‘I am not my body, I’m somebody’ – A sentence that stands out like a slogan. One to be printed on T-shirts and to be sprayed on subway walls. A sentence as a cynical comment to the countless debates, from social media to the stage of the Golden Globes. And a sentence, that put the three women of Dream Wife on the radar of pretty much all relevant music magazines from Berlin to New York. Even though it would be unfair to reduce the band to that one sentence from their song Somebody, it’s a sentence with huge symbolic meaning and shows the band’s self-concept: Fresh, confident, straightforward and without a doubt in their attitude. Mixed with that striking band name you get fast the impressing that something big is in the air.
But let’s skip back a couple of months and look how we got to this point. Dream Wife started out in the most romantic setting for a band to begin: Three musicians meeting at art school, becoming friends and stating to make music toegther in a band. Singer Rakel Mjöll moved from Iceland to Britain to study in Brighton, where she met guitarist Alice Go and bass player Bella Podpadec. What started out as a short-term art project developed into a fixed band and lasted longer than expected. Two EP’s, several shows in different countries and a pretty stunning debut LP later Dream Wife were declared as the worthy heiress of the female rock movement, the long-awaited loud and perky feminist voice in the context of a rock band.
With high expectation might come high disappointments, and the expectations were not low even before the release of the LP. With furious live performances from Australia to the US the band made a name for themselves – and the following album did not disappoint at all. The longing for a record like this was strong in the guitar interested audience. The fresh mix of 80’s punk, indie rock and catchy pop elements meet a self-confident, rebellious attitude. References were made from Metric to The Strokes, from Talking Heads to Bikini Kill.
‘A lot of what people are saying feels pretty spot on but it’s exciting when references are made to bands and music you hadn’t thought of or maybe don’t know’.
The band’s musical background is a journey through the past decades of edgy guitar music. Being in their adolescence in the late 90s and early 00s bands like The Kills, The Cribs, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs had a huge impact. Going through their parent’s LP collection not only all-time guitar classics like Nirvana, Blondie, The Pixies, X-Ray Spex, The Ramones and New Order came to their ears at an early age, but also musicians that were pioneers in questioning the status quo of social order and gender roles like David Bowie, Madonna or bands from the Riot Grrrl movement. Guitar music and a rebellious way of expressing was early on part of their musical DNA, and so it doesn’t surprise that the debut LP is stuffed with raw energy.
The essence of this band are live performances, as they told us: ‘Interacting with and feeding off the energy of a crowd has helped us find the motion and dynamics of our songs. This is probably a luxury only afforded on your debut album though!’ A lot of the songs only stay in the rehearsal room for a day before being brought up to the stage where they start to develop on their own. Playing live and interacting with the crowd has been an integral part of the writing process.
A band for the here and now
Once you go one stage, position yourself in the one way or the other you have little control over how people see you and what they make out of it. ‘As a maker it is your role to bring something into existence but when you release something (like an album) it’s like giving it to the world and you have very little control over what people are going to think or how they’re going to interpret it.’ Three women in a punk band, self-confident, skilled, loud. The way a lot of people were interpreting it was quite homogenous: The right band at the right time with something to say. The fact that Dream Wife as a band name adds to the political reading of the band (the name was chosen as an ironic reference and as a statement against the objectification of women and role expectations) pushed the trio in a direction, that initially was not intended by any of them:
‘We are a band. We are three women. When we started we didn’t set out with a political agenda. […] It’s a bands choice whether they want to engage in politics, but we certainly respect and honor our position to have a voice right now, as three women in music, so standing up for this voice is really important to us.’
That things like this happen once you make yourself public, that people see and hear something in you that you didn’t intend and therefor expectations on you rise, is a thing that the band understood as they went along. They learned to accept their part as role models and realized that the position as a creative artist on stage goes hand in hand with a certain amount of responsibility. That it’s sadly still necessary in 2018 to talk about issues like women rights, gender inequality and sexual harassment is something the band also learned by own experience, especially in the often male dominated music scenes. So there was no long thinking through and weighing up pros and cons, the reason to engage in social affairs as a band was an indispensable necessity. ‘It was through the act of doing this band and learning and unlearning and having conversations and being discriminated against and being sexually harassed and finding strength inside ourselves and in each other that it just became this way.’
Being on the road as a touring artist and reaching people in different countries is at the same time a big opportunity to spread a message and to encourage people to engage: ‘We want to share this strength with other women, we try and convince people to start bands at all our shows. Women in music should not be unicorns, should not be placed on pedestals but also not pigeon holed or slated for embracing all things femme.’ Now, that they are in this position, as a band on the radar not only of magazines but also of countless young women and men and ‘the whole wonderful broad spectrum of gender identities’ they lead the way for all of them and state an example how a band can play fresh and furious rock music and at the same time engage and stand up for their political and social believes in times where the demand for more feminist role models in rock music is great. A band, the music world somehow has been waiting for. At least we did.