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Photography Rachel Hodgson

The girl gang proving there’s force in femininity

Dream Wife create pop anthems for the Instagram generation in this exclusive premiere of their latest video ‘Hey Heartbreaker’

In the age of insta-likes where personal branding reigns, for better or for worse it’s arguably more difficult to break out in any industry if you don’t have a strong social media following to back you up. Where pop stars would usually have whole teams putting together a cohesive project, everything you would possibly need is now at the scroll of a touch-screen. Creating platforms for women to gain control over their image and ultimately their careers, no matter how superficial social media may often seen the power it has given women – especially in the music industry – should not be underestimated.

Formed in Brighton, Dream Wife was first concocted as an art school project in an attempt to tour Canada over summer. Made up of Icelandic frontwoman Rakel Mjoll, with British guitarist Alice Go and bassist Isabella Podpadec, the band was never intended to break out into the IRL music industry. However a year and a half on and a mockumentary later, Dream Wife have moved beyond pastiche and become a fully fledged girl power project, launching their first EP as a cassette release on Cannibal Hymns last week.

Still, elements of the performance art project linger. They may have moved away from rigid marketing in favour of focussing on live shows and taking the music more seriously, but Dream Wife are still acutely aware of the message their pastel perfect aesthetic projects. Self referential with hints of irony, their postmodern approach to pop music both ridicules and celebrates notions of stereotypical femininity – performed or otherwise.

But what Dream Wife probably couldn’t account for was the very real sense of community their project would foster. Gradually building themselves an IRL scene from the ground up,  hooking up with some photography’s most exciting talents such as Dazed 100 star Maisie Cousins and Eleanor Hardwick to direct music videos and encompassing elements of set design and performance art in their live sets. Through harnessing the power of the internet as their weapon, the band have unknowingly provided the soundtrack for an insta-generation unashamed in their admiration of pop music and kitsch aesthetics.

Below we catch up with Dream Wife to debut their latest music video, Hey Heartbreaker directed by Eleanor Hardwick and Sam Boullier, discuss sexism in the industry and explore the importance of being angry.

You started with live music in mind, never setting out to record anything concrete. A year or so on and you’ve just release your first EP, (EP01) – Do you feel like you’ve worked backwards in a sense?

Alice Go: The transition of going from art project to ‘proper’ band was actualised in a very realistic environment, proved and tested on the road and in song. In these songs that's something maybe to talk about because a lot of them were formed on the road and the way this EP was written felt the wrong way round almost. It's a confidence thing –  there's always been a level of seriousness with Dream Wife. When someone tells you this is the way it should be done and you don't really know, you believe them, and it's through kind of trial and error realising that these other people don't really know better and that we've just got to do what we've got to do in the best way we can.

Who inspired you to be more outspoken about gender politics in the music industry?

Rakel Mjoll: There's been a lot of discussion from Grimes, she's doing all her own stuff and it’s really amazing to hear her speak about. Bjork as well, she's just so cool. In an interview once  she said something along the lines of, “What a man says once to the music industry a woman has to say five times” – did you read that line? I thought it was nice because she was owning all sides of her music from recording to producing. Social media has given all these women opportunities to set the record straight.

The live show has definitely become a lot more aggressive since you formed, what gave you the confidence to scream on stage?

Rakel Mjoll: Living in London you're in a bubble and that's the beautiful thing about the Peckham scene, you have all these amazing friends doing whatever they want to do despite their gender or sexual stance, and then suddenly you go to Central Europe and realise that you're completely out of that. It’s easy to forget London is not like everywhere else, so we actually became really happy that that bubble exists somewhere. Before touring in Central Europe we had a very positive experience with men in the music industry, then unfortunately some incidents occurred that shifted our views.

Alice Go: It was difficult in those scenarios because what we do feels empowering, but at some of those gigs it just kind of felt like you were the object. The general feeling of just doing what you want and not having to excuse yourself has affected the sound, it’s definitely harsher now than it had previously been recorded; things are more extreme than they were because we feel like we can be more extreme. When we were playing together in these sketchy situations it was formed a kind of solidarity that hadn't been there as much previously, it toughened us up and brought us together.

Rakel Mjoll: I also wanted to feel empowered on stage and not feel like i had to excuse myself or worried would overstep a boundary. I remember when I was younger I flipped my hair a lot while performing because the cheap stage lights made the stage really hot, but because of it I got told by band mates at the time that I was being too sexy. But that's just because I had long hair and i was really warm. With Dream Wife I'm never excusing myself.

You’ve finely tuned an aesthetic that pulls from movements such as fourth wave feminism as well as pop culture references like David Lynch heroines. Why is the conscious self-branding of Dream Wife so important?

Isabella Podpadec: There's a level of irony to the ‘branding’ that we’re participating in – it’s playing with the idea of a need for a personal brand and how messed up that is in a way. I never considered myself at all photogenic before all this happened and like with Alice she couldn’t take a photo, we weren’t natural models or anything we were just awkward girls.

What are you trying to explore lyrically?

Isabella Podpadec: Our lyrics acknowledge that the feminine isn’t actually a bad thing, the words go hand in hand with our visual aesthetic while also being something people don’t expect when they first see how we look. It’s this idea of turning things that are seemingly cute on their head to make a powerful statement.

Rakel Mjoll: Alice had her heart trampled on, It was less of a break and more like love was the rug and there were boots jumping on it for a few months. In that time when you’re so stuck in this kind then you have to remember that you have friends and your friends are actually the loves of your life sometimes.

Alice Go: I guess it's about turning those feelings around and  saying ‘fuck you’ instead of ‘I’m so sad my heart’s broken’.

You have a pretty killer instagram feed. But what impact has the internet had on Dream Wife as a project?

Isabella Podpadec: It allows for voices that wouldn’t necessarily collide form a unity, it’s so easy to find like-minded people; for Dream Wife the internet has been incredibly important.

Alice Go: Particularly because the image side of things, it’s really important that we utilise its potential. It’s the whole idea of using the tools available and doing what you can with them; the fact that the internet exists and that you can connect with an audience who feel like they’re engaged and involved somehow it's amazing.

Why is a sense of wider community so important to you?

Rakell Mjoll: The reason why you’re in London and paying this much rent is because you can be around creative people that are likeminded and just doing it for themselves, not for the game. Maya Angelou once said that when she goes to do a speech she doesn’t get stage fright because she brings everyone on with her; the people, poets, and artists she’s admired and all their collective strength. That’s the power within that having a supportive community brings.

Check out more from Dream Wife here