“Suddenly we have this big team around us and there are expectations in a way there wasn’t before. I don’t want to say it’s added pressure but it has added a new dynamic that I think will lead onto things that are bigger than us.”
Last year was quite the year for Dream Wife. They embarked on several UK and European tours, signed to London based label/publisher Lucky Number and crafted their debut album in a windowless practice room in Peckham. Given that the band started over two years ago as an art project without any grand ambitions, it is quite remarkable that the London based trio are now due to headline DIY’s ‘Hello 2017’ tour this month and are gearing up to release their debut album later this year.
Though Dream Wife have come a long way since their days as an art piece at the University of Brighton, lead signer Rakel Mjöll explains that it was the playful approach that they adopted at the beginning which allowed them to try out new things as a band. “I had no idea what we were going to sound like when we started and it took time to make mistakes and understand what we want and what we don’t,” she says. “And now we know what kind of sound we want and what kind of aesthetic we want to use. I think it’s dangerous that a lot of bands put expectations on themselves early on.”
The lack of expectation is what allowed Rakel and her two band mates, guitarist Alice Go and bassist Bella Podpadec, to develop their bold visual aesthetics as they collaborated with artists without placing too many demands on the outcome: “Dream Wife sort of became a shared vision due to the collaborative nature of the project rather than just one person bringing their ideas to the table.”
Their initial collaboration with photographer Meg Lavender became a defining look for them, the bright colors that ooze a sickly sweetness and turn stereotypes in on themselves. Meg joins us during the interview and explains that the ideas for Dream Wife’s aesthetic came about because the band and herself were so close: “I think that because we spending so much time together we were on the same page. We spent 12 hours together during a shoot and even slept on set. And all of that was kind of part of it.”
A bold visual is something that a lot of bands tend to shy away from, perhaps in an attempt to appear as honest as possible, but Dream Wife go in the opposite direction and use visuals to accentuate rather than downplay themselves (see the video for ‘Kids’, for example). This approach shares a lot in common with one of their favourite zines, and collaborators, Polyester whose motto, ‘have faith in your own bad taste’, Dream Wife readily assigns to. As Alice neatly summarises: “The Polyester aesthetic is sort of about taking feminist colours and making them bold and that shares a lot in common with our own image and sound. Being abrasive but turning things around like ‘my heart’s broken, but I’m still gonna rock’’’.
This same brazen ethos is present in Dream Wife’s live shows. They aim to be as celebratory as possible in their performances, often inducing a frenzy at the front of the crowd that blurs the line between the stage and the audience. For Rakel, this is what defines a Dream Wife gig: the interaction between the band, the crowd and the people working behind the scenes. “It’s all a big party. Everyone is together and it becomes camaraderie. People enjoying themselves together,” she explains. “If we were just on the stage bored looking down or playing our songs just to get paid it wouldn’t be us. The group makes the whole project. It’s not just ‘I’m important because I’m on stage’’.
The band all strongly agree on the idea that the stage at a venue is something with a lot of untapped potential, nodding when Alice laments the dull nature of a lot of live gigs today: “I think shows can be so boring, it’s like a standard thing on a stage. We’re really trying to make it immersive. Make people feel as if they’re having a good time and being transported somewhere else”, with Bella adding that “you can do so much more with parameters of the stage than is normally done”.
“It’s all a big party. Everyone is together and it becomes camaraderie.”
If Dream Wife have any kind of motto of their own it is ‘make it happen’. The band are all very active in terms of putting their words in to action and have constructed immersive sets for their gigs to make them more exciting. One example of this was at their EP launch last year. The band chose a ‘space beach’ set design complete with ‘aliens, beach balls, and silver palm trees’. Things got slightly too immersive however when a palm tree fell into the crowd. “We ended up ripping the stage apart and the palm tree did this crowd surf. It was slightly dangerous as the palm tree had a lot of nails sticking out of it,” Rakel chuckles.
Whether or not there will be more immersive near misses in the future is unclear but what is certain is that there are many more interesting things to come from Dream Wife in 2017. With a debut album, a headline tour and support dates for label-mates Sleigh Bells pencilled in, Dream Wife can justifiably place some real expectations on themselves as both a band and a collaborative project.
Photos by Meg Lavender.