“The gatekeepers, the so-called legends / Ya boys gonna let the girls play? / Or are they merely ornaments on display?” so states “Leech”, the bold and explosive first single from Dream Wife’s long-awaited third album Social Lubrication. It’s a rock-heavy, call-to-arms for empathy, in a world still propped up by patriarchal systems and underhand codes of silence. “Empathy is what allows us to collaborate, to build things together and to make things that are larger than the individual,” says bassist Bella Podpadec today. “But there is also a lot about modern society that denies us access to that, and teaches us that it’s bad or dangerous.”
These themes – exhaustion with the patriarchy, a rejection of the systems built to contain us – simmer and spit throughout Social Lubrication. On opener “Kick in the Teeth”, a punchy, shameless rock banger, vocalist Rakel Mjöll sings: “I spent so much of this youth questioning my value / Lolita’s all grown up now, who knew?”. Later, on title track “Social Lubrication”, they rally against every shade of “patriarchal bullshit”, from “unsolicited advice regarding behaviour” to gendered violence. “What’s it like to be a woman in music, dear?” sings Rakel over filthy riffs and disco-leaning, electroclash shuffles (think CSS, Be Your Own Pet). “You’d never ask me that if you regarded me as your peer.”
Dream Wife have always been adept at merging the political with the playful, and Social Lubrication is no different. Vital statements are hidden within hot and heavy dancefloor anthems about making out, having fun and staying curious. On silly, sexy stand-out “Hot”, the band wryly poke fun at musicians – including themselves. “Don’t date a musician,” sings Rakel over infectious, B52’s-style drums and jagged, angular melodies. “They’ll think you’re competition / I was never competition, I was just… hot.” Ultimately, much of the album is about lust: sexual lust, lust for life, lust for letting loose, lust in the face of having to be a nice, polite “good girl.” “A ‘good girl’ is not the same as a good person,” says Rakel. “That’s something I’ve had to shed a lot.”
Nowhere is this theme of lust more prominent than on high-octane ode to desire “I Want You” (a “short, sharp song about sex” in the vein of 2018’s “Let’s Make Out”) and hooky, playful punk track “Curious” (“the bisexual, polyamorous anthem we’ve all wanted to write.”) “She loves you but she’s curious about her love for me,” sings Rakel over charged drums and bright, loose guitar, before breaking into a chorus perfect for screaming along to: “I feel too sexy to listen to my friends / I feel too sexy to listen to my friends.” This sense of fun and openness is central to Social Lubrication. “There’s a lot of lust in this album and taking the piss out of yourself and everyone you know,” says Rakel. “It’s almost quite juvenile in that way.”
Also at the core of the album sits the live show. “The live show is the truth of the band,” says guitarist Alice Go. “That’s at the heart of what we do and of the statements we’re making.” It’s this energetic, pedal-to-the-metal sound which wound up running through Social Lubrication like a live wire. You can hear it via the loud, dirty riffs and choruses built for dancing together in shared spaces. For Alice, who produced the album, it was important to bottle this joyful, frenetic feeling within each song. “We wanted to get that rawness and energy across in a way that hadn’t been done before,” she says. Rakel agrees: “We wanted to release an album that has a lot of kick.” For Bella, the live show is where the seeds of this album really exist. “This is what’s really good and interesting and vital and alive about the space between us.”
Dream Wife have come a long way since their 2018 self-titled debut. Their last album, So When You Gonna… smashed the Official UK Top 20 album charts (the only indie album recorded and produced by all women at the time to do so). They’ve toured internationally, performing at festivals such as Lollapalooza (US), Laneway (AU), Summersonic (JP), Primavera (ES) and Pitchfork (FR) as well as opening for the Rolling Stones at Hyde Park, Garbage, The Kills, Sleigh Bells and Sunflower Bean across North America. Their music has appeared on numerous TV soundtracks and they’ve remixed tracks by Rina Sawyama, Nova Twins, Porridge Radio and more.
Alongside their accolades, however, Dream Wife have always advocated for upholding community on a truly ground level and paying it forward – both in their music and in conversation. Proceeds from direct digital sales of So When You Gonna… went to Black Minds Matter and Gendered Intelligence. In 2021, the band released a megamix for Rainbow Mind, a mental health charity for LGBTQIA people, with contributions from Shirley Manson, The Big Moon, Big Joanie and Girli among others. They also teamed up with non-profit organisations Girls Rock London and the Girls Rock Camp Alliance for the release of Tour Support Reimagined, a mixtape of unsigned acts who supported them on tour.
In that way, Social Lubrication continues this celebration of community and is a middle finger to the societal barriers enforced to severe connection, playfulness, curiosity and sexual empowerment. “Music is one of the only forms of people experiencing an emotion together in a visceral, physical, real way,” says Alice. “It’s cathartic to the systemic issues that are being called out across the board in the record. Music isn’t the cure, but it’s the remedy. Calling the record Social Lubrication harks to that. It’s the positive glue that can create solidarity and community.”
“The album is speaking to systemic problems that cannot be glossed over by lube,” says Bella. “The things named in the songs are symptoms of f-ed up structures. And you can’t fix that. You need to pull it apart.”For tour dates and more visit: dreamwife.bandcamp.com/