- Words Gem Stokes
We speak to the badass punk-rock band, Dream Wife, about the importance of energy, their favourite songs to mosh to, and releasing an album not just in lockdown, but with the members in different countries.
There’s no doubt about it. Dream Wife have an incredible, unparalleled energy that is rarely experienced with recorded music. And they’re even better live.
It’s no surprise that after its release, their sophomore album ‘So When You Gonna…’ charted at No.18 in the Top 20. The record is a fun, fiery explosion onto the indie pop-rock scene, boasting many a toe-tapper and numerous head-bangers.
Created by a team of incredible women, ‘So When You Gonna…’ aims to undo the musical paradigm and redefine what it means to make music. Singles “Sports!” and “So When You Gonna” call on Dream Wife’s in-your-face riot grrrl persona, balanced by softer songs like “U Do U” and “After the Rain”. The record is chock-full of sincere lyrics and good vibes and truly feels like a journey in its own right.
I spoke to 2/3 of Dream Wife with a heat-able avocado pressed against my ailing abdomen. We decide that he is my co-host. His name is Avo.
How did Dream Wife come about? Do you think you’ve changed much as a band since your ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ days?
Bella: Dream Wife is like a kind of constantly evolving thing. There’s not ever been a state or a stage where it’s been a neatly defined project or way of working. Really, it began as a joke between friends when we were studying at uni in Brighton. It all got a bit out of hand, but really exciting in a good way.
Alice: For us, it was breaking down those rules that maybe you’re taught art should or shouldn’t be. Doing things on our terms. At the start, it didn’t really fit into the mould of a band. It could be anything, and that what was so exciting for us. We did a tour of Canada when we had like, four songs, and it was this thing around uni. Everyone was like ‘So, are you actually gonna go to Canada?’ It became this ‘So when you gonna’ type thing, so calling this current album So When You Gonna… feels like it’s this full-circle moment of practising what we preach.
Bella: When we were studying, it was like this place outside the institution where we were able to make up our own rules and have fun. Now we’re obviously in a very different position, where the institution that we are existing inside is the music industry. Alongside that, it’s been really interesting to rediscover other things that can exist outside of those structures.
The transience of it all is really interesting. Do you feel a sense of locality, or feel tied to the London scene in particular?
Alice: After Brighton, our creative scene sort of transferred to London. We were naturally drawn here by our creative community. [London] is definitely our home as a band, for sure.
Bella: There’s definitely been a disconnect there from how much we’ve been touring. In many ways, I think this year has been kind of a real blessing in terms of my relationship to place and feeling really rooted somewhere. People keep asking ‘what’s it like in London during a pandemic?’, but you know, we know the local shops, and we know the little patch of woodland down the road.
Alice: That parallel with a disconnect from London and it coming round to being present again, it’s really reflected on the record. Our first record, a lot of those songs were written around, tried, and tested at live shows. It was this really physical, down on the ground, raw experience of the music and on the record that’s what we were trying to get across. This record has been about us being able to stand still, write, and reflect. From touring so much, it let us be sensitive together in the writing room.
One of the things I noticed about Dream Wife is that the band seems to be all about vibes. You guys have an incredible energy – is energy something that’s important to you?
Alice: *insert exhilarated scream*
Bella: YES!!! Really all there is, is energy! It’s how you work through that energy and what you choose to do with that energy.
Alice: Vibes is everything!!!
Bella: The stripped-back, raw reality of the live show is you’re all stood, physically sharing in a space in the same vibrations. I think we all really honour and respect that as this beating heart of the group. Right now, it’s a very strange time to be releasing, because it’s non-physical.
I felt that at your set at the Shacklewell Arms – it was so intimate and intense. Did you have a specific energy you wanted to put out at that show?
Alice: Was that the NME show? Someone described that show like going into the gym in a sauna.
Bella: That was our first ever time playing there as Dream Wife and it felt like an absolute bucket-list venue to check off. It was our first show in six weeks or something. Which isn’t very long but to us it was a very long time. I don’t think there was a consciousness about the energy that we wanted to bring to that show, but we were excited for it and we had a lot of energy for it.
Alice: Entering 2019, we had had six weeks off over Christmas, we’d re-charged as individuals and we were all in the space again. It was really nice to be creative together as friends. But also knowing we had this year to write our record and there was so many things we wanted to try. Yeah, just a culmination of energies.
What’s your favourite song to mosh to?
Alice: From the first record, “F.U.U” when you’re in a room of people, in solidarity as screaming bitches together.
Bella: One of my favourite moments in [“So When You Gonna”] Alice would get this meaty, enormous, solo at the beginning, so I’d just sit myself down on the monitors and watch her absolutely tear it apart. It’s an interesting moment for me in the set to take a step back and move to a place where you’re with the audience, just observing and bearing witness to this extraordinary feat performed by your best friend.
Alice: There’s a really great bootleg recording of our live show at Peckham audio only this year that maybe will be used for something.
