Triple Fire Power Trio: An Interview with Dream Wife
Triple Fire Power Trio: An Interview with Dream Wife
Conducted by: Cassandra Litten and Sparks
Written by: Cassandra Litten
Photos by: Cassandra Litten and Sparks
Question brainstorming/general moral support: Brittany Alyse
It’s been a wild year for Dream Wife.
When Sparks and I met with Rakel Mjöll and Alice Go in May (vocalist and guitarist, respectively -- bassist Bella Podpadec was not present for the interview) at Fillmore 13 Brewery in downtown Pontiac, a thirty minute drive north of Detroit, they were at the beginning of a brief US tour, promoting their self-titled debut album and supporting New York-based band Sunflower Bean. Their calendars are full for the rest of the year: a summer of festivals in the UK, followed by their first headlining tour across Europe and the United States.
Hellbent on destroying the patriarchy and solidifying their place in the annals of loud, honest rock and roll, they will not be slowing down any time soon.
[Cassandra Litten] We like to start things off with a little icebreaker Is there a piece of media that you guys are obsessed with right now? A movie, a song, a book, etc.
[Rakel Mjöll] Alice is really into BitCoin. She’s reading everything about that and how to create your own currency. We really wanted to create something called Bitch Coin and then we researched it and found out the name’s already taken. Oh well. How cool would it be to be able to buy merch with BitchCoin? That idea’s gone now. Media? Like right now? Well, our tour manager acted in Westworld , so now we’re really into Westworld at the moment. We’ve been watching a lot of that.
[c.l.] What would you describe as the DNA of Dream Wife?
[r.m.] I guess we’re like a power trio.
[Alice Go] Triple fire power trio! Fire symbols, all of us. Yeah, yeah, that’s who we are at the core.
[c.l.] I can listen to your album and hear my experiences as a woman in every song. Is that something that came easy for you when you were writing -- was it just naturally very feminist?
[a.g.] I think it’s just the fact that we are three women in our twenties and this is the material. Yeah, we’re talented lyricists and so to bring the conversations surrounding us into a song, it is just what we know. It comes out that way.
[r.m.] I think the most honest music is music where you write from the voices that you know, your own or your friends. It’s boring writing music that’s not yours. You write music that’s yours and we happen to be women and these happen to be our experiences. It wasn’t until after we wrote our album and were looking back at it that it was like “Wow, there’s a theme going on there”. It’s interesting, because I didn’t think about that when we were writing, it just happened. But it’s great, because you shouldn’t think about it. You should see it afterwards. I think any kind of art creation is way more interesting when you don’t critique or go into a space like “I’m going to do this”, rather than let it happen naturally and then at some point afterwards you come back and you’re like “Oh! Now I see what we’re talking about”.
[a.g.] Yeah, it feels instinctive when we write and then you kind of understand it in retrospect.
[c.l.] What was the process of finding your sound?
[a.g.] I mean, it was that we played a lot of live shows. We were supporting and trusting in each other, there’s a solidarity in this thing we do in terms of three women believing in each other. I think we explored on our own terms at shows and over the years, the three years we’ve been doing this, the shows have shaped the sound more than anything. The live show is a conversation with the audience for us and I think it’s so important to listen to the audience and how their responses change and grow. That more than anything has helped us find it or pinpoint it.
[r.m.] I was watching a documentary the other day about Chuck Berry and I really liked how he spoke about his live shows. He was known for his live shows. His first album that was a hit was a live recording and it was successful because he could actually show his personality. I thought that was such an interesting way of thinking about music in that sense, the live shows. We didn’t even think about making music, making recorded music, we just wanted to play live. And when we did plenty of DIY trips where we didn’t even know where we were going.
[a.g.] We had dance routines, it was a show.
[r.m.] And also just about doing it rather than being too critical of yourself, like thinking “We’re not big enough to do that”, we just did it.
[a.g.] [laughs] Yeah. We egg each other on.
[r.m.] That’s what’s fun. It’s hard and it’s fun. And I think that’s where actually you can find your sound, people are too concerned about finding their sound in their room -- you miss that audience interaction. ‘Cause it’s a game! It should be kind of a correspondence between you and your audience, rather than just you in your zone and then bringing it into the world.
[a.g.] Yeah, it’s this thing that’s like alive somehow and that’s the true moment of it at a show, in that conversation with the crowd.
[r.m.] Also, you’ve gotta like the music you’re playing. You know how you would write a song and then you realize you don't like it at all? That doesn’t work live because you’ve got to play that every night. So you better like the song. I love every single song on the album.
