Interview: Dream Wife

Molly Hancock

Molly Hancock speaks to Rakel Mjöll of Dream Wife, discussing their UK tour for their 2020 album So When You Gonna…’ as well as the band’s musical inspirations.

It’s been clear from their socials that Dream Wife have been beyond excited to finally be able to tour their 2020 album, ‘So When You Gonna’, after already having to postpone their UK tour three times. When asked about how gigging at festivals has been in a post-Covid world Mjöll told me, “The first festival we did was Latitude Festival, and it was such an incredible experience because it was the first weekend we were allowed to play in front of thousands of people. Nobody believed they were going on stage until the moment it happened so everyone was like ‘Are we gonna be pulled aside?’ and then as soon as you got on stage it was like ‘Oh my God’. That was an incredible, incredible moment and I’m so grateful. That’s literally how this summer felt; the festival staff, the promoters, the musicians – you could feel how incredibly grateful everyone was to be together again and also just to be part of the music community again.”

“I feel like there’s a lot of gratitude and an importance to really just have fun and erase that time as well as to be more present”

Whilst having been to some gigs since the world opened back up and feeling the energy from the crowds, I was interested to know whether artists could also feel the energy shift of the crowds being glad to finally see live music again inside a closed venue. “Yeah, the crowd is absolutely wild! I feel like there’s a lot of gratitude and an importance to really just have fun and erase that time as well as to be more present. I understand it takes a while to go back into large crowds and that’s not for everyone. It’s a really special feeling, it made us remember the community that’s around in music. This is why I love music. It’s such a fun community to be a part of whether that’s working behind the scenes or in general being a gig-lover because you’re all there together in a black room about to witness a happening and that shared experience. We also have the element of dance or some other forms of expression so I think when it comes to a music community, it’s such a respectful place. I really love that part of my life again and that it’s not just online.” I told Mjöll of my own experiences and how it felt like a big leap to be able to go back into the gigging environment again and, in true ‘Dream Wife, bad b*tch fashion’ she told me “Just do whatever you feel comfortable with. You gotta respect you own boundaries. It’s so important.”

I asked Mjöll what she was most looking forward to on their then upcoming UK tour, after going so long only performing at festivals. “To be honest, I’m just looking forward to being inside an actual venue because we’ve only done festival shows and that’s mainly outside. It was so fun but the idea of being inside a venue and just having a beautiful live show experience. Also, the adrenaline. There’s so much adrenaline. Right now, I’m sat talking to you, cold and in a sweater with a mug of tea but as soon as you go on that stage, it’s almost like a Pokémon transformation or something. It’s completely fire.”

Something I’d never considered is gigging as a form of exercise. It makes complete sense because even in the crowd, we’re jumping around, sweating and screaming lyrics but the same happens on stage. “I like exercise. But when I go to the gym, I get quite bored. I’m just running for the same amount of time, but I can be on that stage for an hour and a half and you’re just running the whole time and moving and jumping and screaming and then, when the hour and a half is done if it’s a long show, I’m just like ‘Oh, where’s the time go?’. So, the adrenaline and the crowd cheering you on, singing the songs back to you, the dancing, the energy surrounding it… it’s basically a really good workout.” This definitely seems to explain the inspiration behind their song, Sports!, the opening track of their latest album, with Mjöll telling me how they had “the best time recording the music video.” With it’s high energy beat, I told Mjöll that the song was instantly my favourite from the new album, expressing how necessary this song was at the time it was released in the summer of 2020 after being locked inside for so long that year.

When asked what her favourite song was from the album, Mjöll said “I don’t know yet. Is that a weird thing to say? Like I haven’t played them live enough, you know? This is also why I’m really looking forward to this tour so that we actually get to finally play this album live, even though it was released back in July 2020. There’s a different thing when you get to play songs live in how you interact with them and how they keep growing different meanings to you as a performer and maybe to the audience as well. So, I’m quite excited, this tour, to find out what my favourite is. A majority of them have never been played live before so it’ll be a very exciting experience to play not just a studio version, but a live version.” Thinking for a second, as though she had to choose, Mjöll finally settled on a song. “Maybe right now, I love the song Validation.

