When HBO announced the crime drama Mare Of Easttown, perhaps the last thing anyone expected from a drama about Kate Winslet investigating a murder in the Philadelphia suburbs is that it would also be a show that champions the region’s DIY music. Mare Of Easttown is set in Pennsylvania’s Delaware County, a mostly blue collar community with some affluent pockets that’s half an hour away from the city, but close enough to be adjacent to the booming music scene that has produced bands like Speedy Ortiz, Waxahatchee, Hop Along, and Mannequin Pussy. Showrunner Brad Ingelsby grew up in Philadelphia, and wanted to include a subplot focused on the city’s role in the music industry, which took the form of Mare’s daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) having her own DIY band called Androgynous.
Over the course of Mare Of Easttown, the fictional band performs two Mannequin Pussy songs, “Who You Are” and “In Love Again.” Grammy-nominated Philadelphia-based music producer Will Yip was hired to record Rice’s vocals and coach the actor and her co-stars—Anthony Norman, Drew Scheid, and Madeline Weinstein—on how to become a band. When Mannequin Pussy was unavailable to consult with the cast for a concert scene, the production recruited Michelle Zauner and her Japanese Breakfast bandmates Craig Hendrix and Peter Bradley to do the job.
Whether Androgynous is covering Mannequin Pussy is still up for debate—though the show’s music supervisor finally offered us answers on how the showrunner viewed the real band’s role on Androgynous’ music. Up until the most recent episode, whether or not Mannequin Pussy even existed in the world of Mare Of Easttown was a conversation that had reached even Winslet herself. But what’s not up for debate is that the members of Androgynous come across as a legitimate band— no small feat considering how only one member of the band is a professional musician, and the rest had very limited musical experience. To find out how they pulled it off, The A.V. Club spoke with the Mare Of Easttown cast, crew, and their Philly music mentors.
Interview material has been edited and condensed for clarity. All credits refer to Mare Of Easttown unless otherwise noted.
In late 2019, Mannequin Pussy were approached about having their songs featured on Mare Of Easttown, selected to represent the type of band that a character like Siobhan would look up to.
Marisa Dabice, Mannequin Pussy bandleader: This all started over a Mannequin Pussy shirt. My friend Allison Pearce is a costume designer—she was working on one of the early costume pulls for Mare Of Easttown, and it’s set in a suburb of Philadelphia and Chester County. They wanted to pull a lot of things from Pennsylvania and Philadelphia—things that were specific to this region—so she went out to a lot of different businesses, and record stores, and collected a bunch of different shirts from local bands. And then I guess the director at the time, or one of the executive producers, and a music supervisor—when they were looking at costume stuff —saw our band name, and were like, “Oh, we’ll check out that band.” And then they listened to us and very shortly after that sent us an email asking if we’d be interested in providing the soundtrack to this fictional band that exists in the Mare Of Easttown universe.
Gabe Hilfer, music supervisor: Brad’s from Philadelphia, and the show’s based in the Philadelphia area, and we were having a lot of creative musical conversations about what the music should sound like and what Androgynous should sound like. We were kind of trading ideas like music and bands and cool stuff from the area, and the truth is is that somebody in the costume department who was based in Philadelphia said “I’m friends with the girls in the band Mannequin Pussy, maybe they’d be a cool idea.” And then they sent us the music, and we all listened to it and we were all like “Cool,” and that was the template. We wanted the music to sound like that.
So then we had a conversation about other bands and lots of different ideas about what to do. This is all very early. And then I think Brad said “Can we just use Mannequin Pussy? Can we just use their music?” And so I said “That’s a great question, why don’t we find out?” We talked to them and we pitched them the idea [of using their music for the show’s band] and everyone was like super supportive and wanted to get involved.
Will Yip, music producer and consultant: It was really cool how much detail they placed on everything. We put so much emphasis on the music, and they put so much emphasis on the T-shirts that [the characters] are wearing, and they wanted to make it real and punk and rock. If I couldn’t love HBO shows any more, I literally became even more obsessed with these shows in the process.
