“This is for the bad bitches,” Dream Wife lead singer Rakel Mjöll screamed to the crowd at Los Angeles’ Echoplex before playing their track “Somebody.”
Mjöll started singing the lyrics, “You were a cute girl standing backstage / It was bound to happen,” with a coy smirk on her face. She continued: “What you wore and how you bore it so well / What did you expect would happen?”
Once Mjöll approached the chorus, it was more than apparent why she had dedicated it to the “bad bitches” in the audience for Dream Wife’s first ever US headline show.
I am not my body
I am somebody
Dream Wife are not your typical girl band. They’re on a mission to shake up the status quo.
Within the first few minutes of meeting Mjöll, Alice Go (guitar), and Bella Podpadec (bass), we immediately bonded over a shared idolization of Cher Horowitz, the protagonist from the 1995 teen classic Clueless. “I bought a Cher outfit the other day — the yellow one,” Mjöll mentions. “It’s weird because I bought it and used it like twice and people would just stop me on the street…I also wore it on stage for like 3 out of 14 shows last month and every review was like, ‘And of course she was dressed like Cher.'” But why was the “of course” instantly tacked on to every review? “Because Cher is a badass,” says Mjöll defiantly. Of course Cher Horowitz is our hero because Cher Horowitz breaks every stereotype on what a badass female looks like and how a badass female is suppose to behave. Cher Horowitz, like Dream Wife, is flipping those archetypes on their head.
There’s a juxtaposition of Dream Wife that is apparent from sound and sight. Their name in itself acts almost as a satirical take on what society views as the ideal role for women. They don’t shy away from vibrant and stereotypically feminine color palettes but they balance that out with a gritty, aggressive, and dark execution of their music. There is something so liberating about seeing someone like Mjöll — a fairy-like blonde who could’ve easily taken the pop star route — screaming in your face that she wants to fuck you up.
“As women I certainly think it’s that acceptance of yourself and your entirety almost in that there is light and shade to everything,” Go explains. “We want things to be fun but at the same we want to touch upon topics that are important to us. We’re serious about our music but we’re not serious about ourselves.”
There is a playfulness that Dream Wife possess that does elevate the message behind their music. The ability to not take themselves too seriously only allows them to be seen as real people with real experiences and real emotions. On stage, the way Mjöll performs makes it seem like she’s having a conversation with the crowd as opposed to simply entertaining them. She’ll cock her head, flips her hair, say a line, pause, and respond with a smirk or a sparkle in her eye — just as if you’re having a gossiping session or rant-a-thon with your best girl friend.
One of the standout things Dream Wife has created is something that expands beyond a fan base and evolved into a community. The Bad Bitches Club started off as a project by their friend and photographer Meg Lavender, who took portraits of the people attending Dream Wife shows. “She was pushing out this powerfulness inside of them,” says Mjöll. Conversations started happening between concert go-ers and the band and it created a dialogue and ultimately a community.
“I think it’s a thing of solidarity now,” Go says. “It’s become about this space where people can feel comfortable and safe.”
Mjöll adds: “As teenage girls going to rock shows — I never felt safe.”
“I went to see a band last week that were just boys and it was first time I had been to a show like that in a long time,” Podpadec shares. “It was surprising to feel that afraid like that at a show. Or to feel like that sort of space between you and other people.”
The experience of live music is an incredibly special and intimate thing, a thing that is sometimes taken away from females who attend shows. It is not new to hear stories of sexual harassment between females and other audience members and in some instances, between females and the band themselves. Now that Dream Wife have made that transition from being off stage to on stage, they do feel that responsibility to make their fans feel safe so they can live that concert experience to its fullest.
“The mindset you have initially is, ‘Oh everyone is nice. Everyone is having a good time,” says Mjöll. “By making it a safe space for women, it makes everyone have a good time. If a group of people feel safe, it makes everyone feel safe. At a show last month, in the middle of a show, we called out for the Bad Bitches Club to come up to the front and claim their space.”
By creating this dynamic of women claiming what is rightfully theirs, even in just the confines of a music venue, that kind of empowerment can take hold and transfer into every aspect of life. Not only are Dream Wife creating a safe space for their fans, they are teaching them to stand up for what they should’ve owned from the get go.
Dream Wife’s debut album is set for January and based on what they’ve unleashed onto the world, they’re ready to set everything a blaze. The band describes the record as empowering, as something they want people to put on when they’re ready to go out and have a good time and feel safe doing so.
“There’s this one song called ‘Fuck U Up (FUU)’ and I’ve heard from a lot of people that they really like listening to that song in the car,” Mjöll shares. “Which is quite funny because it’s really aggressive but at the same time it’s cheeky. I remember being really angry as a 13-year-old and just started listening to Bob Dylan. The boy that I liked suddenly had a girlfriend and the world was over. He was a musician and I was going to be in a band with him but that wasn’t going to happen anymore. I remember being so angry at the universe and wanting to punch a wall and I went home and I was alone and I put on ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’ Then I just started punching the air screaming, ‘HOW DOES IT FEEEEEEL.’ and when the song was over I felt better. If a 13-year-old comes home from school pissed off and puts on one of our songs to feel better, then our job here is done.”