Dream Wife on Social Lubrication and why “Rock ‘n’ Roll is an extreme sport”
“I think the new record is a real counter to that where the songs are there to be played live, to be shared with others,” Go reveals. “That was the mission.”
London three-piece punk-rock outfit, Dream Wife, don’t care if you call them freaks. In fact, they love it.
On the cusp of their latest album release, and a matter of days after revealing that they are supporting long-time “idols”, Le Tigre, on tour, Guitar.com sat down with guitarist Alice Go and bassist Bella Podpadec to discuss how they’re feeling about the success coming their way.
“It’s a total dream come true”, says Go. “We have loved that band since we were teenagers and they were one of the first bands that we all kind of got excited about being in a band over. It’s an absolute honour and a privilege to be supporting them in June.”
Born out of the self-described genre of “New Rave”, the trio found their fire in bands that encouraged audiences to rock out with them; doing more than the “skinny white guys doing that kind of indie music that made you want to dance”.
“Certainly with Le Tigre,” the guitarist continued, “their sense of fun was inspiring to us and the fact that they were a band and ok to be silly with it. As artists it was really great to see a band that was more than just it being about making music, it was about what they shared and the energy they shared and the sense of fun and humour, we’ve always been inspired by that.”
“Finding your fellow freaks and just rocking out with them. I feel like we’ve achieved that sense of humour and sense of fun and people want to be part of that.”
Live is the raw truth
It doesn’t take more than a minute of hearing the pair talk about the feeling of performing live, alongside vocalist Rakel Mjöll, to realise it’s where the driving force of the band lies.
Go and Podpadec even admit that fans have approached after performances to say how much better they sound when performing live than they do on their records.
Something they acknowledge they “feel the same way” about.
Therefore, it is no shock that for their latest record, Social Lubrication, they would want to channel the thing that has made them want to be in a band in the first place.
“That’s something where it’s never really been the main agenda with our other two records,” admits Go. “For us it felt important to strike home the live sound which is the beating heart of this band. It felt like we had to be true to that, as when we’re sharing space with others, and were all together with our music, how do we channel this in our record and make it as true to us as we can?”
“On this record specifically”, Go continues. “It’s about getting to the raw truth about what this band is, live. So I think for Social Lubrication it was a straight line to how do we make something that is true and real to us right now that we haven’t made before.”
The trio’s second album, So When You Gunna … never received the touring treatment after being released in the summer of 2020; a time where live performances seemed out of reach due to the global pandemic.
“I think the new record is a real counter to that where the songs are there to be played live, to be shared with others,” the guitarist reveals. “That was the mission.”
Are the live shows the band’s most authentic self? “Totally”, says Go.
“Yeah, its where its real, its where it happens,” Podpadec chimes in. “It’s where we get to share an experience together and yes, the record is an experience, it is a thing and an important moment and snapshot in time.
“However we always talk about these songs as though they’re alive, and every time you play it gets to be something different and breath and move in a different way. It’s not just that the album is a vehicle for touring, it is a thing in its own right,” the bassist continues. “Maybe the hope in trying to consciously try to capture something of the energy and the essence that we do live, so you can experience it if you aren’t at a show.”
A well-oiled machine
With festival season right around the corner, followed by a US and UK tour, Go isn’t shy in confessing that there is a lot of preparation that goes into delivering a show as athletically demanding as theirs.
“We’ve always said that rock and roll is an extreme sport,” she says, before falling into a laugh. “I think for both of us it feels like physically we’re training for this record and touring. When you are on tour there’s this real preservation of energy for a show, and it’s all about being able to bring it”.
“You have to rest, and you have to be mentally present. You have to be an athlete in some way to preserve your energy.”
However, when it comes to gear, the preparation behind both of their setups is quite contradictory, preferring to bask in the simplicity of having just a tuner pedal with no playback, or as Podpadec describes it, using the “passion and aliveness of your body”, rather than “a million pedals”.
“I feel like that relates back to the idea that songs are living things,” says Go. “we don’t have playback, and yes that means that every time we play a song things will be slightly different but that’s what’s so exciting about being a live band because you don’t know what’s going to come out and your relying on adrenaline and you can be completely responsive to each other, and that’s the joy in being present and fully live.”
“Some of the most exciting shows are when something goes wrong,” bassist Podpadec replies. “You don’t know what’s going to happen, and your guitar is going a million miles a minute and me and Rakel are just vibing.”
Not having a clear plan for your sound on stage is a risk, but it’s a risk that is clearly paying off for the duo, who seem to savour the unpredictability of the set up.
“You aren’t just shoegazine and looking down at your feet,” says Go. “You’re there with the audience and you’re hyper-present. I think if we were a band that had loads of pedal and loads of effects and other things to think about, it would take us away from being that present with each other. It’s important to be that raw.”
The band seem to put a lot of emphasis on their music being alive; constantly changing and evolving throughout time. To navigate a recording studio with that mindset seems understandably difficult, but thanks to their “psychic connection” – according to Go – they attest that the writing and recording process for Social Lubrication wasn’t as tricky as it might appear to be. After years of performing together, they both agree that Dream Wife is a “well-oiled machine”.
“We used mainly the set up that we would do live”, says the guitarist. “Rakel would be singing live in the booth with us while we played. We ended up getting some really powerful takes where we were locking in, so that’s the real core of the record.”
She continues by saying, “Listening back to something on a record really holds your attention in a whole different way to being at a gig so it’s a thing where we did have to sprinkle in some overdubs, some layers, some vibes, but it doesn’t take away from the live feel of us playing together. It’s a hybrid of it being a live record and a polished recording and that balance has hopefully been achieved.”
Bitches to the front
Moving on to the topic of politics, the punk-rock trio have never been shy in expressing how they feel when it comes to ensuring that women and non-binary people feel safe at their shows.
If hearing Mjöll, scream “Do you use and abuse your power to the young women that listen to what you say” in latest single Leech isn’t enough of a statement, the trio has boldly supported the “bitches to the front” policy, encouraging women and non-binary people who want to mosh together, to move to the front towards the stage.
“It was wanting to create that space where it’s safe to bash around with people in mosh pits, but having grown up where mosh pits felt really fun but not totally safe,” admits Podpadek.
“The first time that I was in an all-women’s mosh pit was when me and Alice were at a Pins show when we supported them and it was so liberating and so fun and so safe with everyone looking after each other, and being bad bitches,” they continue. “It was obviously standing in the heritage and the legacy of Bikini Kill etc, it was part of this really rich vein of consciously creating the environment in which people get to experience new music. I think it’s really cool that we did it in a non-gender specific way.”
A question about whether they get any negative reactions about being so political at shows takes the pair aback.
“Sometimes at a show you’ll have some disgruntled middle-aged man who has been told to move further back, and you just think “so what? Just do it””, the bassist says. “But I don’t see that as backlash, I see that as a way of people learning, and learning how to hold space for others.”
“I think it’s amazing that when something kicks off in the crowd”, agrees Go. “Everyone is in agreement to the rules on the space and that in this space consent is important, and you should respect everyone regardless of their gender, sexuality, or race. People seem to sort of rally around each other.”
Dream Wife’s latest album, Social Lubrication, is set for release on 13 May 2023.