Marisa Dabice: It’s cool that they included Pennsylvania talent for it. They could’ve very easily taken some L.A. band and put them in Pennsylvania, but they did their research for it. And it also comes back to them being curious and open about the people working on their show.
Anthony Norman, “Nathan Forde”: I had not heard of Mannequin Pussy until I read the script. When I was reading episode one, it said the band plays Mannequin Pussy’s “Who You Are.” And I was like, “I’ve never heard of this band.” I listened to them and I was just an immediate fan. I was like, “This is fucking awesome.” So that’s when I reached out to Missy. I was like, “Hey, I’m on this HBO show, we’re playing your music.”
Madeline Weinstein, “Becca”: I did not know about Mannequin Pussy, but I now really love their music. I knew that Japanese Breakfast is a band, but I didn’t really know Michelle’s music beforehand, but also I’m now obsessed with her music. Drew, who’s from Philly, knew Mannequin Pussy and Japanese Breakfast. He was like obsessed with them, which was very sweet.
Drew Scheid, “Geoff Gabeheart”: The cool thing about the show was we got to have pre-production meetings and we had some rehearsal time. On a lot of film stuff, they just go straight into it. You don’t really get to rehearsal or get to meet everyone before it starts shooting. So it was so cool getting to meet the rest of the band and everyone and then in that first meeting, they were like, “You’re gonna play a song from this local band, and they’re called Mannequin Pussy.” I was like, “Oh my god, that’s so cool!” I was the only one who was like, “Guys, these guys are great. You’re listening to their album tonight.”
HBO wanted to find actors who’d be believable as a band, with at least some prior experience playing the instruments their characters play on the show. But only one of the actors, Anthony Norman, was a professional musician.
Angourie Rice, “Siobhan Sheehan”: I had done a bit of singing in film and TV before, but only ever in the story, like they didn’t record it beforehand—it was like, singing along to the radio. So this is my first time going into a studio and actually recording something.
Madeline Weinstein: I taught myself how to play guitar. I know all the chords. And I played acoustic guitar in a show in college. I sing and I play guitar for myself, but [can’t play] in a professional capacity. Just in the “I could be in a play where I sang one song and played four chords” way. But I had never played the electric guitar. So that was very new and intimidating.
Anthony Norman: I am a musician, and a songwriter, and I’m a multi-instrumentalist. Bass just happens to be one of my instruments that I play. I had to send in a tape of me playing bass. And then when I got to set, Maddie was like, “Yeah, they didn’t ask me to play guitar at all.” And I was like, “Wait, what? I’m the only person they asked to tape?” and apparently Drew [Scheid]— the drummer—and I were the only two that they needed to hear play.
Drew Scheid had been in a band in high school where he played drums, but did not consider himself to be a professional drummer.
Drew Scheid: They just like, “Send in a tape of you playing the drums.” And then I went to my friend’s house—they’re in a band—and I was like, “Can I borrow your drums? Can you film me?” And I sent them two tapes. One tape was of me just playing a couple of basic riffs and stuff for like a minute, and the second tape was me playing The Beatles’ “The End” drum solo—at the end of Abbey Road, where Ringo just kind of goes off. That was the one drum solo I knew by heart.
Will Yip: When I showed up to set, I didn’t know anyone, it felt almost like school because everyone has all the groups they’re hanging out with, and I was just there to work. I went up to the band and I was like, “Hey can I sit here?” and Drew was like, “Dude, I love Turnover. I love Tigers Jaw” [two acts Yip has produced] and I was like, “Yo, what?” It’s so cool, and that’s why I think the scenes were more authentic, because not only do [the actors] respect the music, but some of them are fans of the music, so they spent a lot of energy to do it justice. So it was something special to get that chemistry. Drew knows what punk drummers look like at shows, so it was easy for him without doing too much research.
Madeline Weinstein: The first day we went into kind of a rehearsal period. We sat down with one of the producers, Gavin O’Connor, and he literally was so serious like, “You all can play. Good. That was very important to us” in a very intense way and I was like “Oh my fucking god.” I was about to make a self-deprecating joke, like “Maybe I shouldn’t [do this], have I signed my contract?” But the thing is, it’s not like we were ever going to actually play what you were hearing. It was just being able to play it for the authenticity. It was going to be a pre-recorded track but we were playing over it.
