In 2019, Dream Wife felt antsy. The majority of 2018 had been spent playing packed-out shows globally – 168 of them, across America, Japan, Europe, Australia, Iceland – and now they were expected to be still, just for a moment. But what do you do when you’ve spent most of the year sweating, screaming, holding a guitar / mic / drums in your hand like a semi-permanent limb? You swap it for a badminton racket, apparently. Or anything, actually. Just play some sports and make up the rules as you go along. Move your body, throw a few balls, take turns stomping to club tracks on a communal dance mat.
That’s what Dream Wife did, sporadically, while writing their second album So When You Gonna…, out July 3, 2020. The first single off that album, “Sports!”, is an ode to those moments in which they needed to expel some post-tour energy. It’s an absurd, playful, moreish track, full of colourful guitar flourishes and winking vocal asides. “Do you even play this sport?” asks singer Rakel Mjöll at one point, eyebrow raised, as if the rules of the game are clear. “There was this silly playful adrenaline. We wrote that song really quickly,” remembers guitarist Alice Go. Bassist Bella Podpadec agrees: “You can hear that excitement.”
The band’s rise has been swift and steep. Their self-titled debut album – an 11-track collection of heavy garage-punk riffs and dance party pop, out January 2018 – was released to widespread critical acclaim (playlisted by BBC Radio 1 and BBC 6Music, five stars and a cover in the NME, positive coverage across The Guardian, The Fader, Dazed, Nylon and more). They soundtracked shows like Orange is The New Black and Trinkets. Supported bands such as Garbage, The Kills and Sleigh Bells. Toured North America with Sunflower Bean and then again as headliner themselves. And during all of this, took their explosive live show and sound and pushed it out further, to an already eager, international audience.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the ‘Dream Wife sound’, but people have tried. Early press tended to lump them in with riot grrrl bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney – probably because they’re women with guitars who uphold a firm “girls to the front” ethos and a pay-it-forward, back-to-the-community attitude. But listening to them then – and even more so now – they’re closer to New York bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Kills. Some songs have a jagged, almost electroclash brightness reminiscent of CSS and Body Talk-era Robyn. While others give off bittersweet shades of The Smiths and Blondie. Either way, Dream Wife have always been music obsessives who create their own world from a tapestry of pop culture influences. So mainly they just sound like themselves.
Plenty of the new album tracks (“Sports!”, “So When You Gonna…”, “Homesick”) are hooky and pumped up, not dissimilar in energy to debut standouts, like “F.U.U.” and “Hey Heartbreaker.” There’s an immediacy, a ‘now or never’ excitement that exists right at the core of this record, that encourages you to stop waiting and start doing. The album title, So When You Gonna… is a play on that central idea. “It’s an invitation, a challenge, a call to action,” explains Rakel, “All the lyrics are about being in the present, which is how the music came together too.” Alice agrees: “I feel like being present is an overarching theme in the form, in the manifestation and in the content itself.”
But they often lean into sweeter, more emotional moments too. “With every loss how do you carry through / Know you’re brave to jump back into,” sings Rakel on “Temporary”, her voice floating over honey-sweet guitar and drums like an indie lullaby. “There are so few songs about miscarriage,” Rakel says, speaking about the lyrics. “People don’t talk about this. There’s so much shame regarding being a womxn. And then to not have this as a conversational topic in our society among womxn… you realise, in your later twenties, probably every other one of your friends has experienced an abortion or miscarriage. I think that’s something that needs to be spoken about.”
These were difficult subjects to write about, to return to, but in the same vein as 2017’s “Somebody,” Dream Wife think it’s important to bring these conversations into the public sphere, to refuse to brush things under the rug. Album closer “After the Rain” – a soft, hopeful song about abortion, but also about love and heartache – feels especially pertinent. “What a woman chooses to do with her body, her life, is nobody’s business except her own,” says Rakel. “Writing the song opened up conversations within the women in my family. Stories of reproductive justice and abortion rights battles, including my own experience with an abortion at a young age. All these generations of foremothers who were told by society to privately bury these traumas. The voice of the song, then, had become all of ours.”
Dream Wife have always been outspoken about holding up other womxn and non-binary people in the creative industries, but these aren’t just words or sentiments. With a gender divide in music production currently estimated at around ninety-five percent male to five percent female, the band are proud to have worked with an all-female recording team for So When You Gonna…, including producer and mixer Marta Salogni (Björk, Holly Herndon, FKA Twigs) engineer Grace Banks (David Wrench, Marika Hackman) and mastering engineer Heba Kadry (Princess Nokia, Alex G, Beach House).
“Marta is a really amazing mix of being incredibly technically proficient, deeply intuitive and invested in collaboration,” says Bella. “She understood us on an instinctive level and the whole process felt natural and organic,” says Alice. “It was also fitting with our ethos. It was amazing to work with this community of womxn who are supporting each other in an industry that is so male-dominated. It was a way of us practicing what we preach. It felt like an honour to be able to deliver this baby with these three amazing midwives.” “Put your money where your mouth is!” adds Rakel, quoting the lyrics of “Sports!”
It’s not just about working with a community of people they respect, it’s about encouraging the next generation of producers, mixers, writers, guitarists, filmmakers, photographers etc too. Which is why So When You Gonna… is also the name of Dream Wife’s new podcast series. Each episode is a one-on-one interview with a different creative about how exactly they managed to hone their craft, AKA: So When You Gonna… Get Into Production. “It’s an informative thing to feed back to our fans to be able to see about getting into certain industries. It’s about fostering communities. And it’s a skill share,” explains Alice.
“What would you call the opposite of gate-keeping?” adds Bella. “Facilitator? Enabler? It’s all about opening the gates.”For tour dates and more visit: dreamwife.bandcamp.com/