Andra Liemandt started playing drums six years ago when her daughter, Kate, was about to start lessons. Liemandt had been a pharmaceutical rep before becoming a stay-at-home mom.
When Liemandt signed three-year-old Kate up for lessons, she couldn’t resist doing the same for herself.
“It was a life challenge for me,” she says. “It was inspiring to try and learn something new at that time. It was challenging for my daughter, too. To learn all these new things and walk in her footsteps, it was something I loved. I developed a huge passion for learning the drums and now it’s so much more.”
Today, Liemandt is part of The Mrs., an all-female rock band from Austin, Texas, that shares a lot more than melodies—they share a message.
“I really want women to feel empowered,” Liemandt says. “To feel that they can go out and live their dreams, no matter what their age or what challenges come their way. They’re enough to do it.”
When Liemandt started playing drums, she wanted another adult to join her musical journey, so she called her friend, Jenny Mason, and convinced her to take up bass guitar.
“My journey has been with my best friend from day one,” Liemandt says. “We’re powered by each other.”
They started writing and playing together and eventually met three other local ladies who latched onto their mission and their music.
Larissa Ness is a piano instructor, just as her mother was before her. She’s had a solo career and played for her entire life. Mandy Prater and Jennifer Zavaleta, guitarists and lead vocalists, have also played for a living for many years. Zavaleta was a jazz singer and Liemandt says that Prater can play every instrument. All of the women are in their 30s and 40s.
Liemandt laughs when she describes their first “show.”
“We did it in the living room of a girlfriend’s house,” she says. “We performed for our husbands on Father’s Day. I’m sure we were bad, but they clapped and supported us. We’re women banding together, literally, going on a journey as a band, and over time, it has become something different and something more.”
The group became The Mrs. two years ago with the goal of writing music that reflected their own lives. The women agreed that in the Top 40 market, teenage heartbreak and wild nights of drinking were more than well-covered. But music for mothers, working professionals, and empowered, positive women was lacking.
“We wanted to write something meaningful to us,” Liemandt says. “Something we feel other women out there can relate to and that our kids can hear.”
The women approach writing as a totally inclusive exercise. There is no single writer or leader governing the direction of the songs. The band sits down together at a round table and shares ideas. When they find a theme they want to focus on, they start writing lines together and put it to music. Once the idea is started, sometimes smaller groups within the band focus on writing a bridge or verse, but the magic happens when they’re together.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Liemandt says. “No one is in charge. We talk about relationships, today’s struggles, how we need to reach for each other, and deal with all the noise around us with computers and TVs. We need to focus on the important things in our lives, like family. We really feel that it’s the words we put out that matter.”
More Than Words
The group has reached people beyond their songs. Their first single, “Enough,” launched with a video last summer. Rather than make a typical music video, the women took another route: “The Magic Mirror.”
The group uses The Magic Mirror at many events. People walk up to the interactive mirror and it asks them how they feel about what they see. They touch the screen to give an answer on a sliding scale that ranges from feeling great to a hot mess. The mirror responds and the reactions from its users are touching.
In the video, women interact with the mirror and respond to messages from their loved ones. Though most of them answered the question, “How do you feel when you look in the mirror?” with a less-than positive response, by the end, they were each in tears, proud to be so valued and supported by their families and friends.
Within six months, the video went viral and the band has been on Good Morning America and The Queen Latifah Show. And it’s played places like The Mall of America. But the members say the recognition is small compared to the reward they feel when people experience the mirror.
“We’ve gotten all kinds of e-mails from people saying their lives have been changed by the mirror,” Liemandt says. “We had a teenager come up to the mirror and say she felt alone. It asked why and she said, ‘Because I’m bisexual and I don’t know how to tell anyone’. I can’t tell you the impact we’re having on people.”
“We had a mom come to a show who said she came because her daughter wanted to see the mirror,” Liemandt says. “The mom wasn’t going to use it. We try to encourage everyone to do it. Sometimes moms get pushed to the wayside. They want the best for their daughters, families, but they need to experience it, too. We finally convinced her to go to the mirror and she wouldn’t look at herself. She told us later that the mirror saw right through her and that she needed to stop being down on herself, because that was the example she was setting for her daughter. That was a turning point for her.”
The band has also released a Mirror app, which works in the same way. The mirror in the app asks how the user feels and their rating goes out to friends and family. Then throughout the day, those loved ones can leave notes of encouragement through the app.
“It provides the community a chance to experience the magic mirror anywhere they are,” Liemandt says. “It recreates the experience. If it notifies your friends that you’re feeling down that day and need a boost, they can pile on your mirror. The next time you go to it, you’ll have love and affection.”
Ultimately, she says the goal of the band is to connect with women, bring them together, and show them that they are empowered and more than enough, beautiful inside and out. These messages will doubtlessly be explored in the group’s EP due out later this year.
“We want to build a community with women through the band,” Liemandt says. “So we all wake up and feel our best.”