It’s rare to find a band with a work ethic as tireless as Dream Wife’s. It’s been two years since the release of their debut self-titled album, which saw them play shows across the globe including festivals, support slots with the likes of Garbage and The Vaccines, as well as their own headline shows. Not to mention a sync in Orange Is The New Black, too. Now they’re gearing up for their highly anticipated follow-up ‘So When You Gonna…’ which sees them explore their craft in a whole new way.
“By December we had played about 150 shows, so it was a lot,” vocalist Rakel Mjöll reflects from her family’s summerhouse in Iceland where she’s currently isolating. Her fellow bandmates drummer Alice Go and bassist Bella Popadec are isolating together in London.
She continues: “We didn’t come back much to London at all, we were on the road, and it was an amazing, time, but after we finished that we decided to not jump back on the road but give us some time to write and only do festivals in the summer. To have the first start of the year leading into the fall as a period to write, it was incredible.
“We started writing [for the new album] after we gave ourselves a good six weeks break, and it was the longest time we’d been apart from each other since we started this band, which is ridiculous,” she laughs.
Not only is the band’s love for what they do, seen in the fact they gave themselves such a short break between album cycles, it’s also seen in how they didn’t feel the need to delay the release of their album, as so many artists are doing in the current global pandemic.
Alice explains this choice: “Obviously there were options to delay, but we thought it was really important to keep the date. [Sharing music] is always a positive experience, and it still reaches people in the way it would otherwise. [We’re] just taking it day by day and being really thankful that we can release this music in this internet age. It’s a very different situation than how it would be ten years ago, with the way we’re connected now.”
Rakel continues: “Delaying an album would make sense if you knew when the live shows were going to be able to come back, but nobody knows what’s going to happen. In that sense, our industry is going to be the last one that’s going to be resurrected.
“If you wait too long with it maybe you would become more detached from it. For us, it was more that we’re really proud of these songs and we absolutely loved the process of making this album and working with our team and writing it last year. I think we’re all a bit giddy and excited for people to hear it so I’m really happy our label didn’t decide to push back the release.”
“I think people now need music more so than ever,” bassist Bella Popadec adds. “I know for me personally, really looking to music as a great deal of comfort and support during this time, and it feels like these set of songs could be a good companion.”
Months and months of back to back tours can make members of a band itch for time alone and away from their bandmates, but with Dream Wife spending this time together allowed the trio to build trust and solidarity that would ultimately be the driving force behind the writing for their new album.
“The opportunity to get to write together again was really exciting because we just didn’t have time on tour,” Alice says.
Rakel agrees: “You have some ideas from tour, but sleeping more, and seeing our friends and family, and being able to sort of function again in the lives we left behind, and understand what had changed both in us and in the people around us and in our homes, [meant] we could go into that phase to be able to write…and to be able to reflect. It’s just like a rollercoaster when you’re touring back to back tours, and to be like, woah that was really amazing or really intense, and to see growth …it’s just so great to just be still when you’re writing.”
When Dream Wife first started out as three friends at university together in Brighton, they were playing shows before they even had any songs recorded, which meant their debut album consisted of songs that were built for the live environment. This time around however, the trio approached the process in a completely different way.
“[It’s] the polar opposite with this album, we took time off and came back to the writing room, and it was this presence of being reflective,” says Alice. “We’ve never really engaged in that space together for that length of time as a unit, and it felt like a real luxury and a creative honour. We worked with Marta Salogni, who is an incredible producer, and she really shared in this trusted space with us to create the album that we’ve been able to make. It was a completely different process to that of the first record, but something we’d been wanting to do for a long time.”
Rakel continues: “Also the first one is an introduction, like hi this is us, this is Dream Wife! The first record had some of the first songs we’ve ever written, some of the songs we had just written before we went into the studio, and some of them weren’t even finished. What we love about this [record] was for it to be a whole collective story rather than it being these different parts of an introduction which a debut album is.”
They also felt no pressure to follow the success of their debut either as so many bands do with a follow-up, “We’re all a lot better at doing what we do now, and a lot better at working together, and a lot better at not taking other people’s bullshit! So as much as I can understand the intricacies around a second album, on a personal level it was so much more enjoyable and so much more fun,” Bella quips.
“Doing your first album, you’re going through such a process of learning,” Rakel divulges. “For us it was the first time we were in a studio, with producers, assembling a collection of songs and mixing notes. Coming back the second time around you know what you like and know what you don’t like, and you also have understood the language, the mixing language, and how you connect as a unit and the people you’re working with. Going into this album was such a good feeling. Touring so much gets you really tight as a unit, and we also built so much trust with each other… that trust produces the best music we’ve ever made. You feel like the unit will hold it up, and everyone can be fully themselves, and be vulnerable.”
Dream Wife have always been an empowering and honest band instilled with punk ethos, but it’s on ‘So When You Gonna…’ that the world will truly get to know them on a deeper and more personal level. It’s a vulnerability that echoes throughout the record in topics ranging from miscarriage and abortion, and their intrinsic mission statement of gender equality.
“Having that solidarity and trust as a band was a combination that allowed us to access these softer parts of the palette and really dig into the sensitive themes,” Alice notes. “There are some songs that really hark back to the rawness and live energy of the first record, but I really think for me [the record] feels like this real evolution of Dream Wife – which isn’t just primarily this live band, it’s everything else we are and have always been. Even in our pop sensibilities and allowing that to shine rather than it just having to manifest on record as it does exactly as it does at a live show.”
Rakel continues: “There was a lot of growth and exploration. With this album, it was more about thinking about the songs and thinking about how we can progress and grow, and how we can capture the light and the shade, and the rawness and the vulnerability and the pleasure, and really diving into different parts of extreme emotions and grief.”
A big talking point for the new ‘So When You Gonna…’ album is how the band enlisted the help of a team of entirely non-males to create it, “It was definitely a thing ultimately practice what we preach,” explains Alice.
“Obviously it’s insane the statistics about albums produced by women, it’s less than 5%. If we can do something about it and in some way support equality in the industry, then, of course, we’re going to do that. With Grace Banks engineering and Heba Kadr mastering in New York, it’s just this really powerful team of women. It was exciting to feel like we could make that happen in that way, and really manifest things in terms of our ethos and what we stand for. It feels like we made the album in the right way.”
“It was magic [with Marta], and we just found this instant connection. Learning about her journey as a producer, she has it all, she has worked her way up from the bottom,” Rakel muses.
It was in these conversations with Marta that the band came up with the idea for their podcast that shares the same name as their new album. On the podcast the band interviews predominantly non-male people in the creative industry – people they’ve collaborated with and people they admire.
“We wished we heard these conversations when we were teenagers, just normalising predominantly non-male people in these roles in the creative industry. I hope it’s educational and makes people feel like they can go and do something they didn’t think they could do,” Alice contemplates.
‘So When You Gonna..’ is Dream Wife truly making the most of their innermost feelings, and expressing that outwards with a rawness like never before. “I hope they dance, I hope they cry, and I hope it’s reflective of something that is happening in their own lives,” Rakel notes on what she wants listeners to take from the album. “That’s the dream, [and] being able to be fully yourself and fully present was such an amazing experience, as a songwriter, musician, and human.”
Taken from the July issue of Upset. Dream Wife’s album ‘So When You Gonna…’ is out 3rd July.