So When You Gonna...
Dream Wife isn't the kind of band to do things at half pace. See, for evidence, 2018’s fizzing self-titled debut, which the former Brighton University students—guitarist Alice Go, bassist Bella Podpadec, and singer Rakel Mjöll—recorded in just one week (squeezing in two high-octane live dates for good measure). But after two years of nonstop touring, the punk rock trio hit the pause button when it came to recording its follow-up, So When You Gonna.... “We had this moment to collect ourselves separately, and come back as sisters and as a well-oiled machine,” Go tells Apple Music. “We wrote this record in about six months, and it was the polar opposite of the experience of the first album. This time, we could just sit still with the songs and actually reflect.” Slowing down, however, meant burning no less brightly—the frenetic melodies and fearless lyrics that defined Dream Wife’s triumphant debut are all present and correct—but it did enable the band to showcase something of a softer side. As such, Dream Wife fully, as they put it, “lean into” their pop influences (think Blondie and Robyn) alongside helpings of indie, shoegaze, and even balladry. “There’s this light and shade in the body of work which is different to the first album,” admits Go. “We were really proud of the sounds we’ve been able to make, because there were a lot of things that we’ve been wanting to try for a really long time.”
Between the unabashed, tongue-in-cheek fun of “Sports!” and empowered anthems about owning your desire (“Homesick,” “So When You Gonna...”), the band also gets personal—delving into the discombobulating nature of touring and relationships coming to an end. Then, in So When You Gonna...'s most powerful, bare moments, they move into miscarriage and abortion. It’s a mix indebted to Rakel’s grandmother, who once told the band, “You’ve got to make them laugh before you can make them cry.” But such honesty is also the product of the all-female team Dream Wife assembled around them, led by producer Marta Salogni (Björk, FKA twigs). “This was a safe space. It didn’t feel like we were exposed,” says Go. "It felt like we could push ourselves in these new ways and go to those difficult places." Below, let Dream Wife guide you through that process, one song at a time.
Sports! Rakel Mjöll: “This song happened after a game of badminton. We had been touring a lot prior to writing and we just weren’t used to sitting down to play music. We needed some way of running about, so we took a lot of breaks. Often they’d lead to us playing badminton in the garden at Bella’s family home, where we wrote a lot of the album. None of us have really taken the time to learn the rules of badminton, so we kind of made our own rules. The only rule was never to apologize.” Alice Go: “It was about making your own rules and doing things on your own terms. Also: Sports have existed in this kind of macho environment. With us playing this rock song about sports, it was totally about taking ownership and doing things your way. I was fed a lie at school that sports were the only legitimate way to engage with your body. Through music, I’ve found profound and exciting other ways to do that. You don’t have to play by the rigid rules of school in order to be physical and active in your body.”
Hasta La Vista AG: “I think of us as a rock band, but we really like pop music. With this album, it was about leaning into those pop sensibilities. There’s a lot of Blondie inspiration in the mix.” Bella Podpadec: “Our love of Blondie is especially prevalent here. This song is about being still enough to take stock of how your life is and what needs to be there and what needs to change or go.” RM: “This was the first song we wrote after touring. We’d had a few weeks off and realized that the people around us, the relationships, the places—everything—had changed. And so had we. It was a good song to be the first we wrote because we were sort of saying good bye to that time, and saying thank you in a way. When we finished writing it, we were like, ‘All right, thank you. Thank you for that time. Thank you for the change.’ So it was nice.”
Homesick AG: “This track is kind of us hopping back to the more spiky sound from the first record, but with a pop sensibility. It’s us elevating that sound further. My memories of writing this and playing it are about being present in a sweaty room and just playing it and it’s kind of chugging and you’re riding it. It’s really nice that we’ve got a track like this in the mix. Lyrically, we thought of the Blondie song ‘Picture This’ and her lyric ‘I will give you my finest hour/The one I spent watching you shower.’ It’s a woman claiming her sexuality and being like, ‘I’m telling you, I’m looking at you. And I like it.’ There’s something so bold about that. It's all about women observing something that she finds sexy. It’s so powerful.” RM: “That conversation about those Blondie lyrics gave way to the line ‘Tongue, cheek, nip, clit, take a peek and then come up for air.’ It’s basically teaching you about oral sex. Our label manager was listening to the songs and was like, ‘You do realize there's two songs on this record with the word “clit” in it.’ I'm like, ‘Yeah, duh. Is that going to be a problem for radio?’”