[a.g.] It’s really weird, because we’re playing these songs every night and we’re still not sick of them. That’s gotta be a good thing.
[Sparks] That must be a great feeling.
[a.g.] + [r.m.] Yeah!
[c.l.] I hate going to concerts where I can tell the band hates the song they’re playing, it’s so uncomfortable.
[s.] And it’s apparent usually, you can tell, they’re just going through the motions of playing the song and they’re not feeling the music.
[a.g.] That’s why I love our live shows, you can tell we’re having fun and it kind of breaks the ice and makes people feel like they can engage with us and that’s so important.
[r.m.] My grandma once said to me, she’s a director and actress, and I was rehearsing when I was a kid for a song competition, and she stopped me halfway through and said “No”. And I was like “What do you mean? I’m hitting every single note, I’m doing the song perfectly. What do you mean ‘no’?” and she told me “If you don’t see it, how am I going to see it?”. So, if you’re not enjoying yourself, how am I supposed to enjoy this? If you’re hitting every single note, it doesn’t matter. If you’re not having a good time, I’m not having a good time. I think that’s really valuable.
[c.l.] Were there any albums growing up that really changed things for you? Anything that made you want to pursue music?
[a.g.] I mean, we always say our parents’ record collections. Maybe stuff from the 70s and the 80s, like punk and then new wave, and the women who were involved in that - Joan Jett, Blondie - all of these figures we had growing up as women in a rock context, it was kind of harking back to musicians of the past. When we were growing up, we had mostly just pop stars, and the idea of women in rock, you had like Karen O in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but it was kind of sparse for us.
[r.m.] The Strokes, Is This It, changed my little twelve year old life. As a child that was pretty amazing.
[c.l.] My favorite song is “F.U.U” and, our friend and part of our magazine team, Brittany, actually saw you guys open for The Kills and she sent me a video of the song when she was at the show and said to me, “You will fucking love this, it’s changing my life as I’m witnessing it”...
[r.m.] It’s healthy aggression!
[c.l.] … What were the origins?
[r.m.] It’s sort of playing around with what you see is not what you get. The expectations when you walk on stage, this small blonde woman, and you start screaming I’m going to fuck you up/I’m going to cut you up -- it’s actually about a bad haircut. [laughs] Hence the line cut you up… it’s not about violence, it’s really about a bad haircut. But people don’t expect that. And the look on people’s faces when that song starts… they’re not sure if they should stay or run away.
[a.g.] They don’t know how to feel at first.
[r.m.] Yeah, and that sort of discomfort, dislocation is a great thing to do to an audience.
[a.g.] There’s also a point in that song, it starts with, yeah, people don’t really know how to feel about it and it gets to a point where it breaks down and we’re all just screaming "bitches!" and it’s really empowering thing when women in the crowd, everyone, is screaming bitches together. Female aggression is not this negative thing, it’s really a positive thing and it’s channeling it in the way of empowerment and solidarity in that particular song. Especially live.
[r.m.] It’s healthy, it’s good. People like to listen to it in their cars in traffic. [laughs]
[a.g.] Yeah, like road rage.
[r.m.] I’m happy that that’s what’s coming out of it.
[c.l.] You have been touring pretty constantly for the last couple years? Touring and working on the album?
[a.g.] I would say the last year it’s been constant.
[r.m.] Yeah, we pretty much have not been home much since the beginning of January, since the album came out. It’s funny, I’m paying rent at home in London and I’m never there. I was trying to furniture shop from my phone yesterday and sending it to my boyfriend - like “Look at this table! You take the measurements!”
[a.g.] Remote domesticity! Highly remote.
[r.m.] [laughs] I ordered new sheets yesterday as well -- that I won’t be sleeping in.
[a.g.] You’re literally coming back to fresh sheets, though, that’s good. … But it feels like this is the point where we have to dig our heels in, and so it’s really worthwhile. Strange times.
[r.m.] We get to come to America for the first time. We’ve been to New York and California before and we did SXSW last year, but now we get to see the rest of it. It’s a new playground.
[c.l.] Is there anything you do on tour, because you’re not at home, do you have any rituals that keep you grounded and bring you comfort?
[a.g.] Face masks! We do face masks.
[r.m.] Snail! I love snail masks.
[a.g.] Yeah, yeah, mediation and face masks. We literally shut all the lights off in the dressing room, shut the door and just plug in. We just lie there. It’s really nice.
