Dream Wife on Accidentally Creating 'A Party Album' & Why Bands Are Like Marriages
Dream Wife are inarguably one of the most exhilarating live rock bands to emerge within the last few years, straddling the fine line between fun and ferocity while blasting crowds with their mixture of late '70s post-punk and early '00s New York rock.
When opening for Sleigh Bells in Brooklyn earlier this year (another band with a keen ear for greasing crushingly loud rock with sticky pop production tricks), Dream Wife singer Rakel Mjöll resembled some sort of unholy hybrid of Cher from Clueless and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. While performing, she prowls the stage with eyes ablaze and agog, but the fury never feels feral – there's always a wink and a smirk lurking behind her vocal attack.
The London-based band's live prowess makes sense, considering that touring was their first goal – in fact, when they conceived of the band at an art school in Brighton, it was their only goal. "Basically we started this band so we could travel," Mjöll tells Billboard over an enormous lentil and avocado salad in New York City (of the salad's size, the band drolly notes, "We're definitely in America"). "I think it's a great way of traveling – make a band." After hitting the road for DIY dates in Canada and Europe, the three were hooked: "It felt too fun to quit," says guitarist Alice Go, whose electric excitement for the project is palpable when she speaks (and it goes into overdrive when she hits the stage).
Even the low points during their early days helped solidify Dream Wife's future: "We played some really weird shows in some weird places," bassist Bella Podpadec says, half cringing. "It created solidarity between us being in vulnerable situations. All we had was each other."
"We traveled Canada and parts of Europe without having a release or a plan," Mjöll says with a smile. "And since then it's all been snowballing."
The band's self-titled album – which bursts with the explosive energy of their live show, although truly you have to see them onstage for the full impact – came out late January, and it tips to the diverse array of influences they cite (everything from Madonna to Davie Bowie to Blondie to The Slits). Today, the GLOW-esque video for album closer "F.U.U." (featuring Icelandic rapper Fever Dream) drops. Much like their music, the clip -- which features the band shredding in a wrestling ring while EVE Wrestling competitors throw down around them -- is a little menacing, a little hilarious, and entirely awesome.
From talking about the empowering message behind their name and music to why bands are like marriages, here's an edited portion of Dream Wife's conversation with Billboard.
So the name Dream Wife – where did that come from? I gather there's a Cary Grant movie from the '50s with that name?
Rakel: We found the name before we played a note, which is quite funny. We decided the name beforehand and it's grown with us. It was initially to show a contradiction of what a woman can be with these ideals from the '50s about having a dream job, a dream house, a dream car, and a dream wife – and the woman is part of this package deal. This idea of a woman having one face and being part of a package deal of a man.
Alice: An accessory to a man.
Rakel: But a woman can be angry, sensitive, sexy -- the name means a lot to us.
Bella: It's about the commodification of a woman. Taking a concept of culturally looking at women, and then changing the context of having it between us, between three women in a rock band.
Alice: Also, we're in a position of support to one another -- almost like a wife in a way. There's different levels to it.
Bella: Being in a band is like being in a relationship
Alice: There's trust.... We're sensitive to each other. You're aware of each other's spaces.
Bella: We're all here to help each other.
Rakel: It's a marriage.
Bella: And we gotta make it work! (laughs) For the children.
Alice: And our firstborn just came out.
Speaking of the firstborn, how was recording the album?
Bella: We spent a good couple of months in a tiny recording space in South London with no windows in the middle of summer trying out new things and experimenting with old things.
Rakel: We went in about four times a week. We didn't get any tan out of it, but we got a great album.
The album feels live – not unproduced, but very immediate.
Rakel: A produced, polished album would have been disastrous. The best part of this band is the live show, and that's where the energy is. To translate on that record, it took half a year mixing it.
Alice: We wanted to elevate it from the live sound, but keep that energy -- not make it too clinical. But the actual recordings happened quite quickly. We're proud of our firstborn so far.
How did you go about writing songs?
Alice: It's ideas brought into a room. When we're in the room jamming, we're not thinking "we'll write a song like this." It's about the chemistry and the juxtaposition with Rakel's voice and the interplay.
Bella: Someone will bring an idea to the table, and Rakel will say, "Oh this is a sad song, this is a ballad," but then it will end up heavier than any of the other songs. You don't know where the song is going to go when you start doing it.
Rakel: Songwriting, it doesn't have to be "I'm going to sound like the Strokes today." It's not until you listen back to what you recorded during practice. And then you realize issues you've been thinking about are filtered through in the lyrics. I quite like that. It's not you deciding what kind of music you're making -- it's what happens in that room…. We're very much a pop band and a rock band, and there's pride in both.
