Dream Wife‘s prowess to lace razor-sharp wit with powerful, political lexicon punches at a maximum across the London-based trio’s forthcoming LP, ‘Social Lubrication’.
Their debut single ‘Leech’ is a rock-heavy call-to-arms for some ‘fucking empathy’ from misogynistic gatekeepers in the industry and a visceral swipe at toxicity. At the same time, their riot-filled tongue-in-cheek follow-up track ‘Hot! (don’t date a musician)’ strikes a far too relatable chord.
Across the album Rakel Mjöll, Alice Go, and Bella Podpadec flex the dexterity of their skillset and continue to command attention weaving from the bi-sexual/polyamorous make-out anthem ‘Curious’ to the title track ‘Social Lubrication”, rallying against every shade of “patriarchal bullshit” from spiked drinks to consume before shifting tempos on the sensual penultimate outro ‘Honestly’ with ease.
They push the pedal-to-the-metal sonically (thanks to Alice on production) on Social Lubrication from the opening track ‘Kick in the Teeth’ delivering up the closest embodiment on wax to date that replicates the pulse-racing, mosh-inducing, sweat-drenched bliss of their infamous live shows.
The Forty-Five caught up with Dream Wife in London as they gear up for their first gig of 2023 at SXSW Festival in Austin to dive deeper into the evolution of their musical aesthetic, find out how the album came together and what they hope their fans take away.
Hey Dream Wife, congrats on ‘Social Lubrication’! Can you explain the back story behind ‘HOT! (don’t date a musician)’?
RAKEL: We were in the studio, and Bella and I were joking about being undateable when we’re on tour, and it reminded me of this funny story with my grandmother. I always stay with her when I go back to Iceland. She’s hilarious and such a character (I mention her sex life on ‘Curious’). Anyways, one morning at breakfast, she says, “I have an idea. I want to put you on a cruise. I saw this advertisement in the paper.” I said, “Grandma, of course, I’d be down for a cruise with you! That sounds like an amazing adventure. “She says, “No, no, no. Just you. I don’t like all these skinny musicians you keep bringing to the house. You should go on a cruise because you might meet an electrician. You know, or maybe a scientist?” And she keeps listing these professions, and I’m just crying/laughing. (Also, keep in mind she’s been married to at least two musicians!) I read the advertisement, and it was a cruise for senior citizens! I was like, “Grandma, you want me to find a retired electrician?! If I’m going on a cruise, alone on a ship? Who do you think I’m going to talk to? ….The band!!! “She pauses. “Yeah, that’s not a good idea, then. Let’s skip this!”
Did I hear that someone’s dad played drums on your first/only self-titled EP too?
ALICE: My dad played the drums! We recorded it at my parent’s old house in Somerset (actually in my old nursery, which was soundproofed). My dad used to play in these old two-tone bands in Coventry in the UK. He hadn’t played drums in 30 years but stepped in and took the baton. That was actually the start of us figuring out how we wanted the drums to sound.
How has your recorded sonic aesthetic evolved from that debut EP to ‘Social Lubrication’?
RAKEL: The live show is the beating heart of this band. Everything goes into that show, and it’s always been a little bit sad when we hear people say, “Oh, the live show is amazing. It doesn’t sound anything at all like the album” We’ve been trying to get that energy for both of our albums. We’ve really tried! But ‘Social Lubrication’ feels like the first time we’ve really gotten there. It’s a really good album.
ALICE: For me, this record is my proudest accomplishment. We have two albums under our belt, and this one feels the most reflective of the live manifestation of this band. This album was written in this major way where we were writing for it to be played live. We really took ownership of our sound and what we wanted to say. It’s a real testament to our unity and journey. We couldn’t have made this record this way earlier in our careers. It’s a real point in time for us to come into our own and say, “This is who we are.”
Is it important for artists to have a message in their music?
RAKEL: Nina Simone said, “To be an artist is to reflect the times”, and I that’s such an important sentence. If you are not political in your music, and you do not have a message, what’s the point? A lot of this album is quite political because we’ve lived under a Conservative government in the UK for way too long while things are getting worse and worse. If you’re not reflecting that, are you being true to what’s happening in your life and in your community’s life in your art?
What song is the most personal to you?
ALICE: For me, it’s ‘Leech’. It was our first release in a while, and it felt important to come back with something that was heavy hitting and made a statement. That felt important to put out. We were really happy that our label was up for having that as a stand-alone single because it’s a statement. It’s not a radio tune, and we love those songs.
RAKEL: The song ‘Mascara’ – I love the journey it takes you on. It’s this love letter to our lives in London and the people in it. It captures this moment in time in a way so that when I’m the same age as my grandma, I’ll be able to press play and go, “Ah, that was a pretty important time in my life.” It’s about the mundane and the silly stuff, and I find that when I look back, it’s never the big moments that stand out. All these little minutes in the mundane that was a beautiful time.