[r.m.] Our shows are really different - this tour has been smaller rooms, and we just came off a tour with a band called The Vaccines and that was all crowds of 5-10,000. Now we’re back in the dive bars. But it makes the routines kind of different, what you can and can’t do.
[a.g.] The routine of a non-routine is like a routine in itself, you know what I mean? The routine of the chaos of tour.
[r.m.] And I’d call us a healthy band. I don’t think we could be touring so much if we were drunk every night.
[a.g.] We’ve been getting into stretching and stuff before shows. You get whiplash if you don’t stretch before a show!
[r.m.] You’ve gotta exercise.
[a.g.] I think touring so much, it makes you realize that if you want to do this in the way we want to do this, we have to look after ourselves. Rakel’s gone vegan!
[r.m.] Yeah, I’m trying with that. Touring is so different from everyday life. I’ve never had this little to drink ever in my life. It’s so hard in England, they drink so much. It’s such a cultural thing, but with touring it’s not.
[a.g.] We don’t really drink so much anymore.
[r.m.] Health! On tour, health is our ritual. Me and Alice compete with how many vitamins we have. Like “I’ve got this new kind of B12, I don’t know what it does, but try it!”
[a.g.] Sometimes I have to check if it’s legal to bring into certain countries.
[c.l.] Do you have a pill container for everyday?
[a.g.] No! It’s just chaos. Pills everywhere.
[c.l.] You’re really cementing yourselves in the music world and making a huge impression and you’re really such a new band. How does that feel?
[r.m.] It’s exciting! That debut album is really only three months old. Every single day we get really interesting news. We went back to London for three days and we played on soap opera!
[a.g.] We went on TV! As ourselves!
[r.m.] It’s the most popular soap opera in England. It’s called Made in Chelsea. And today we got news that we’re going to be supporting one of our favorite bands in a stadium in Dublin!
(The band was The National at Donnybrook Stadium, Alice and Rakel could not tell us at the time, but the news was announced online a week later)
[a.g.] It’s great to wake up to all of this kind of news. Everyday is a new adventure.
[r.m.] We’re very new in the US still, people don’t know who we are, and that’s exciting because we have an honest opportunity to make our way here.
[c.l.] Have you learned anything about who you are as people?
[r.m.] No. [laughs]
[a.g.] We talk about this quite a lot. We’re all growing and learning all the time. The idea that identity is a static thing is really bizarre! You’re always growing and changing, you accept yourself more and more by being flexible in terms of the people around you and supporting them --
[r.m.] And your experiences change.
[a.g.] Yeah, I think we’re just surrounded by really inspiring people a lot and you want to let them in and have a conversation in so many ways, and it’s been a major journey -- internally, externally, as a unit, as individuals.
[r.m.] to [a.g.] Like when we met, you were very shy!
[a.g.] You say this, but you didn’t really know me very well, Rakel!
[r.m.] That’s true. Okay, actually, she was very shy around me. And now she’s not shy around me!
[a.g.] We didn’t really know each other. And even me and Rakel, Rakel is one of my best friends now, you get to know each other and it’s this thing of believing in each other and bringing these things out of each other.
[r.m.] I think it’s also nice to acknowledge how you change and when you realize that you have change within you already. When you realize “Oh, I’m actually not into that anymore”, I think it’s really exciting to embrace it. [to a.g.] But you weren’t shy.
[a.g.] I was very… I was very reserved. I was not very open to people --
[r.m.] I thought she was really cool and I just wanted her to be my friend.
[a.g.] Yeah [laughs] I was like, “Who is this Icelandic princess?”
[r.m.] We went to school together and I’d be walking past her when she was in Sculpture -- you know how you have friend crushes? And suddenly you’re friends and you hang out together every single day?
[a.g.] It feels like this weird group of sisters at the moment. We’ve grown together as well and it’s such a special thing.
[c.l.] What’s your post-show routine?
[r.m.] Stretching. [laughs]
[a.g.] We run out and have a little puff. We hang out with people, have a chat with people after the show. That engagement with people is such an important part of the show.
[s.] It’s so nice to see artists being passionate about and engaging with fans.
[r.m.] In general it is really nice to go out and speak to people. I don’t know Detroit, so it’s so nice to get to know the people who are here and find out what brings them here. Music is such a communal thing.
[a.g.] It feels part of the story.
[r.m.] When we don’t do that, it feels like something’s missing.
[a.g.] You feel that kind of disconnection from the show you just played.
[r.m.] I don’t like the idea of the artist being higher than the audience. How do you find a connection with the audience if you put yourselves really far away?
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