Interview: Dream Wife throw pastel shade

Dream WifeReady to feel old, 90s kids? Everything you love is dead. Or worse, reanimated: stitched together with swatches of hot neon and cool pastel, jumbled into a cruel parody of the human form, staggering down your street in the rain, rapping harder and harder against your door now, begging to be let in, to return home. You glance over at the monkey's paw on your desk, only one finger raised now; it's turned back into a Brat Award. The banging won't stop, but you know that thing at your door isn't EMF - or at least, not as you remember it. It's James Atkin performing Schubert Dip in full. Don't answer it.

Not that you're likely to find Dream Wife compromising their youth for a weekend in Minehead. Even if they were old enough to call it nostalgia, those kind of line-ups would be wasted on the Brighton-based trio; one suspects they harbour the good taste to pick Shampoo over Shed Seven all day long. But their heart lies in a particularly American 90s: one that revolves around David Lynch, Kathleen Hanna, Carrie Brownstein, mixtapes, fanzines, anything shrouded in ambiguous hues. ("We only dream in pastel colours," they literally said in an interview last year.) In fact, the Brighton-based act initially started as a parodic art project, three feminist art students picking apart the key girl group signifiers and piecing them back together in their own way. More Derrida than Frankenstein though, right? We caught up with Alice, Bella and Rakel to get their hot take on art, music and feminism. And boy, did we get some big answers.

Taking their name from a 1953 Cary Grant flick, Dream Wife brings together various parts Iceland (singer Rakel Mjoll was born in Rejkavik) and South Coast England. It's also been a multi-platform endeavour from the beginning. Not only did the project birth its own Spinal Tap style mockumentary, it set the wheels in motion for future ideas, such as an "immersive theatre" piece coming up in Berlin, based on Lynch's iconic Twin Peaks. I wonder if they'd like to see Dream Wife expand as a conceptual outfit. "It already is and has been from the off," comes the taut response. "We’re all multidisciplinary artists and we all use our different skills in Dream Wife." That's that, then.

True to their DIY indie ethos, the band wrote most of their songs in Bella's bedroom in Brighton. The video for latest single "Hey Heartbreaker" worships at the altar of the teenage bedroom - the scene depicts all three members eating spaghetti on a small bed, looking bored, while the camera focuses on posters (Spice Girls), CD collections (REM, Fugazi, possibly a stray Johnny Foreigner EP) and Bart Simpson ephemera. After watching it a few times, you start to wonder what effect all these cutesy nods to the recent past are designed to have on the viewer. Isn't there a danger it's all going to collapse into kitsch?

"We’ve been working with people involved with zines and cassettes and stuff," the band elaborate. "I don’t think the reason they do it, or the reason we are drawn to them is nostalgia. It’s about making great stuff in the most appropriate method. This DIY approach is a cheaper, easier way to go about doing things and it’s that accessibility that makes it exciting." Surely there's more to it than just practicality, though? "We think there is also something about the preservation of the physical in an ever increasingly digital world. All that said, we do love the 90s."

Debut single "Believe" was a positively baggy affair, straddling girl group iconography from across the generation gap, in what could perhaps best be described as an homage to "Groove Is In The Heart". Later releases, and particularly the punky snarl of "Hey Heartbreaker", revealed a band still in love with loud guitars ("I'm a sucker for a fat riff," guitarist Alice Go confessed once). It seems that style may be closest to their hearts after all: "We’ve fallen into knowing confidently what we want, and how we can produce these sounds. We just love to rock, and these newer tracks give us the power to do that. Most of our main influences are, at heart, rock bands, so it’s only natural." It's certainly a good fit for their lo-fi, DIY aesthetic. But does that mean cult status beckons, or do the band have their eyes on world domination? "Well it’s not like we’re aiming for either really. We’re just trying to reach out to people, to make them feel like they could be a part of our world. Our agenda doesn’t really fit into either."

Citing Grimes as an inspiration, I got to thinking about the Canadian artist's recent claims regarding sexism in the music industry: that men can't believe she produces everything without a man helping; even that a handful of the male recording engineers she has worked with have attempted to blackmail her for sex. I think about what Ke$ha has had to endure so that a giant corporation doesn't lose money or face. Beyond the music, beyond terms like 'riot grrrl' and 'girl power', isn't the battle still being fought so that women everywhere don't have to face this violent, misogynistic bullshit every day?

"Like, obviously."

Thanks, Dream Wife. It's been real.
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