Bands often start out with lofty ambitions of winning Grammys and playing stadia but not so Dream Wife. They began as a university performance art project, when their ambitions were to look and sound like a real band for a grade. But it took a turn to the legitimate when Rakel Mjöll, Alice Go and Bella Podpadec realised pretending to be a band is not that different to actually being a band – and just as much fun.
With songs about surviving abuse and getting fucked up with your bitches, their live shows are 50% riot grrrl mosh pit, 50% pop rock disco and 100% amazing – and their self-titled debut album bristles with more of the same. On the last day of their UK tour, singer Rakel joined us for a lemsip and a chat about getting the nod from a Spice Girl and the joy of smearing snail juice on your face.
Do you still think of Dream Wife as an art project?
It was only an art project when we founded it – I was doing performance art so I was like we’re going to make a fake band, do a bunch of videos and play this one show at uni then go on tour around Canada for a month… that was the project! Basically we were faking out the public with this made up band. And it worked. Now we have this whole team around us and they’re like “oh by the way you might have to sleep at the airport” and we’re like this is LUXURIOUS. There’s a TV in the tour van. There’s a tour van!
What mark did you get?
I got an A. I mean, it was a ridiculous idea so it was very much in line with performance art. We literally wrote four songs and played those four songs and maybe a cover – but it went really well. It was a great tour.
Do you still play any of those songs now?
I think ‘Hey Heartbreaker‘ was originally one. It’s been through soooo many different variations. That’s what I like about songs, even without us noticing it, we’ve changed all of them. Songs are living breathing things.
You’re playing the Scala in London tonight – I hear the show has a prom theme?
Yeah! We shot a music video with this kind of dream prom theme recently and had such a good time, it was just the best day. After that we were like, why don’t we have this again?
You love a themed show, don’t you?
Our EP launch was a space beach theme – a lot of tin foil – and it was so fun and became like an interactive experience. We did the same thing for Halloween last year – the theme was graveyard party because we’re really into graveyards just as… a nice hangout place?
Sure! Do you make the props yourselves?
Bella, our bassist, ended up painting 100 tombstones – she had to store them all in her room and we’d go in and be like, you’re using that art degree well. But it’s so fun to make it interactive. It has to be a wild party for everyone to enjoy and everyone to feel like they’re a part of it.
Tell me about your Bad Bitches project, because that kind of feeds into it too doesn’t it?
It’s all about making young women feel comfortable at a gig. I really don’t like terms like female-fronted – if I hear that term one more time! – but it’s true that it’s good for people to see a bunch of girls on stage doing things exactly how we want to do it; writing the music, being ourselves, not being puppeteered by someone else. We took our friend [photographer] Meg Lavender on tour with us and her main role was to document the people who come to our shows, and show them that they are bad bitches. And they come to the front so it’s beautiful because the first two or three rows are just women and girls – and they go MENTAL. It just changes the whole atmosphere of the room. It’s also good to say at shows “You are my bad bitches – if anyone’s being terrible to you, sexist or showing you aggression, let me know and I will kick them out.” It’s as simple as that. Everyone should have the right to feel safe at a gig and have fun.
You are my bad bitches – if anyone’s being terrible to you, sexist or showing you aggression, let me know and I will kick them out.
You posted the lyrics to ‘Somebody’ as a response to #metoo. Do you think artists with a platform almost have a duty to use it to comment on major issues like that?
We’re still a young band but the more it does grow, that’s when you become more aware. Around the time of #metoo we got four different messages from people tattooing the lyrics “I am not my body I am somebody” on their body – literally. It’s so great when you realise that something you’ve written is helping someone else because it helped you when you wrote it. When we released that song that was the first time I think I’ve ever released anything that was so personal.
It kind of feels like ‘Somebody‘ and ‘F.U.U.‘ are two sides of the same thing – Somebody is the emotional side and then ‘F.U.U.’ is letting loose about it.
‘F.U.U.’ is also very sassy – it’s saying don’t underestimate my power as a woman. It starts out sweet but then I’m screaming at the top of my lungs, “I’m gonna fuck you up.” We just know what we want to say and we know how to say it. And maybe that’s a kind of fuck you attitude, when a woman knows what she wants. There’s so much strength in giving less fucks.
And the older you get, the fewer fucks you give.
It’s amazing! I watched a documentary about Debbie Harry the other day and she’s SO COOL. She’s like 70-something now and she’s killing it. So much less fucks to give.
What’s it like in the Dream Wife tour van?
I brought loads of face masks – I just had a snail face mask on. It’s so nice.
Wait, is it made of real snails or is that just a name?
The snails don’t get hurt! They go to a spa and that’s how they make all the snail juice because they feel comfortable, and all the liquid from that juice is mixed together with some stuff and then you put it on your face.
Wow, that sounds disgusting. How often do you check your horoscope?
Every month – me and Alice are both Sagittarius and Bella’s a Leo. Usually our horoscopes are spot on. I like to read it at the beginning of the month and again at the end. Then I’m like, that was so true. How did she know??
You sing a bit of Wannabe during ‘F.U.U.’ Do you think Dream Wife would exist if the Spice Girls hadn’t?
I don’t know. Spice Girls had a huge influence on our childhoods. To say whatever you want to say and not to have to be perfect as women and especially girls are told to be at such a young age. We actually had to get clearance to use that line [from Wannabe] – we didn’t get it in time so it’s only a live version now. We hand-wrote a letter to the Spice Girls.
What did it say?
Bella wrote this really heart-warming letter about how much they’d affected our childhoods and that the song F.U.U. is also about owning yourself and making yourself powerful without taking power from someone else. I think that was kind of idea of the Spice Girls, that ethos.
Did they write back?
We got a response from my favourite one: Sporty Spice! She had heard the song, and she liked it. So Sporty Spice has listened to my music and she approved. Only four more to go!