‘Honestly’ is my personal favourite track and very different from everything else on the album. How did that get in there?
RAKEL: Wow! That one almost got kicked off the album and that’s why. But I put my foot down, and we had to fight for that song to be on the album.
ALICE: We were writing really fast punk songs, and then I think Rakel was like, ‘What if we try and write a song that’s like, the opposite of this?”
RAKEL: Actually, the story is quite funny about ‘Honestly’. We were fortunate to rent Pony Studios for a month and not be on the clock. So because of that, we were being absolute menaces and writing such a stupid and silly song (which was also an excellent track, to be fair.) Anyways, we experimented, and just all fell into this tempo that was the opposite of that and ‘Honestly’ came out in one go. It was so weird. It was just a vibe.
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
RAKEL: Being a band in the pandemic. Cancelling 100 shows. The same thing every single band has been through these last few years. I don’t know any hardships that come close to that.
ALICE: It was pretty heartbreaking to release a record and not be able to tour it. It was really sad to be unable to take that out and share it with people.
RAKEL: It’s also getting to grips with the idea that many of the songs on that second album will never get played live outside their studio version. We have three albums under our belt now, baby! And we have this newborn ‘Social Lubrication’ that we’re so excited to show off.
Where do you go to get creative and feel inspired?
RAKEL: All three of us are fire signs. I go to gigs. I get such inspiration from being around really fun, creative, loving people and the passion of a live experience and connecting. That’s also why I struggled to write songs during the pandemic because I didn’t have any inspiration.
We wrote a bunch of demos during that period, and I’m so thankful that our label was like, “I think you should write more.” At first, we were so offended. But as soon as we started playing live again, it kickstarted us back to writing songs that were much more us. Songs just flowed out.
So much of this album resonates with me for different reasons. I’ve experienced the industry’s dark side first-hand, but what is Dream Wife’s backstory behind Leech?
RAKEL: The lyrics to Leech were also written in one go. We were playing at one of the first music festivals after the pandemic and were so excited to be around the community. But I kept bumping into people that I had heard bad stories about or had done messed up stuff to myself and to my friends regarding this sort of misogynistic behaviour. It was like, “You’re still getting away with it. You’re still here” Finally, I went into a corner and was kinda shouting the lyrics into my phone. I was pissed off.
As you know, it’s not just about having non-binary women on stages and female-fronted line-ups. It’s about who is the booking agent, who’s backstage, who’s running the records labels, who the promoter is, and who is in the VIP area. If you look around, you’ll discover you’re surrounded by a majority of white men.
“It’s not just about having non-binary women on stages and female-fronted line-ups. It’s about who the booking agent is, who’s backstage, who’s running the records labels, who the promoter is, and who’s in the VIP area. If you look around, you’ll discover you’re surrounded by a majority of white men.“— Rakel Mjoll, Dream Wife
There’s a line in Leech, which was a difficult line to write, but I was like, ‘fuck it. Let’s put it on the table”. ‘Fuck those who call themselves a friend, but they don’t lift a finger. Fuck that WhatsApp group where they got points for nailing a fresh-faced singer.’
That line is so much to me about moving to London, starting a band and meeting all these “amazing” people. But soon, you find out you’re “a bet” to them. We’re not your equal? We’re not your comrade? And people are just as toxic if they hang in those chats and stay silent.
A musical community is so beautiful and so vulnerable and so gorgeous. We have so many wonderful friends, but when this sort of locker room talk starts, that pisses me off.
How have you seen the industry change for the better?
ALICE: It feels like there are so many bands of different genders at the forefront of the scene rather than it being dominated by just cis white men taking up the space on stage and making things on their terms, and I’m proud we’re a part of that. And there’s much more of a conversation around inequality in the industry than when we started. But it’s not like, “We’re done now. That’s it!”
What do you hope this album does for you as a band?
ALICE: It takes us around the world, and we tour extensively and connect with musical communities. That’s the dream.
RAKEL: It’s so beautiful to be part of this community, despite the fact there will always be bad eggs in there. So with this album, let’s crack those eggs open by releasing songs like ‘Leech’ so everyone can listen and be scared like “, Shit, is that about me? Is it about you?”
What do you want fans to take away?
BELLA: I hope they feel some kind of support and connectivity to whatever they are passionate about from ‘Social Lubrication’ in the most honest and heartfelt way. I hope it provides a bit of respite to all the difficulties out there too, and a bit of encouragement to keep moving in the ways they want.
I hope people work out to the songs, I hope they have sex to the songs, and I hope people dance with their besties to them. I hope that a baby is conceived to this album, and I hope that one of the songs is the closing song to an actual wedding! I hope it gets played at picnics and on cruise ships, and people fall in love listening to it. I hope people put it on to it to get them pumped first thing in the morning. I hope people listen to it at night when they have a hard day to even to help disconnect. And I hope that people like it.
Social Lubrication by Dream Wife is out on June 9 2023.