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

GID: That’s interesting because it feels like people are always asked to pick sides. Is it right or wrong? Black or white? Yes or no? And the fact that a lot of these songs allow you to sit in that moment and question is great because it feels like we don’t get the chance to do that very often. We’re asked to make snap judgments.

RM: Yes, exactly. Also seeing your life as an observer as well. I really like when you’re observing in songwriting, like Patti Smith. She’s one of the greatest when it comes to observing, like looking at your cup of coffee, the conversation you had with a person for half a minute. That I find really interesting in art, writing, and music. This album is a lot about being present and being able to see those situations. The lyrics of “Validation” are a full day in a sense instead of a journey. It has my favorite lyric of the whole album: “Drink whiskey break into a cemetery/thought it was a cemetery/turns out it wasn’t a cemetery.” I love it. I also like repeating “cemetery” again and again.

But it’s this kind of seeing things as an observer. Being in your life but at the same time observing, being above what’s happening. Being above the conversation you’re having and seeing it. That also comes from the routine of playing so many shows and spending part of your life in an airport more than your apartment, which is beautiful and wonderful, and oh my god I miss it now. Who would’ve thought I’d miss gas stations so much? The way you switch from the routine of being on tour and going home to be in a totally different routine and having time to be involved in other people’s lives was influential as well. That’s what “Validation” is about too; being in the same spot again and being able to be present and observe. Other songs on the album are about being able to be more involved in your loved one’s lives. Being there for them and letting them know you’re there for them. “Temporary” and “After the Rain” are inspired by that as well.

GID: Is it jarring when you come off tour and you’re thrust back into your day to day life?

RM: I think everyone experiences it differently. It isn’t that much [different] for me for some reason, maybe because I moved a lot as a kid. I absolutely love that this is my job. Of course, when you’ve played a lot of shows and haven’t slept in your own bed for three months, you sort of miss that. But I’m also reminded how fortunate I am to have a team around me I absolutely love to play and write music with. Not many of my friends back home understand it, especially in Iceland. My granddad even offered me a job earlier, which I thought was cute. He was like ’cause you’re not playing shows right now I thought you might be in need of a job. I’m no like no granddad; I don’t really want to explain what a musician does day to day. Some people don’t exactly understand what you do if you’re not in front of them, you know? But it was really cute of him to offer!

GID: At least he was looking out for you!

RM: I mean it was a cool job assisting for a theater production, but it’s in a different part of the country and I’m releasing an album in a month, so I don’t really need it. I love helping my grandparents though, they’re amazing. I’m very fortunate to be from a family of actors and artists, so one would think they sort of knew but sometimes you just gotta ask.

GID: Earlier you mentioned “After the Rain,” which stands out because it invites us into this private and difficult moment of someone getting an abortion. It sounds like they’re searching for some understanding as to why they made the decision. It’s powerful, yet heartaching. Where did this song come from?

RM: The song came from a conversation I had with my sister last year when she was going through the difficult decision of having an abortion. She was also going through the type of trauma you experience when you feel so alone and disconnected from your body. There are all these different thoughts you’re having with yourself and finding it difficult to articulate to yourself or others about going through this process. We were having these conversations around the same time as Alabama’s Human Life Protection Act to abolish abortion rights.

So, the song goes through this journey of your own inner thoughts. First, it’s your thoughts, your shock, your trauma, your disconnection with yourself, your anger towards yourself. Then it’s your outer self and your close circle, inviting them to be there for you or to not be there for you and their reaction. And then it’s community, realizing it’s not just about you. It’s a human right and should be everywhere. That’s where anger comes from. An anger to fight, anger for this to be a human right.  The song travels through those different types of emotions and thoughts that are looping around in your own head.

GID: Has your sister heard the song? What was her reaction?

RM: I first recorded it as a voice memo on my phone. I just sang it on my phone shortly after a good conversation with my sister and then I sent it to her. She views that voice memo as a kind of healing mantra for her own healing process. When I shared this with the band, we all spoke about how important it was to create a correct tapestry around it for the voice to stand sincere and as the main in this song to tell the message. It involves piano for the first time, and guitar and bass recorded in the same room. It’s all in one take. We end it with rain to let the listener sit with it and listen to what they just heard, both the song and the whole album. To let yourself sit there and have a think in the rain, which is part of a healing process. What comes after the rain?

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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, The Crypt 1331, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Reality-Comics. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Marilyn Manson, and Green Day.

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