Dream Wife are set to play Indietracks 2018 at the end of July and with a reputation for ferocious but party-esque live shows as well as a hotly received debut album under their belt it’ll be one not to miss.
Storge editor Sarah Lay spoke to the band earlier in the year for Louder Than War magazine about the album, the cliche of masculinity in music, and the London art punk scene. This interview has appeared in print but is published online for the first time here.
For a band started as an art school project in 2015 punk-pop three-piece Dream Wife has quickly become not just a real band but one in hot demand, with sell out UK shows and a highly anticipated debut ready for a new year release.
Members Rakel Mjöll (lead vocals), Alice Go (guitar, vocals), and Bella Podpadec (bass, vocals) retain those art beginnings in all they do citing musical influences from Kathleen Hanna to Grimes while also worshipping at the twin towers of David Bowie and Madonna. It’s a fine art and punk pop canon from which they draw, but their fierce and feminist take is very much their own – especially when it comes to live shows. These have a ferocious energy as well as being carefully curated visually and having a party-vibe rather than a separation between artist and audience.
It makes for a band going beyond purely the music they make – what they call “poolside pop with a bite” and which is equal parts Sleater-Kinney and the Shangri-Las – to exploring performance as a whole while subverting societal norms.
When did you start writing for the album?
Last summer we first started making a plan and booking a bunch of rehearsal time to get our heads wrapped around it. In a windowless room in Peckham, south London. No beaches no sunshine for us. Got a record to make. We signed to our UK label Lucky Number at the start of the summer and making an album after our EP just made sense.
Do you all write together or individually bring ideas?
It came naturally really. We had a lot of songs, ideas and the rest just fell into place. For the writing process one of us brings in an idea and then that might fit with someone else’s idea and we just jam around it, even play a few versions live to see what hits the spot and how the song can truly come to life in the live shows.
Did you try to capture a live sound or embed yourselves more into a studio process for the record?
For us, it’s all about the live shows. The raw energy of the live show, nothing beats that. We wanted to take that sound and energy and translate it to an album. Sure hope we did – that’s what it sounds like to our ears.
It was a new process for us working with producers and recording in a live studio set up. Both interesting and challenging finding the balance at first, because we had a strong vision for the sound, stood our ground but had to also trust that the others that your working with are working towards the same goal as you: to make a rocking damn good album.
How did the relationship with Lucky Number come about and how has being signed to a label for the album fitted with your DIY approach?
Lucky number were checking us out for a long while before we ever really knew them, but once we started chatting we knew these were inspiring people that believed in our vision and what we could do, and were eager to support that rather than enforce their agenda.
You grew up in relatively isolated areas of Somerset and in Iceland which you’ve spoken about in forming your musical identity. Now based in London how do you feel the city is shaping your sound?
We definitely feel part of a scene being based in London right now.
There are so many incredibly inspiring creatives we have the pleasure to call friends and collaborators. Artists such as Maisie Cousins, Meg Lavender, Elle Hardwick and Ione Gamble (Polyester Magazine) have all been powerful forces we have been able to and collaborate with from the early days of Dream Wife, and still now. We are also in love with power couple Aidan Zamiri and Alex Russo, who just directed and styled the video for our current single, ‘Let’s Make Out’.
It feels amazing to be surrounded by others who are on the same page, and to be able to stand together by means of collaboration and mutual support feels powerful.
You talk about ‘playing about with femininity’ – what does this mean to you?
Rock and roll is such a cliche of masculinity and we aim to flip the script. We want to challenge what people expect a woman to be, what they expect a woman to do.
The “Dream Wife” doesn’t exist, we want to smash open the out of date assumptions and pressures of gender roles. The name is cheeky but charged.
What relationship do you have with an audience when playing live?
The point of the live show is the live crowd – this is their show as much it is ours. Engaging with the crowd and making it into one big party where there isn’t no hierarchy is where the magic happens. That’s the nights you remember.
The most important part is that everyone feels welcome. We’ve been working with an activist group called Girls Against raising awareness of sexual harassment that happens at gigs. By speaking to the promoters, venue staff, bands, gig goers what you can do to help and make sure that everyone can have a safe experience and hella of a good time at a show.
How much of your live performances and approach still comes from the band’s beginnings as an art project?
Guess we all still feel like we’re in art school. We’re making stuff with our friends and the party never stopped.
This interview was first published in Louder Than War magazine – find back copies of all issues here.
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