Yet Mandell confesses that “Pauline,” the first track on her new CD, is about a fling she had “with this guy who had a girlfriend. I think the reason that song meant so much to me is that I did feel this connection to the woman. Even though we never met, I identified with her. In the end, I felt like he was the loser.” She adds, “Anybody that I cross paths with has to know they run a risk of being written about.”
Things are not always what they seem in Mandell‘s music. “Nickel Plated Man,” from the debut CD, appears to be about her attraction to a criminal, but she claims it’s a political song. How so? “Because I get really upset about recycling,” she says, half kidding. “I used to live on Sycamore and Beverly, and there were always homeless people who‘d come in the middle of the night, and they’d start rattling the bottles, and it gave me this sense of sadness about the world. Because there‘s so much trash! Which is maybe as political as I’ll get. It‘s also a love song.” “Sylvia,” with its gushing girl-pop chorus, sounds upbeat, but Mandell says it’s a “disguised” song. “I‘m in love with somebody, and all he can talk about is Sylvia. I don’t think you can have a beautiful, happy song without it being sad.”
The new, unreleased “Silver Lake Babies,” which was inspired by Philip K. Dick‘s novel Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, is ultimately “more optimistic than most of my songs. It’s still really sad, but it‘s also about how fabulous life can be. It’s autobiographical, based on my personal experience, but it‘s also a projection into the future, more imagining what could happen instead of actually having to live it. Or finding inspiration out of really small moments.”
For a nice Jewish girl from the Valley, Mandell does have a wild side, alluded to in Thrill’s “1970 Red Chevelle” and Wishbone‘s “Careless Driver.” “I love to drive on Mulholland. I feel like a race-car driver. There’s a control and a power and an aggressiveness -- a danger as well. I think I‘m a great driver, but other people seem to be afraid when they’re in the car with me. There‘s something sexual about driving, unless you’re in traffic, which isn‘t sexy at all.
”There’s a romance with cars. For me, there‘s a romance with anything that evokes the past. I’m basically just a nostalgic person. I make more sense in the ‘30s or the ’40s or even the ‘50s. I can’t wear ‘70s clothes at all; I have the wrong body for it. I drive a ’93 Corolla. If I had the money, I‘d want a 1954 Porsche Speedster or an old truck. I feel like everything that I do is so that the kids that I will have someday -- maybe -- will think I’m cool.“