GENRE IS DEAD! Interview With Dream Wife’s Rakel Mjöll

The Riot Grrrl movement never truly died. It may have disappeared from mainstream music’s collective consciousness, but many acts have kept the spirit alive, such as UK rockers Dream Wife. Their 2018 debut was a rallying cry for female and non-binary voices fed up with the rampant sexism and misogyny of the 21st century. They empower these voices with their unapologetic songs about feminism, sexual politics, and gender equality. And their “bitches-to-the-font” ethos of their live shows puts the marginalized front and center, ala Bikini Kill. Now the fearless trio is back with their second album, So When You Gonna…, an honest, raw examination of everything from love, loss, and even taboo topics like abortion. Clearly, no topic is off-limits for Dream Wife and they won’t have it any other way.

Before the release of the new album, singer Rakel Mjöll speaks with GENRE IS DEAD! to provide insight into the album, working in the studio with an all-female team, and why trust and honesty is key when writing an album.

GENRE IS DEAD!: First off, how has quarantine and lockdown been for you?

Rakel Mjöll: I went to Iceland shortly after the UK said they were gonna do herd immunity, which was like mid-March. We didn’t have to go into lockdown here. It was handled incredibly well by the government placing the power in the hands of medical experts and scientists. That has resulted in only one case on the island today. When I arrived, it was like over 100 a day, so it’s quite an amazing thing. It obviously sucks for the majority of the world, but it’s good to know at least some countries made sure their citizens were taken care of. Now I’m fine, but in the beginning, you just have some many questions, way too many question marks. When there’re too many question marks you should really do what makes you happy. The question marks will eventually answer themselves.

GID: So When You Gonna… has this just do it vibe. You’ve referred to it as an invitation, a challenge, a call to action to get out there and start doing, which you hear in the songs. How did the core concept of the album come about?

RM: When we started writing the album, we’d just finished about two years of consistent touring. We were so used to playing a show every night promoting our first album that we had a lot of energy to let loose once we got a month off. When we took a break and came back to sit down and write, we really needed that adrenaline to come off our bodies. I think you just let things happen with writing as well. A lot of the songs were written quite fast and then we dove more into them later. Like with the title track “So When You Gonna…;” it’s just cheeky. It’s an adrenaline bomb. A lot of the songs we wrote for the album were songs we really wanted to get out there because we couldn’t keep them in our bodies anymore.

We wrote this album in about six months. We wrote lots of songs, which was great cause they just came flowing out. We were so ready and excited to write. Then when we looked over the songs we chose to go on the album, we saw a consistent theme running throughout. A lot of the songs came down to showing these different sides of a woman or different parts of your life. There’s this dare to feel certain ways, dare to talk about certain subjects that are maybe taboo and this kind of honesty. This daring to say something out loud or to feel something. I think with art you only realize [things like that] afterward ‘cause when you’re making it, you’re just in it. You’re there, you’re present, you’re letting any kind of emotion come out that wants to come out. And if you’re in a group you trust, then it’s honest.

GID: The honesty of the songs is one of the things that struck me about the album. You have songs about making your desires heard or with “Hold One Me” wanting to pursue a relationship that others will see as wrong. I found this honesty refreshing. It’s why I love the album so much.

RM: Thank you! It’s so great to write from an honest place. That’s what I find interesting in music. I think it has so much to do with the people you’re writing with as well. This [idea] of putting your ego aside and being honest about something but also finding humor in parts as well. “So When You Gonna…” is all about the buildup. I sat here for hours, when are you actually gonna kiss me? The idea of meeting someone and having this kind of tension. Is it gonna happen? And then it finally does, and the last line of that song is too bad they were a bad kisser. Ah too bad, oh well. I like addressing that too. The most exciting part is usually the buildup, so, I thought that was fun.

GID: I love that ending. You still went for it, but eh it didn’t work out.

RM: Exactly! I went for it. But with “Hold On Me” – I really like that we have a song on the album about the other woman because that theme comes from country music.

GID: Right and with those songs it’s usually about the guilt that comes with it or it’s from the perspective of the person being cheated on – not the other woman. Here, we see the other side and how even though they know it’s wrong, they’re looking at the situation and are being honest with themselves. I still want you even though you have someone waiting for you at home.

RM: Yeah, I liked giving a voice to the other one. I thought it was an interesting perspective. Also, there’s this kind of questioning. Why do you have a hold on me? What is this connection? Why is this connection there? I think for all of us, that song especially touched upon all of our lives at the same time. You’re questioning these connections with people that may not result in a relationship. You’re asking why, yet at the same time, you’re not pushing it away.

GID: Another song I love on the album is “Validation.” The line that stuck out to me is “validation, why does it mean so much to me? Validation, such a human tragedy” because it hits on this unspoken truth. No matter how confident you are, there’s always a part of us that craves some sort of validation. Whether we admit it or not, there’s always a small part of us that wants validation, yet we don’t really talk about it.

RM: Yeah exactly. Also, with that song, I like that, again, it’s a question. You’re questioning connection in “Hold On Me,” but you’re not condemning it, you’re just questioning it. And the same thing in “Validation.” It’s questioning why it’s a big part of my life without me realizing it. I’m also not condemning it because humans need a certain type of validation, but it’s a big hindrance to us as well. So, it’s sort of about questioning these things in our lives instead of pushing them away.

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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

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