Validation AG: “I love the way Rakel wrote the lyrics on this, because it weaves in a lot of those moments about coming back from touring. We were coming back into contact with our friends, with our community, and to me, the song is like this little story of those moments of coming back to land and finding our place again. And acknowledging it and being grateful for it.” RM: “It’s also about this instant, absurd validation you have from being on stage for an hour a day. And then leaving that and reentering your world. The song goes into questioning yourself as a musician and ends with the validation of a lover. At the end, it talks about the different types of validation we have in our community. Sonically, there’s not really a chorus and it has one kind of tempo—one beat—and it doesn’t drop. It was so great to have that sort of song in the middle of the album.” BP: “Validation is kind of a really necessary part of human experience in a lot of ways. We need to have our humanity witnessed by others. I feel that is a really fundamental need, but like Rakel was saying, it's about questioning the places that you get validation from, and how it can be destructive as well as constructive.”
Temporary AG: “We were talking about The Smiths while making this album. Here, we lean into a slightly softer guitar over a rougher guitar—those bittersweet Johnny Marr-type sounds. There’s an interplay here: The song is sad, but there’s also an element of hope in it. And the way it all pieces together is quite swift and catchy, which is yet another tone we've been able broaden our palette out to on this record. This is a really simple pop song in many ways, and it was about letting that happen rather than pushing the punk thing or the live show thing so much.” RM: “We found the idea of pop songs tackling difficult subjects really interesting. The song is talking about the stigma behind miscarriages and going through heartbreak again and again, which is what a miscarriage is. It was written for a friend of ours who had multiple miscarriages in a short amount of time. The lyrical content is about putting your body through so much, and your heart through so much, and doing it again and again. It’s about having that strength. Something I’m not sure I would have personally. The song was written when that friend became pregnant for the third time. It was a prayer in a way, hoping that this might be the one, but that if it’s not, I’m here for you. We have your back, however it goes. She is due any day now. Third time's a charm.”
U Do U AG: “There aren’t actually any guitar strings being played on this song. It’s pushing the sound a guitar can make. Honestly, it’s kind of about me rebelling against my guitar style in a way. It’s experimental, it’s almost shoegaze, it’s poppy. It feels really exciting to go into these territories. This song is about our shared experience on the road and knowing how that feels in this weird little unit traveling around and how lonely that can be.” RM: “I call this song a love letter to the touring musician. It’s about the camaraderie of musicians. You’re all away from your loved ones. You’re all living this life of having one foot at home and one foot in the tour van. You’re not living the same life that many of your friends back home are living. But you’re all thankful for being able to perform. This isn’t a breakup song, but it’s about the idea of accepting who you are and what you feel at the time. You can’t be a perfect partner at home when you want to play on that festival stage. I also just really wanted a ballad on this album. It was about pulling back and saying, ‘No, let’s not change this into a punk song.’ So it was also about exploring that side and exploring the silence too.” BP: “I think it really speaks to the importance of autonomy, centering your own experiences and feeding your own emotions. And that's a kind of weird thing to do when you're leaving big parts of your heart and other parts of the world, but it is absolutely fundamentally important and you can't live for other people.”
Rh Rn AG: “The song is about the present moment. On tour, all you can do is be present, and it’s kind of about carrying that through into the writing space. The ‘right here right now’ part slightly drops in tempo. It’s kind of this magnetized thing—the song itself pulls you into the moment by just slowing down. This song has quite a luscious guitar backdrop, but also at its heart it’s an indie banger. It’s the combination of us being able to push it in the studio, but also, as a live band at our core, we need to be able to lock in and play a tight set. So the song feels like a crossbreed between us as a live band and how much we were able to dig in in the studio with Marta.” RM: “I really love that Alice called this song an indie banger. Because when we were writing that, we were like, ‘This is like an indie banger, isn't it? I didn't know we were indie, that’s exciting.’ We had gone on tour with The Vaccines and we were like, ‘We've been influenced.’ And that came out in this song, our little indie banger.”