Will Yip—who’s produced records for Mannequin Pussy as well as plenty of other notable bands like The Menzingers, La Dispute, and Say Anything—was asked to join the crew to produce the songs featured on the show, while consulting on scenes involving the band rehearsing and performing.
Gabe Hilfer: We were like, “We need an authentic punk recording expert in Philadelphia.” Then we were like, “Why don’t we get the actual family? Why don’t we get the actual engineer who worked with Mannequin Pussy?” Because he would clearly be familiar with how they recorded and what their whole vibe was like. And then that worked out great, and Will was the most accommodating, nice guy ever. The actors love him. The recordings he did were fantastic and he was amazing. Will is also managed by Mannequin Pussy’s manager, Tim Zahodski. When it turns out that [Mannequin Pussy] were out of town, [Tim] suggested we get in touch with one of his other clients, Will Yip, to do the recording and do the whole thing.
Will Yip: It’s cool that HBO wanted the realness. They reached out! They wanted to work with me to record the stuff and produce the music on the show because they wanted to keep it authentic to the Philly vibe and to Mannequin Pussy, too. Even with the non-Mannequin Pussy song we worked on, they wanted it to have the same vibe.
Gabe Hilfer: We had [Angourie Rice] go over to his studio and they got along great and we ended up having her record three songs there.
Not every member of Androgynous got to record with Yip. Rice recorded her vocals for all the fictional band’s tracks, but the instrumentals for “Who You Are” and “In Love Again” were provided by Math Club, an L.A.-based company specializing in music for television and film. Drummer Drew Scheid was the only other member of the show’s band to record, playing the drums on a cover of Pat Benatar’s “We Belong.”
Will Yip: The first thing [Rice and I] did was we recorded the vocals for the Mannequin Pussy songs, and we were just vibing. The first scene, they just wanted some consulting help on set, and I was down, it was just something I’ve never done before. I love TV, so it was cool to kind of go under the hood of it, to check it out and throw in my two cents where I can. They didn’t even need it! They’re so talented; they’re all so well-prepared that it was just fun to be a part of.
It was right before the lockdown. It was freezing, and we were on set for like 13 hours that day filming the scenes—but it was awesome. It was really cool to see artists on the film side just have that much discipline. They spent hours and hours on the same scene just to make sure everything was perfect, so it was really cool and kind of inspiring to see.
Angourie Rice: I cannot express my adoration enough. [Will’s] so great. And I was super nervous as well. I was like, “Oh, I’ve never done this before!” It’s also such a vulnerable thing to sing because you can’t really change your voice. I don’t know, it feels like with acting you can give something different every time, and I feel less attached to it, because I can take direction and be like, “Yeah, I’ll change it.” But with singing I feel like it’s such a personal thing, so it’s really quite scary, and you have to be quite vulnerable to let people hear you sing. Will was so great, made me feel very comfortable, gave me great notes. So encouraging. I really loved working with him.
Anthony Norman: Angourie recorded vocals separately and our sessions with Will Yip were more practice sessions. Will had already recorded the instrumentals. So what we did with him when we went to his studio to practice was just lining up everything: Drew and I were actually playing, but we just had to line it up with what was recorded.
Will’s the fucking man. He’s the best and it was really, really lucky and special that, you know, we all got to meet him and work with him hands-on. He just recorded my EP for me actually.
Will Yip: [Madeline] is the only one who didn’t get to record here. We did a song for [a later episode], not a Mannequin Pussy song, but a Pat Benatar cover [“We Belong.”] It was awesome. The band played on it, sans Maddie because I think by then the relationship [between Maddie and Siobhan] is [on the rocks]. It’s a bummer, I only worked with her on set and didn’t get to produce her in the studio, but the rest of the band was really great. It was just us four and a COVID officer to make sure we were wearing masks—HBO wanted to make sure everything was clean, we were all far apart, wearing masks. I didn’t know how it was going to work because they had to keep everyone safe, so they came into the studio before the band got here, and it was just us and the COVID officer doing the last bit of recording for the music, and it was a blast. It was so pro. Everyone was so prepared and they literally never recorded songs on tracks! Angourie didn’t do this before!