Bella: I was listening to it yesterday and it’s literally got me so hyped for that live energy. I miss it so much.
How did you navigate the build-up to release whilst being in different countries?
Bella: It’s been a lot of Skype! Honestly, personally, what I think has been the hardest about navigating the split country thing is the absolute disparity between the ways in which our countries have dealt with the pandemic. Iceland have had the virus completely under control and everything has gone back to normal. Rakel is able to hang out with her friends and family, go on holiday, and is calling us from cafes and we’re just here like ‘we’ve not been out of the house for 3 months!’
Alice: It’s quite surreal, the difference in our environments. The video we’ve just released for “After the Rain” […] used that dislocation to create a point of connection between us all and us standing in solidarity together. A lot of that was shot in Iceland, and then the rest of it, me and Bella shot in our bathroom so it’s this really interior, intimate space versus this expansive Icelandic scape. It’s about that juxtaposition. We wanted to push two situations of lockdown and the way countries have handled it.
It feels so important that the record was partly made and released remotely, but it’s still having this impact on people. It’s all revolving around this energy.
Alice: Yeah, because we were meant to be doing record in-stores for the release but that sadly couldn’t happen because of [the pandemic]. We were still in conversation with these independent record stores, and we did like a virtual online tour. It’s not meant to be ‘this is the live show’ but it’s meant to be a tease, or a taster, and a memory that we’ll be there again soon. It’s a way to still connect with fans down on the ground through these independent record stores. It’s just a weird time to release an album.
Bella: All we can do is rolllllll with the punches.
How come the incredible bonus-tracks didn’t make it onto the main album? Did I clock a lil’ GIRLI feature?
Alice: Good spot! Because they were secret tracks they weren’t ever written down. Maybe more yet to come with that track, hopefully.
Bella: “Out loud” and “Cheap Thrills” with the really deep voice, right? We’d forgotten that Rough Trade has asked for this, then we were listening to the CD for the first time when we got it through the post, and we get to the end […] and we were absolutely shocked by them.
Alice: It was like listening to a Nirvana CD for the first time and suddenly it’s onto the crazy noise at the end.
Bella: They’re just a little treat.
What’s your favourite track on the album? Can you pick a favourite out of all your babies?
Alice: My go-to answer for this kind of question is the album as a whole. We tried to curate it in a way that it took you on a journey from start to finish, track to track. I love that the album starts with the word ‘fuck’ and starts with a track like “Sports!” which is also a genre-fuck. It’s high energy, straight in there. Then the record ends with a track like “After the Rain”. We chose to end in rainfall to leave the listener in the record, even after the band have finished. It can be so dynamic and present, but then also so reflective and sensitive. For me it’s about that crossbreed of contrast: light and shade.
Bella: My go-to answer for this question has tended to be “Homesick” because it’s not a single but it’s really great, and really sexy, and really chaotic, and I really can’t wait to play live. Also, the bassline in the chorus is a reworking of the first bassline I ever did.
Alice: It’s risen from the dead.
Bella: Yeah, it’s risen from the dead, and moved up a little bit – it’s a little bit higher than it was.
Alice: When we were writing that track initially last year, the early phone recordings, the title of it on all our phones was “Rough and Sexy” and “Sexy Rockers”. All these really silly titles that were descriptive, but it still carried that vibe through on record which I think is quite cool; from the seed due to the actual manifestation on record. It’s still rough and sexy.
In ten years’ time, you should release a Greatest Hits album but rename all the tracks by what they sound like. I want “Sports!” to be called “Bop It!” because I think the beginning of the middle eight sounds like a game of Bop It!
Bella: It’s so Bop It! It’s so Bop It!
Was that purposeful?
Bella: There was some weird Bop It! coincidence when we were writing that song. We were at my parents’ house for a little bit, and I think someone came home with a Bop It! And Rakel, she didn’t know what a Bop It! was.
Alice: *mimicking Bop It!* Twist it! Flick it!
Bella: Pull it! *erupts in laughter*
One of the things I noticed about “Sports!” and of all the tracks, really, was the production. Very bouncy, synthy, all the good stuff. What inspired these production choices?
Alice: A big part of the reason we were really able to dig into it in the studio was working with Marta [Salogni]. She shared the conversation with us from the start, really. She could share in our vision. We call her the Dream Wife midwife. She was able to really channel the feeling of the record, be that thematically or just the energy. She was able to channel that into a sonic space, and the way she understood that and could take you on a journey through your songs… she’s just incredible. It felt like a very safe and expansive environment to be layering the tracks in.
Bella: And so playful!
Alice: We couldn’t have done that with anyone else. One thing is a lot of the synth is played with a guitar – I’m using e-bow. […] She was able to be so sensitive with us and stand with us in a lot of ways as a woman, as well. A lot of themes on the record, like miscarriage and abortion, it really mattered to us to make this for the women.
Finally, can you sum up Dream Wife in three words?
Bella: Emotion, fire…