Old Flame RM: “Like with ‘Rh Rn,’ this song was about grabbing you in the moment to feel present. But with this song, the most important part was to get into that tempo of excitement, similar to Robyn and how some of her songs are. The song is talking about something that is familiar but also extremely exciting at the same time.” AG: “When we wrote it, we knew we wanted this pulsating synth. We were talking a lot about Prince, and the idea of the synth that never ends. It kind of speaks to this old flame. And again, it was about elevating it in the studio, and, actually, it’s a bit of an unashamed synth-pop banger. I used EBows on the guitar to create this warm atmosphere. There’s an element of this song that reminds me of Fleetwood Mac. It’s kind of classic. It feels to me like the more sophisticated songwriting—like a level up in our ability as songwriters.”
So When You Gonna... RM: “This whole song is a buildup, which I love. There’s an excitement. It’s like, ‘Is it going to happen? Is it not going to happen? Come on. I've been waiting forever.’ And then the end, everything cuts loose because it happened, it actually happened. And then I love the fact that the song ends by saying, ‘It was all right.’ It’s often about the buildup rather than the event itself. And it was just so fun to write a song about that, especially as the female voice that's like, ‘So when are you going to stop talking? You've been talking for nine hours.’” AG: “We played this song live, and when we recorded it, the energy of it was just instant. It absolutely popped off in the room. And I think yet again this one is another song that kind of does hark back to what we were trying to do on the first record, getting a raw live energy on track. And it's a real sort of homage to the live show and to the first record, I think.” RM: “We realized it was a good song when we played it live during festival season last year. Because people went absolutely nuts for it. There were mosh pits, people would be smiling and screaming and clapping. And we were like, ‘You've never heard this song before.’”
Hold on Me BP: “When we're relating closely to people, especially in sexual environments or sexual situations, there is often a perceived sense of ownership, whether that's real or imaginary, whether that's stemming from the other person or is internal. And I think, for me, this song is kind of questioning that sense of ownership and those systems of ownership.” RM: “Musically, the song is looping quite a lot. And the repetitiveness of the question ‘Why do you have this hold on me?’—I didn’t originally think about it that way, but after we wrote it, I connected those two things together. The whole song is a conflict between your inner thoughts.” AG: “I think as a song, it's amazing how it can kind of cut through many different situations. It feels very emotional to me, and that kind of feeling is reflected in the form of the song in the circular nature of the back-and-forth with the inner mind, for sure.”
After the Rain AG: “The last minute of the album is rain. I went up Blythe Hill [in South East London] to record it. People were actually setting off fireworks, and Marta meticulously edited this to edit them all out. It felt really important to end on this really still, reflective moment. It felt like giving the song, and its message, the moment it deserved. We wrote the song in a bit of a different way because it felt important to create the tapestry to let the lyrics and meaning of the song shine. We had to deliver that message in a respectful way.” RM: “The song was originally a voice memo I recorded. Lyrically, I don't think it changed from that at all. It's that kind of sincerity and melody of me having a conversation with my sister, and her going through the difficult stages of shock of realizing that she's pregnant and that she didn’t want to have the child. Going through these multiple waves of community shame, and lack of trust, of also being disconnected from your own body. And not being able to articulate those feelings. We were talking and I picked up the phone and sort of wrote what she was saying to me, but in song format. And then I sent it to her, shortly after our conversation. And she felt like I was being able to speak the words she could not say. She used the voice memo as a kind of mantra of healing. We spoke a lot about the silence on this song. That was important, because the silence is also an instrument. It was a really beautiful way of approaching something, of keeping it close to the voice memo of the initial feeling, and then have it turn into a song.”