I can’t stress how blown away I was, especially by Angourie. That’s how I knew she’s a special talent. She took every bit of direction and she aced it. She did way better than anyone expected. I consider her a musician. It was easier than a lot of singers I’ve worked with in the past—actual singers in bands. She’s a budding superstar, and it was cool to be a part of her musical growth.
Pre-COVID, Ingelsby and team had planned to include a scene where Androgynous performs at a house show. To prep the cast for that scene, HBO brought in Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner—as well as her bandmates Craig Hendrix and Peter Bradley—to teach the actors how to move onstage and feel comfortable playing their instruments on camera. The scene was cut during the pandemic, but the practice still came in handy.
Marisa Dabice: So, the show hit me back up probably around early January 2020 to say that they were definitely moving forward with using our songs. It’s such a long vetting process for how these songs end up in shows, and you can be cut at any moment. So when they came back, they were like, “We’re definitely using your songs but these actors, some of them haven’t played instruments before, they don’t have a lot of experience.” I think this was Angourie’s first time singing. So they were like, “We’d love to have you come in, and we’ll set up some practices, you can come to set and coach them through this.” When I tell you I cried when I saw the date that it had to be—I was like, “I’m going to be on tour. I’m not going to be here. I can’t do this thing that sounds incredible and so much something I would want to do,” and they were like, “Alright, that sucks, is there anyone you would trust with this job to come do this?” and that was a half-second thought. The only person I would trust to send in there and know that they would be able to articulate and be helpful with how you bring a band to life is Michelle. Not only has she been in a band, she’s done the DIY thing, and she’s also been on tour with Mannequin Pussy and seen us play, and knows how we use our instruments in particular ways, and what moves we do that go along with the songs, like, she really understands movement and performance.
Michelle Zauner, Japanese Breakfast bandleader: Missy is one of the most compelling performers I know. When she tapped me to help consult the band while she was away on tour, it was of the highest honor. The band was so receptive, and it was inspiring to watch them gain confidence with each rehearsal, to witness the actors discover the showmanship unique to their characters.
Anthony Norman: Michelle taught us the songs. And that was the extent of what we rehearsed for—we just learned the song we were going to play at this big sorority house scene where the concert was gonna be. But still, we were in Philly for like a week rehearsing for several hours. We put in a lot of time in that. And then to hear [the concert scene] was getting canceled, I was like, “Man, that sucks. That would have been really cool.”
Marisa Dabice: Early on, when Michelle was working with them—it wasn’t just Michelle, Craig Hendrix who also plays drums in Japanese Breakfast went there because you know, drums are really specific, especially the way you drum along to a song. [Mannequin Pussy drummer] Kaleen [Reading] has complicated parts. So for a young drummer who’s never drummed before, they had to reimagine the song in a way that would look believable. It’s not even the actual track. They went in and re-recorded their songs to make it more minimal.
Drew Scheid: I was shaking the first two sessions with [Japanese Breakfast]. Like I don’t think I really said a word. I just went on like “Oh my gosh, Michelle’s here, and she’s teaching us stuff. And she’s so smart and cool.” She’s just really supportive. She was really good at coaching Angourie with like, “Here’s some tips. Here’s what I do on stage.”
Madeline Weinstein: [Japanese Breakfast] basically taught us the parts and how to look relatively cool while playing, which was much more difficult than actually learning the guitar parts, in my opinion.
Angourie Rice: Day one, I was so rigid, because I had never done it before, and I was just standing there with my microphone, really concentrating on making it sound good, hitting all the notes correctly, and I had just cut my hair as well, so I was really self-conscious about that. [Michelle] really showed me how to look like a rock star, because she is a rock star! And seeing her, it came so naturally for her, and she really taught me, showed me reference videos, showed me how to like, loosen up and jump around and feel the adrenaline and the energy. It didn’t come naturally to me in the same way because I was so unpracticed at doing it. But she was so good at teaching it as well, breaking down exactly what she did and why, and how to feel more comfortable.
