Dream Nails – Janey, Anya, Lucy and Mimi – are in-your-face instigators of “rowdy and gleeful punk” with radical feminism at its core. In the riot grrrl tradition of bands like Bikini Kill, they’re big into DIY too. They produce their own music videos, they curate their own zines, they’ve even coined their own genre – witch punk. To give you a flavour, song titles from their second EP include Jokechoke and Lovefuck, whilst their latest video release, Cookies 4 U, sees a withering Janey applauding self-congratulatory “rubbish male feminists” for “loving their mum” and not being a rapist. Fires stoked, they share their thoughts on political music, creating female-first mosh pits and eating chips at band practice.
DISORDER: What are you working on right now?
DREAM NAILS: We’ve been hibernating since Christmas, writing new patriarchy-smashing bangers and working on our live set instead of constantly touring. [But] we’re excited about how many shows we have coming up. We’ve got a reputation for raucous and energetic live performances, so we’re just doing lots of them in lots of places: UK, Germany, Scandinavia, Turkey, and Spain!
Define your sound.
We’re somewhere in between punk and indie pop. We’re too bouncy and funny for punk but too political and ragey to be indie pop. That’s why we created our own genre: witch punk. Where rage meets joy in a three-part-harmonised wall of sound, and radical women can recharge!
Tell us about your creative process.
We don’t really have one: inspiration comes when it comes and sometimes we’ll have an idea for a song and cycle to someone’s house and jam it out. Almost all our songs start on an old acoustic guitar in Janey’s room. But we do rehearse a lot, and prioritise long rehearsals. Our stamina is really good. We all workout and exercise a ton so we can give our live sets full power every single time. And we’ll spend a whole saturday in the rehearsal studio and we create a really special, beautiful space together that’s precious and energising. (Rehearsals are almost always fuelled by an extra-large portion of chips). It takes a while to get into the groove; often our best ideas come in the last ten minutes. It’s a cliché, but writing good songs feels like giving birth.
What would you most like to change about the music industry?
How tame it is! Bands who aren’t even political get called political – it’s bizarre! There’s an unfounded assumption that people “don’t like” political music, [even though it has] a long tradition from folk through to the Slits and Skepta. The industry feels very superficial in many respects; it’s supposed to have a responsibility to reflect society and different experiences in a meaningful way. And it used to do this! The growing proportion of musicians in the charts who are privately educated is just one way of illustrating this.
You recently produced your own feminist ‘zine about reproductive justice, Your Body Is Not Your Own. What does female empowerment mean to you?
Empowerment is an interesting word – we’re more interested in liberation. Sometimes acts which are “empowering” aren’t really that radical or liberating for women as a collective class. Ultimately, one of the most liberatory acts as women is recognising how oppressions intersect, and listening to the different experiences of women who’ve lived very different lives to you due to differences in race, class, sexuality, gender, ability, immigration status etc. That’s the first step to actually achieving collective liberation – and making space for different women. Mainstream feminism is far too white, middle class and focused on individual gains in a capitalist world. Your Body Is Not Your Own [collects the experiences of 21 feminist writers, and] covers a range of issues from mothers in prison to trans sexual health services and lesbian parenting. We found creating the zine and working with [its] authors really inspiring. We learned so much!
Activism is obviously significant to you as a band. When was the first time you decided you needed to actively make a difference?
Activism is our lives. When things are so fucked up, what else can you do?! We’ve all been feminists for as long as we can remember – way before it was cool – but realised that we needed to put our fears aside and form a band, because the act of claiming public space for women to be collectively angry in is an incredibly powerful act of survival. So many women come to our shows [and say] “for the first time in ages I felt like I could breathe”, and we get messages online from women saying how inspiring our music is. That’s why we do what we do. It’s just not a choice. Maybe this is extreme, but when we see a band and they are singing their dry, trendy songs and looking pissed off and “cool”, we switch off so hard. It feels so fucking arrogant. Why don’t you use your platform to do something?
What’s the coolest gig you’ve ever played?
Once in Munich we were playing in an all-male line up and the atmosphere was pretty sweaty and macho. So before we even started to play, we pulled all the girls up to the front, which some blokes weren’t too happy about, and gradually this amazing pool of rad women emerged in front of us. It got so wild that they began moshing and crowdsurfing. So many women thanked us for creating that space for them!
COOKIES 4 U
Desert Island Dames: Name five artists you couldn’t live without.
Patti Smith because she’s a goddess poet legend! Bully because their vocalist and guitarist Alice Bognanno is such an inspiration. The Slits, especially Viv Albertine, because they basically invented The Clash (Viv told them to give their music a political dimension when they were starting out) and were much more revolutionary, and surprise, surprise, they haven’t been revered and remembered in the same way.
What’s the last piece of media you consumed that blew your mind?
JANEY: I’m currently reading Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?, a feminist critique of how mainstream economic theories completely overlook women’s unpaid labour – which is what truly keeps the world turning.
ANYA: I just finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a powerful story about race and identity.
LUCY: I’m reading Elena Ferrante’s Story of a New Name. It’s the most realistic and beautiful representation of a female friendship I’ve ever read.
MIMI: I’m listening to a podcast called Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo. [It’s] about a Canadian indigenous woman whose murder was never solved, [and] highlights a bigger issue in Canada, where these women are far more likely to be victims of violence.
What does utopia look like?
The inverse of this shitty world right now: a place without fear of difference, without violent masculine control and traditional hierarchies, and where there’s free chips with garlic mayonnaise everywhere you go.
Some bloody fun music videos made with genius, all-women film crews! Keep your eyes peeled for Cookies 4 U, our song about rubbish male feminist allies. There’s also a video about Mercury Retrograde in the pipeline…. Condolences to anyone who’s finding this pernicious planet is screwing with their travel, technology and communication at the moment! We’ve also got a ton of shows coming up, including our headline show at Rich Mix, London, 4th May. [Also], we are preparing to record our first album and need to find a sick producer. Apply within!
Weinstein, Brexit, Trump… how do we save the world?
Roll up your sleeves, get a burner phone and get involved in radical direct action. We can’t wait any longer for the world to magically fix itself, we must disrupt it and demand what’s needed by any means necessary. Join a direct action group and get radical. You can’t just “be the change” – this is trotted out all. the. time. And it feels so passive. You need to collaborate, connect, pool, share, and fucking actually do something.
Dream Nails are supporting Iron Chic at The Dome, April 23rd and headlining at RichMix, May 4th.
Photography by Ant Adams
– – –