“PJ Harvey has really become a big influence on us for this writing period”

A question I’m always interested in finding the answer to is bands musical inspirations, how this has changed, and how this seems to affect the music produced. When asked, Mjöll answered, “I’ve been listening to and reading a lot of lyrics recently. I’m really excited about hardcore, punching lyrics at the moment. For some reason, I think we’ve all become obsessed with PJ Harvey at different times. The other day, we were all sort of listening to the same album without realising it and pinpointing one song as a reference. PJ Harvey has really become a big influence on us for this writing period.” Giving an unexpected answer, Mjöll also told me that she’s been reading Leonard Cohen’s books. “I don’t really know. It’s interesting with influences, I feel like when you write songs you don’t realise what you’re being influenced by until the song has been written and then you look back, retrace the steps and it suddenly makes sense but at the time, you’re sort of just in a natural flow. It’s important for everything to be new and exciting and then afterwards, you can make a map in your mind to where those ideas are leading.”

After pausing for a second, Mjöll gives me another name that she seems almost shocked to have almost forgotten. “Oh, and of course Dolly Parton. She is my favourite. I listen to Dolly every day. Her lyrics… that woman. For me, that’s a huge inspiration”. I commented that I could hear more of Dolly Parton’s influence than Leonard Cohen’s influence in their music. Mjöll clarifies, “Yeah, [with Leonard Cohen], it’s definitely not musically, but lyrically… it’s playing around with words and saying something straight outright but meaning something else. With Dolly Parton, it’s about humour. In Sports!, it’s hard hitting but a lot of it is super cheeky and I think that is a big part of this band. We can have a song like Sports! that has the humour in it, as well as being hard hitting, but also a song like After The Rain which is quite a directly political song.

Always after new music to listen to, I felt a good source of music would come from one of my favourite bands. So, I asked Mjöll if there’s any new bands that she’s been listening to that we should watch out for but before giving me names, she explained how they chose their support acts for their tour. “For this tour, we did a project called ‘Tour Support Reimagined’. We did it on our last headline tour too and we basically put out an open call asking people if they’d like to come on tour with us, and support us. Last time we got about 500 applications in about two weeks which is incredible. We wanted to highlight the almost gatekeeping that often happens in the music industry, especially for women and non-binary musicians. We wanted to get rid of the middleman and say ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter if you made this band today or if you’ve been trying to get your food in the door, just apply and we would love to hear your music’. It was incredible, on our last tour we made so many friends and we really got to know a city because of another band’s performance and perspective on it. This time around, we got another 500 applications which is wild! A lot of bands have been formed in the past 2 years so I’m really excited to go on tour and get to listen to them all; to create and share a platform, no matter the size. Especially for artists who maybe don’t have an ‘in’ right away, that don’t have promoters or don’t really know how it works, like how you get shows. We didn’t know at the start. We had no idea. We just played a bunch of drag venues before we played our first music venue. So, for me, that’s important.”

“I’m really looking forward to watching all the supports bands because I’ve been listening to them all so much”

Coming full circle, Mjöll gave me a few suggestions on who to listen to. “There’s a band called Prima Queen joining us on the tour. Also, Lucia & The Best Boys. Oh my Gosh, I cannot wait for them to perform with us, Lucia is such an incredible performer. Lime Garden too, they’re amazing!” Mjöll seemed to laugh at herself listing all of these names but I was really happy to hear what she had to recommend for me. “I’m really looking forward to watching all the supports bands because I’ve been listening to them all so much, especially when we were choosing who would support us on tour. It’s such a treat to be able to go through so much music.”

Hearing of how Dream Wife are actively trying to create a platform for musicians who may not otherwise be heard, I told Mjöll how important I think that is. Years ago, I remember looking through my own playlists and only seeing white, straight, male artists and I went out of my way to change that; creating a playlist full of amazing womxn-fronted bands, including Dream Wife. On hearing this Mjöll said “It’s really important to speak about it. Often promoters or venues, not because of ill-nature, don’t realise or think about how to add diversity to their line ups. So, I think this way, by asking people to contact us, we can show these new artists to the promoters, then they have a list of bands they didn’t necessarily know about that are in the area, local and are female fronted, trans or non-binary. Bands that aren’t necessarily on their radar.”

On their UK tour, Mjöll said we can expect “a ridiculous, highly adrenaline fuelled, mosh-pit sorta show. It’s going to be so fun to go back on tour, I can’t wait. There’ll be new music that’s quite loud and we’re quite excited to try those out in a live setting.” Although their Nottingham date has passed, there’s still the opportunity to see Dream Wife live in Brighton on Friday 20th May or London on Saturday 21st May, with a date in Cambridge to be confirmed.

Molly Hancock

Featured image courtesy of Sarah Piantadosi. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @dreamwife via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.

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