Drew Scheid: It’s almost like a gift from HBO, to the production just like, “Hey, you want to have this fun field trip to deepen your character even though we may not see it onscreen?”
I think the first thing we all shot together was that in that first episode where we are out on the deck. Normally on a production that’d be the first day we would have all met—“Oh, we just met like a couple hours ago and [on the show or movie] we’re all friends,” [but in this case] we got to like really play that we have this deep relationship and stuff [after] that week of [rehearsals].
Thanks to those rehearsals, the actors quickly bonded with each other, becoming friends offscreen, too.
Drew Scheid: We got dinners and lunches together. We went to the Rodin [Museum], and I took everyone to Reading Terminal. And we just had a great time. It was so much fun. Everyone’s so amazing. I was so in awe of Maddie and Anthony and Angourie. This is so embarrassing—but I made everyone a playlist of like, “Here are some Philly bands.” Just based on their characters, and just imagining what they’d be like. The one I made for Angourie is like Spirit Of The Beehive, Chastity Belt, The Districts, Ron Gallo, Alex G, Lushlife, Goat Mumbles—which is just Rob from The Districts solo. And Maddie’s got like Sixteen Jackies, Kississippi. I was just like, “Here’s all my favorite bands, you’re gonna freaking like them, too, I hope.”
Anthony Norman: We just got lucky that we all got along really well. And it was really fun to hang out with each other. Because I worry about that—I have social anxiety sometimes. And I’m like, “Oh, what if we don’t have enough to talk about” or stupid shit like that. But we just got lucky that we all get along really well and have a really good time together. I really miss all of them because it was so much fun to be with each other in Philly.
But does Mannequin Pussy exist within Mare Of Easttown? Following the premiere, it was theorized that they don’t, and what are Mannequin Pussy songs in our world are Androgynous originals in theirs. But then Rice wore a Mannequin Pussy shirt in episode two. And in the third episode, radio DJ Anne plays “Control” by Mannequin Pussy, and says the band’s name. So is Androgynous just a Mannequin Pussy cover band?
Madeline Weinstein: In my head, this was the music that Angourie’s character was writing, even though our name is not Mannequin Pussy. But hearing that [Mannequin Pussy is referenced], that actually maybe makes more sense that we’re like a good high school band and we write our own music and also cover, like cool local bands.
Angourie Rice: Going into production, the idea was that the band’s songs are original, so we’re obviously playing Mannequin Pussy songs, but in the world of the show, they’re original songs that Siobhan and her band has written. But, they also talk about Mannequin Pussy on the show, and I wear the band shirt. Wearing the band shirt originally was like, “Oh, this will be so cool, a fun little tidbit for people.” That was originally what it was. I don’t think I was originally going to wear it, I thought it was someone else, but the costume designer was so great that something like that, I only wore that costume once, she would give me an option, like three T-shirts I could choose, and I chose the Mannequin Pussy one because I was like, “Yeah, let’s wear that, like, it’s cool.” It’s a bit of a fun trivia thing. And then mentioning it in the show, I honestly think it’s because they already had the rights to use the music, so I think that’s why. I don’t know how they exist in the show, but I think it’s fun that it’s all about them.
Anthony Norman: Here’s my theory: Androgynous is Mannequin Pussy’s opener.
Gabe Hilfer: In the conversations I’ve had with [showrunner] Brad [Ingelsby], his vision has always been that Androgynous was like a real cool, young Philly band who modeled themselves after Mannequin Pussy and they go out and they play some of their own songs maybe but they do a lot of covers of their favorite band. That’s how we’ve always sort of pretended it works. [The Ringer’s The Watch podcast] interviewed Kate Winslet and they were talking about this. Somebody brought up this crazy conspiracy theory—and this is all second hand, I didn’t hear it myself—but somebody brought up a crazy conspiracy theory “are Androgynous actually supposed to be Mannequin Pussy from back in time before they became Mannequin Pussy?” And I think that’s funny.