Dream Wife started 2018 by releasing one of the most striking, energised and exciting debut albums from a British band in some time. With their stock continuing to rise, we caught up with vocalist Rakel Mjoll and guitarist/vocalist Alice Go to discuss their decision to address gender discrimination in the music industry and beyond, the dangers of a young band being taken in by corporate sharks before they can find their identity, their war on male rock gig culture and the joys of mixing the online world with actual human interaction.

According to the internet, you are a riot grrrl band, a pop punk band, a grunge band…

Rakel Mjoll: We’re an indie pop band…

Alice Go: Yeah, a gritty British indie…

RM: A pop rock band…

AG: Dream pop?

What are you?

RM: Well if you start out, riot grrrl was a movement going on in the 90s, so I wouldn’t really put us under that.

AG: I think it’s about generally honouring the heritage of women in music in a general sense, rather than just being ‘riot grrrl’. It comes down to lazy journalism with any stereotyping or pigeonholing. We’re trying to avoid that as much as possible, be that in whatever identity we’re presenting or sonically how we identify. I think we’re a band, and this is the music we make. I mean, we have a punk ethos, but also with a real pop sensibility. It’s really hard to pin down for us ourselves, so why would we want anyone else to do it.

I saw lots of mentions of Madonna and the Spice Girls as well.

RM: We have this part in our song ‘F.U.U.’ where we say, “I tell you what I want, what I really really want”, a little Spice Girls drop-in. I wouldn’t compare us to the Spice Girls at all, but it’s fun to play around with that kind of idea that people have of you, and flip the script a little bit. Some people come to our shows, and they don’t really know what to expect, and then three sweet girls come on stage, and they scream their lungs out. They don’t know if they should stay or run away.

The other thing I read about you is that you’re named after a film from the 50s.

RM: That’s wrong too!

Let’s put the internet right, for once and for all.

RM: Yeah! It’s funny because if one publication says it, then it spreads.

AG: Eventually you have to put an end to the rumours. I haven’t even seen the film. The initial thing [with the name] was that this is fun, this is subverting something. It was the first thing we ever talked about.

RM: It seemed cheeky. The name Dream Wife was about this expectation of a woman, in any kind of role. That the wife is part of the 50s package deal: the dream house, the dream car, the dream job and then the dream wife. So the woman becomes an object. It makes a woman inhumane. So we're interested in that idea of people judging you because of your gender.

You have songs that address this directly. ‘F.U.U.’ and ‘Somebody’, particularly. They were written before the #MeToo movement exploded.

AG: I think all of our songs ultimately encapsulate that by the fact of us being three women making songs the way we want to. We’re doing it on our terms, and that in its essence is unapologetic. We don’t think about it so much when we’re writing; it just comes out this way. It’s about trusting in that process.

RM: Also, call-out culture and speaking about discrimination because of sex, luckily, is much more open.

AG: It’s about normalising the conversation.

RM: This is a conversation that all women have been having, but now it’s on a much more clear platform. You only hope that this is something that will continue on and not die down. There have been a lot of times in our history when there has been an open platform, and then it has died down.

Is that just a case of continuing to talk about it, or is about changing actions?

AG: The internet has allowed the conversation to go mainstream. It has the potential to be continued in a normalised way, where it’s not just an extra thing, but it’s completely normal. It’s about everyone engaging together – men too, men calling men out on casual sexism. That way, we can make consistent change.

RM: It should never be a battle of the sexes, that’s just degrading for everyone. It’s about acknowledging that something isn’t right. During our song ‘Somebody’, when we do it live, we ask the bad bitches in the crowd to come to the front. We do that because we want to address the rock gig culture. Often as teenagers, we didn’t go into the mosh pits, we stayed in the back because we didn’t want to get hurt. And those times when I went to the front, there was always something uncomfortable that was happening. Some guy would be too close, or he would put his hands on my waist, and this is when we were thirteen. We want a culture of women feeling comfortable and safe, especially at rock gigs, to have a healthy aggression and to be able to make a mosh pit and feel safe in the solidarity of women. The respect then goes throughout the room. And if people feel safe at your gig, then they want to have a good time. I hope this happens at all gigs.

Is the music industry somewhere that is struggling more than others with gender discrimination?

AG: It’s so ingrained. It’s a boys club, basically.

RM: When we talk about rock music, especially.

AG: You can get lost in your own bubble too. Sometimes you’re surrounded by lovely bands, progressive people, mixing femininity and masculinity, and so on. And then go outside that bubble and you go: “ohhh wait, fuck, some things aren’t like my bubble”.

Do you feel like you’ve had friction because you’re an all-female group?

AG: We’ve had meetings where people try and shape what we can be. It’s this thing of not being taken seriously.

RM: When we started out we went to a few strange meetings with some very important business sharks in the music scene. It was weird because it was after our first London show and we didn’t know what we sounded like, or what we wanted to sound like.

AG: It’s like they pounce on you, smother you almost before you even know what you are.

RM: That’s scary. You should never even go close to them if you haven’t been on the road for a little bit. We were a little bit timid because we realised that at some of these meetings, they would rather talk about what kind of brands we could work with, rather than who could help us produce, or with equipment or mixing. No, they were thinking that a certain brand should go with our group. Luckily we didn’t do any of that and did it by ourselves until we found the right people to work with. But we don’t think this band would have worked a few years ago, or would even have been welcomed.

AG: It’s that thing about generational learning again. It does feel like we could only exist now in this exact way.

RM: There’s also a lot of honesty in bringing together internet life and IRL life. Playing gigs, going out to talk to fans, talking to them on Instagram before shows. We’ve got loads of people to come together at video shoots by contacting them online. The mixing of the two worlds keeps it honest, which should keep the music and the discussion honest.

AG: It’s about utilising the internet community, there’s a real energy that comes from directly communicating with fans. There are so many ways to engage now; it’s an exciting time to be in a band.

You can visit Dream Wife by heading here.