Alice: We're discovering it for ourselves in a hands-on way. There's a major pop sensibility to the music, but it manifests as a rock band. And it's about not questioning it too much or putting it in boxes.
What do you want people to get out of album?
Alice: If someone can take something away in terms of feeling empowered or even if you just want to dance… or even just get a good feeling.
Rakel: We realized afterward we created a party album. A lot of people are like "I listen to this before I go out, when I'm putting my lipstick on and I'm dancing in my room." And that's such a great compliment. We didn't plan on that. There's a song called "Fuck You Up" ("F.U.U.") and people really like to listen to it in traffic. Road rage (laughs).
I know you're still touring behind the first album, but looking forward, do you expect the second album will sound different?
Rakel: I'm opera trained -- I did jazz and opera training for a few years as a teenager in Reykjavík. We were joking around that it would be pretty cool to add that. Usually you add rock to opera, but what if you added opera to rock?
Alice: It's pretty far away. I'm starting to use an electric 12-string guitar, that's changing the sound a little bit. Writing in that sense could be interesting, but ultimately right now, we're playing these shows. We've only just given birth. We gotta rest after this baby.
Dream Wife Tour Dates
3/8/18 - Hasselt, Netherlands @ Café Café
3/9/18 - Berlin, Germany @ Badehaus Szimpla (SOLD OUT)
3/10/18 - Copenhagen, Denmark @ Ideal Bar
311/18 - Malmö, Sweden @ Plan B
3/12/18 - Stockholm, Sweden @ O-baren
3/14/18 - Hamburg, Germany @ Molotow Skybar (SOLD OUT)
3/15/18 - Cologne, Germany @ Blue Shell
3/16/18 - Paris, France @ Les Femmes s'en Melent
3/17/18 - Rotterdam, Netherlands @ Roodkapje
3/18/18 - Brussels, Belgium @ AB Club
3/20/18 - Bristol, UK @ The Exchange (SOLD OUT)
3/21/18 - London, UK @ Heaven (SOLD OUT)
3/23/18 - Glasgow, UK @ Stereo
3/24/18 - Manchester, UK @ The Deaf Institute (SOLD OUT)
3/25/18 - Dublin, Ireland @ Workman's Club
3/30/18 - Brussels, Belgium @ Les Femmes s'en Melent
3/31/18 - Cardiff, Wales @ Wales Goes Pop
4/3/18 - Bristol, UK @ Academy % (SOLD OUT)
4/5/18 - Bournemouth, UK @ Academy %
4/6/18 - Cambridge, UK @ Corn Exchange %
4/7/18 - Birmingham, UK @ Academy %
4/9/18 - Manchester, UK @ Academy % (SOLD OUT)
4/10/18 - Nottingham, UK @ Rock City % (SOLD OUT)
4/12/18 - Glasgow, UK @ Academy %
4/13/18 - Sheffield, UK @ Academy % (SOLD OUT)
4/14/18 - London, UK @ Alexandra Palace %
4/27/18 - Bourges, France @ Printemps De Bourges
5/1/18 - Brooklyn, NY, USA @ Rough Trade
5/2/18 - Hamden, CT, USA @ The Ballroom at The Outer Space*
5/3/18 - Cambridge, MA, USA @ Sonia*
5/4/18 - Montreal, Canada @ Petit Campus*
5/5/18 - Toronto, ON, Canada @ The Garrison*
5/6/18 - Buffalo, NY, USA @ Mohawk Place*
5/8/18 - Cleveland, OH, USA @ Beachland Tavern*
5/9/18 - Detroit, MI, USA @ The Pike Room at the Crofoot*
5/11/18 - Chicago, IL, USA @ Lincoln Hall*
5/12/18 - Grand Rapids, MI, USA @ Founder's Brewing*
5/13/18 - Pittsburgh, PA, USA @ The Funhouse at Mr. Small's*
5/14/18 - Washington DC, USA @ Lincoln Theatre#
5/15/18 - Philadelphia, PA, USA @ Union Transfer#
5/25/18 - Edinburgh, UK @ Hidden Door Festival
5/27/18 - Southampton, UK @ Common People
6/24/18 - Reykjavik, Iceland @ Solstice Festival
7/20/18 - Topcliffe, UK @ Deer Shed Festival
7/21/18 - Oxford, UK @ Truck Festival
8/24/18 - Reading, UK @ Reading Festival
8/25/18 - Leeds, UK @ Leeds Festival
9/14/18 - London, UK @ Brixton Academy ^
9/15/18 - London, UK @ Brixton Academy ^
9/17/18 - Cologne, Germany @ E-werk ^
9/18/18 - Berlin, Germany @ Huxleys ^
9/20/18 - Paris, France @ Bataclan ^
% w/The Vaccines
* w/Sunflower Bean
# w/The Kills