remember being blown away by them, they were raw and real and powerful, yell-singing about stuff that I wanted to be yell/singing about (and there were harmonies!). I tried for months to see another show because I couldn’t get their songs out of my head, but nothing panned out until summer when I started running into them in random places and realized I lived a block away.
What inspired the name Mr. Wrong?
Mof: Playing music under the pseudonym “Mr. Wrong” started as a running joke, poking fun at the amount of all-boy bands dominating the music circles we were in. The name probably stuck because it is empowering to write feminist-minded music under a title that mocks the societal expectation of finding a “Mr. Right,” while also calling out how often creative/powerful men are placed on a pedestal of righteousness which allows them to get away with blatant misogyny and abuse.
Tell us how the band formed.
Ursula: I was in my first band, this psych-garage thing. I loved playing music but things were growing really tense with the frontman of the band, a misogynist creep who held total creative control. I felt like the token “chick” in the band and didn’t really have a voice. Moffett and her friend Colette came to a few of our shows and the three of us became friendly. When they mentioned they were starting a band and needed a drummer, I said something along the lines of “I don’t know how to play drums, but if you’re ok with that, I want to” and then started joining their practices. None of the songs written in that line-up really stuck. It was after Colette moved away and we became a 2 piece, that we started practicing on the regular and coming up with faster, more raw stuff that felt really good to play. The rest is herstory.
Mof: Around the time that I met Ursula I was on the upswing of my early twenties. I had just spent the past few years trying to be a serious student off-and-on, helping my dad through cancer, and being in a restrictive relationship. Once I quit the Science-track, my dad healed, and my relationship ended, I felt like it was time to make up for lost time. I would walk around the city listening to bands like Bikini Kill and the Au Pairs, coldwave mixes and anything mentioned in “Girls to the Front”, making art and going to shows. I had a lot of time to try new things and making music was something I had always done alone but never really tried with others seriously. Mr. Wrong, for me, was born out of all the pent up energy I had getting excited about the future, discovering life-changing music, and spending time with soul-friends like Urs.
Leona: They found me at a time when I was having an identity crisis and didn’t even know it. I have been playing music my whole life, and I’m a part of bands that make beautiful music, but I wanted to play bass. I wanted to make loud music about stuff I cared about and I wanted to yell a lot. I was really angry, I had a lot of “ugly” emotions, but basically couldn’t stop gaslighting myself because I was scared people would turn away if they knew how I really am. The first time we played a show all 3 of us, I remember having a huge fight with myself about what to wear because I knew what I wanted to wear (which was spandex shorts) and I was scared I wouldn’t fit in because blah blah blah all my favorite self-destructive stories about cellulite and my “image” and my “craziness” and Moff looks at me and was like “it’s punk, you can do whatever you want”. I wore the shit out of that outfit and now I wear it all the time. This band is all about that, do what you feel and everyone’s like “fuck yeah”, we’re not trying to impress anyone and we bring each other up the more we can be ourselves.
Can you give us a short description about the songs on your Distraction Demo.
Massive aggressive: One of our first songs – a sassy declaration of self worth and rejection of the jabroney. It’s a bit sarcastic, my scorpio sun comes through in these lyrics. We looked up the origin of sock it to me for this song and I won’t ruin it for you, but it’s worth the google search.
Distraction: Moff wrote this song about someone who she really likes coming over every day and wooing her with beers and sweet nothings. I think it worked! (They now live together). I coined the phrase “I’ll drink that drink, I’ll drink it on the daily” (re:beer). I’ve always seen it as sort of a reluctant love song. I think it’s the second song we wrote.
Girl like Me: This is a cover of a song by the delinquents, who we absolutely adore! If they ever read this, play a show with us! The lyrics are absolutely on point and the attitude is fab and we just try to do it justice.
Dead or Alive: This song was inspired by the fact that there are still people out there that believe the earth is flat. What’s the fucking point in doing anything when people like that exist, you know? It’s about being very frustrated with the status quo and wanting to give up, not wanting to try, wanting to be taken out of the situation. But mustering what you’ve got and just screaming about it instead.
Witchy: I’ve always felt very drawn to all things witchy- being a witch to me just means owning your power, being in touch with a sort of darkness that isn’t bad or evil, just part of life. I like the idea of scaring the guys off with this one. I’m not a damsel in distress, I’m in control! And I love black cats.
Asshole: A combination of shitty dudes rolled into one giant ASSHOLE! We all have this guy in our lives, he thinks he’s hot shit and treats you like shit and you just wish he would eat shit and go away.
Describe your creative process.
Ursula: Talking about things that upset or inspire or provoke us in some way is essential to the creative process. And jamming. Also trying to out each other’s ideas. Songwriting is super egalitarian and everyone’s ideas are respected.
Mof: A lot of our songs start when someone absentmindedly plays something and we all jump on board saying, “keep doing that!”. Sometimes we’ll play the same thing for quite some time until someone is inspired to sing over it. In the beginning especially, we recorded these parts of practice so we could listen back later and pick out the parts we wanted to keep.
