Formed in Art School in Brighton in 2014, Dream Wife have built a reputation for fierce, uncompromising feminist punk and incredible live shows. As they’re about to release their third album Social Lubrication and embark on a summer of festivals, I caught up with lead vocalist Rakel Mjöll to talk about punk, women at festivals and dating advice from Grandmas.
Congratulations on the album – what was behind the decision to self-produce?
Alice [Go], our guitarist, produced the album. We’ve struggled to capture our live sound on an album; often when you are working with a producer, it becomes more of a collaboration. And for this one, we just really wanted it to sound like us, as close as we possibly can to how we sound live.
When we’re live, we don’t use any backing tracks; we have the simple punk setup of guitar, bass, drums and vocals and we wanted to take that also into the studio. So we recorded in Nave Studios in Leeds, which is this big gutted church that’s been remade into a recording studio and we could all be in the same space together and record.
So a lot of the recordings on this album are just one take with very little nitpicking around it. We thought simplifying and catching that energy that happens when we play live is a lot more exciting to us than trying to be perfect.
When it comes down to it, where we shine as a band is during our live shows and that is why we do this.
Your live shows have a reputation for being absolutely wild.
I think it is that with any kind of show that you’re playing, you’ve got that 30 minutes to an hour and you want to make it count, you want to have a great time.
It’s a beautiful thing that a live show brings a sense of unity among strangers and a sense of security, safety, letting loose, screaming, and dancing.
It’s such a special moment that you don’t really get in other social settings. So it doesn’t matter what kind of show it is, it doesn’t matter how many people are watching our stage. It’s just that beautiful magic that you get during a live show, both as a person watching and as a person performing. It’s great. It’s a good high.
Was calling the ‘bitches to the front’ (where the band invite ‘bad bitches’ to the mosh pit) inspired by Riot Grrl and that movement?
When we were in uni, we were all obsessed with Le Tigre and Kathleen Hanna. And it’s absolutely wild that we’re getting to support them in London in a few weeks’ time for their first show in 18 years. But when we started Dream Wife towards the end of uni in Brighton we were talking about what we should sound like and where we would draw inspiration from. And Le Tigre was the first name that we threw into the pit. But yeah, I’m so excited for that show, it’s a full circle kind of thing.
But also, it’s really important to shift an audience, get people sort of moving and maybe make new friends. The best compliments we can ever get at our shows is, ‘I met my bandmates at a Dream Wife gig’ or met my best friends, and that is beautiful. And maybe that wouldn’t have happened if the room hadn’t been shifted. There’s a lot of mutual respect during that time.
We say bad bitches, but I always say it’s not gender related; it’s more about supporting each other. It’s important to acknowledge that it is a shared space and a communal experience; we need to look out for one another.
There’s been a lot of criticism of festival lineups for being really male-dominated, do you feel that that’s changing? And do you feel that you are part of that change?
Unfortunately, I’m going to say no. I don’t think that it is changing much. I did like the Key Change initiative that was going through Europe, it felt really exciting at the time. But I feel like we might have gone backwards.
I think it’s an important conversation to be had during every festival season. It’s not just those who are curating the lineups, it’s also the investors, it’s where the money is coming from and even though the curators are fighting for more women or marginalised groups or more queer artists, it’s also the investors.
It shouldn’t be like we are the ‘loud female booking’. ‘Oh, this is the loud girls. We got one of those. Put them here Friday at three PM. All right. We’ve done our job.’
I wanted to pick up one of the lyrics from the album that really stuck with me – ‘we romanticised life, as though we could live it twice’
I love every song on this album but ‘Mascara’, I think, is my favourite lyrically. It’s a feeling of being nostalgic for something that is currently happening, that you are experiencing a moment. It is very much my favourite line in that song.
I remember writing the song and being so excited to show Alice because both of us really love a song by Blondie called ‘Picture This’. And there’s a line where she says, ‘I will give you my finest hour, the one I spent watching you shower’.
I remember being in the rehearsal space, getting ready to show them the new lyrics. And Alice, after I said this lyric, she basically just looked at me and was like ‘can you push the volume up a bit higher?’ It’s the lyric where it says ‘I’ll romanticise the outlines of your spine as you lie on the Tatami mat with your head between my thighs’.
It’s taking this female gaze, it’s positioning the viewer in a different way. So I love that line. And really, it’s a love letter to London, to be honest, about being young in London. Hopefully, when I’m in my 80s, I’ll look back and think, those were some fun times we had there.
My grandma actually inspired the words to ‘Don’t Date A Musician’. She’s a wonderful woman, an excellent actress. And one day I was staying with her, I came down for breakfast and she had cut out a little ad of a cruise ship and said, ‘I would like you to go on this cruise’. And I said, Grandma, ‘I’d love to go on a cruise with you’. She’s like, ‘Oh, no, not with me. You by yourself. I want you to find a man that’s not a musician. I want you to meet an engineer. I want you to meet, like, a doctor or maybe a landscape architect’.
And she starts listing all these professions, and I’m there just rolling with laughter on the kitchen floor because of seeing people as their jobs. Also, she’s been married three times. She was married to two different musicians, too. So she’s one to talk.
All photo credits: Sopie Webster