Leona: It’s really collaborative, we just start playing and usually after talking about things that we care about or stuff that pisses us off, everything builds off each other then all of a sudden it’s a song. I was terrified to open my mouth the first time we were playing together, but they just kept being like “Go! Try it! That was awesome!” and after a while it’s harder to be quiet. I think those skills and that feeling translate into life outside of practice- when you care, say something, do something and the people that are meant to get it will yell along with you.
What was your favorite show and why?
Ursula: This is hard, there are so many! One of my faves is when we played a show at Turn Turn Turn and it was really snowy so we walked there with our gear and then drank hot toddies and played a rippin set.
Mof: The snow show was one my favorites for sure! Ursula’s birthday show at our house is also up there in my top favorites. We opened, followed by Toxic Slime Records (they’re so great!), and our favorite Portland lady punk band, ‘Damn!’. Trump had just been elected our 45th president, a lot of us were exhausted from protesting and being angry in general; getting excited about life and the future felt like a chore. But, we decked the house in candles and black & purple streamers, made punch, played mixed tapes, and got to hug our friends around a fire pit in the rain with whiskey punch (or what was it??), in between experiencing amazing music in our living room. It was a welcome escape and probably the angriest set we ever played- it felt great to sing “Asshole” and “Massive Aggressive” especially.
Leona: We had this song about Reagan (that we’re currently re-vamping) where I get to scream and it was the most cathartic experience. I was like “okay, we can’t just be sad, but we’ve got to fight this, we’ve got to make noise and we’ve got each other”.
Who are the band’s main inspirations?
Mof: Musically, speaking for myself, I am forever and for always inspired by bands like The Au Pairs, Delta 5, The Petticoats, Bratmobile, Pylon, Plastix, Bikini Kill (of course), the first and only Julie Ruin album.
Ursula: I’m inspired by all of those same bands that Moff mentioned. We listened specifically to a lot of female fronted punk/post-punk during the creation of our early songs (and still do to this day!). I discovered the existence of online resources like the blog TV Dinner (which I actually found in the links section of Kathleen Hanna’s blog!) and Gunilla Mixtapes. Also a reference of female punk. The inspiration I found in these femme punk bands was immense, most of which I had never heard of, and many of which were international bands, which really helped broaden my scope. The immediacy, imperfection and raw energy of these bands has been a great model for what I want to do musically, and how I want to live my life in general, really.
How do you feel about the use of the female label in music? Do you use it or avoid it and why?
Ursula: I have mixed feelings about it. Things have certainly improved for female musicians, especially where we live. I am proud of being female, so in that sense I would proudly accept the title of “female musician”, but also I can’t wait for the time when it’s not about gender. I think it’s important to note that it’s not ok to categorize a band as being female without asking if that’s how they want to be identified. This is about listening to people’s voices, both literally and otherwise.
Mof: I will refer to us as a “3-piece, lady-punk band” when people ask what Mr. Wrong is. Due to the nature of our name, I feel like it merits explaining that this is a femme-group.
Leona: There are so many boy-bands out there, I hate it, but it almost needs to be said so that people know we aren’t that. But I can’t help thinking that the “female label” is imposed on us for other people to categorize us, sometimes use us and compare our “girl-rock” to “real-rock” aka” boy-rock”. I get sick of being told how to be my gender and anyone telling other people what or how to be is oppressive.
What advice would you give to the girls reading this who want to start a band or pursue music?
Ursula: Start now. Have faith in yourself and that your ideas are worth sharing – because they are. Do your research on the women who paved the way for you to be heard as an artist: you will draw strength and inspiration from them. Gather a group of rad, righteous femme friends and you will be unstoppable.
Mof: Trust your natural ability to make whichever instrument you choose (voice, guitar, keys, drums, w/e) to work for you. Don’t overthink it and always build off what you can do without worrying about what you can’t. And if you’re looking to start a band, choose your bandmates based on personality & music taste, not skill- it’s easier to learn guitar than to unlearn being an asshole. Ya know?
Leona: Go to shows and talk to people, make any and all music that you can even if you never show it to anybody, do things and be around people that feed your creatively, it all adds up.
Who is your phenomenal woman?
Ursula: Yoko Ono, Assata Shakur, Frida Kahlo, Patti Smith, Kathleen Hanna.
Mof: Kathleen Hanna, Allison Wolfe, Alice Bag, Leslie Marmon Silko, Georgia O’keefe.
Leona: Artemis, Nefertiti, Harriet Tubman.
Do you have any future plans you would like to share with us?
Mof: We have a record coming out on Water Wing Records (based out of Portland) in June/July 2017! It will have 5 songs from our Distraction Demo, now with bass and inevitably faster, as well as 4 new songs! We’re really excited about our new stuff with the addition of bass and Leona’s creative energy and we are looking forward to booking more tours once the record comes out – maybe an overseas one if we’re lucky!
Interview by Amy Smithers.