In the build-up to our interview with London-quarter Dream Nails, it was interesting to hear them almost surprised at being asked about their music. The band have rightly received plenty of attention for their politics, their staunch support of women and non-binary gig goers and their financial support for abortion charity, ASN. Dream Nails are a band not just believing the right things, they’re also putting that into practice. In all that though, it shouldn’t be forgotten that it is music that is the medium for their message; it is through their music they’re making a stand against the injustices of the world and that wouldn’t get a band very far unless they wrote music that is as exciting as Dream Nails’ is.
Take their recent 7″ single, two sides of a dissection of the current political climate, and two sides that are musically fascinating. Vagina Police is a riotous slice of high-octane punk, all bombastic guitar riffing, no-nonsense drum pounding and vocals that swoop from a howl of pure rage to a graceful, glamorous lilt. Possibly even better, is the stunning Fascism Is Coming (Get Out Of Bed); from a crooning bass-led intro, it erupts into an explosion of noise, before slinking back to the gentle intro, and then lurching into noise all over again, ending with singer Janey Starling shredding her vocal chords with the closing yell, “fascism is coming, it never left.”
They’re a band destined for a thousand Bikini Kill comparisons, yet there’s enough in the music Dream Nails have shared so far to suggest their knowledge and understanding of punk extends far beyond a single point of reference. A band growing into their sound and getting more intriguing with every release. Ahead of their upcoming London show, this Friday at the RichMix in Shoreditch, Dream Nails took some time to answer our questions, taking in political mission statements, girls to the front and why DIY is the only way they’ll make music.
FTR: For anyone who doesn’t know, who are Dream Nails?
Punk witches from London.
FTR: You recently released your latest singles, Vagina Police/Fascism Is Coming, what can you tell us about the tracks?
Janey: Both of these songs are about the political context we’re living in. They’re on two sides of the same vinyl because they’re two sides of the same coin. On a political level, fascism promotes nationalism and population control; on a personal level this manifests in restrictions on bodily autonomy via systemic sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, racism, classism and xenophobia.
“Fascism is Coming” is really a wake up call to anyone who thinks they can stick their head in the sand right now. We’re living under a government who want to trash our human rights and have deliberately ramped up racist discrimination by creating a ‘hostile environment’ for migrants. It’s scary but it won’t just go away – we all need to become active politically to centre the most marginalised groups and fight back against nationalistic, fascist movements that are ultimately want to make life more dangerous for people who are already oppressed.
We also produced an accompanying 40-page curated zine (‘Your Body is Not Your Own – Articles About Reproductive Justice’) which includes articles from 21 different contributors. Intersectional feminism is a lifelong journey of listening and solidarity, so we wanted to use our platform as a band to give space for different voices.
Oh yeah, and 100% of the proceeds from this release go to Abortion Support Network (ASN), which provides accommodation and financial assistance to women forced to travel from Ireland to England to have an abortion. The upcoming Irish abortion referendum is in the news a lot, but a lot of people don’t realise the misery and secrecy that Irish women have to endure right now just to access a simple medical procedure.
FTR: There’s obviously a political edge to both songs, do you think it’s important that musicians speak about these topics?
Janey: to be honest, I don’t identify as a musician. I’m an activist with a microphone and music is just a vehicle for a broader political mission. Also, for us it’s not just about speaking. It’s about the way we play music: in accessible venues with safer spaces policies, with gender neutral toilets and the agreement that all artists get paid fairly. It’s easy to say the right things but not really do anything.
Anya: with the world in the state it’s in right now, we think caring needs to come back, in a big way. That’s why we called our second EP “Dare to Care”. Dare to care about yourself and the world around you, about your sisters, about politics and taking action to make change. Dare to fight patriarchy and stick your head up above the parapet
Lucy: maybe I’m particularly impatient right now, given the state of everything , but I think it’s arrogant if musicians don’t! When I hear an artist or band given a platform on which they have a chance to expose people to issues and ideas that they might not otherwise be aware of not do so, it seems like a cowardly way to protect their social capital, their “coolness”. This speaks volumes about how the music industry still trades on this outdated notion of “cool” which translates as “cool not to care”. What’s happening more now however, is bands tapping into social movements, feminism especially, as a means of appearing “on trend”. This is nothing more than lip service in the wake of decades of a feminist struggle waged by the tireless hard graft of many women who have never been thanked or recognised for their contribution.
Mimi: It’s definitely important and I think (to semi-quote Camus) an artist has a duty and responsibility to challenge the status quo and speak up for those who can’t. If not, it’s not art worth making, and it’s purely for cheap consumption.
FTR: You’re working with Everything Sucks Music, how did that come about?
Anya: we met up with Dave, who runs Everything Sucks with his partner Su, while we were touring with Cherry Glazerr in Amsterdam. We were struck by their genuine commitment to DIY music and respect for our politics. They let us make all profits from the vinyl go to Abortion Support Network – not many record labels would be down for that!
They work with lots of artists we love such as Wolf Girl and MOLAR. It seemed like a perfect fit for our first vinyl. Oh, and Dave makes sure there is plenty of Lucozade sport in our rider when we play shows with them. He knows we’re at our best when the glucose based athletic hydration is flowing freely…
FTR: You’ve got live dates all over the place at the moment, where are your favourite places to play?
Janey: Germany because they have a wide variety of soft drinks which are a real treat for a non-drinker (long live Fritz Cola and Club Mate) and the audiences are wild! We get more mosh pits and crowd surfing in Germany than anywhere else.
Mimi: Can I also mention how many AMAZING spreads Germany has? We love it there for so many reasons.
Lucy: I do love a UK crowd and many of my faves have been northern shows: Newcastle, Leeds, Bradford, Manchester. People, women especially, are so kind and enthusiastic after we play and create a really warm atmosphere in the room
Anya: there’s nothing more satisfying than winning over an audience in a city we’ve never played in before. Really looking forward to playing in Istanbul soon where I hope we’ll get a super warm welcome! But you know what sometimes I really love coming back to play a show in London after having been touring for a while.
FTR: What can people expect from the Dream Nails live show?
Janet: Contagious energy, goofy dancing and girls to the front!! A lot of women and non binary people tell us they feel energised, revitalised and able to breathe at our shows, so I guess that’s what you can expect!
Mimi: Lots of energy and lots of jokes. We are dancing and playing our hearts out, singing about man babies and not texting back.
Anya: As true punks, our message is as important as our music. So interspersed with absolute feminist bangers expect anecdotes, politics, musings and stuff that veers into accidental stand up comedy…
Lucy: one of the most important aspects of a Dream Nails show is that it’s a space that’s safe and liberating for women and non-binary people. We all grew up going to shows where male music fans dominated the room and where we were preoccupied with trying to see the stage while not getting groped. In the vein of our riot girl foremothers we always demand ‘girls to the front’ and down instruments until any stubborn little man baby straggler acquiesces.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Janey: Political change is driven by groups of similar-minded people coming together and empowering one another. That’s exactly what our music does.
Mimi: Music is a lot more accessible than other forms of art, and punk is even more important in that respect. Music can be classist but so can any other art and that’s where punk becomes something really special.
Anya: I grew up surrounded by music ’cause my mum is a musician. She played in an all-women bands from experimental jazz bands to feminist rock bands and they would rehearse at my house. She encouraged me and my brother to play music so I’ve always been fortunate to have that outlet in my life.
Lucy: I think music is the most immediately arresting art form, it’s instantly euphoric and takes you outside of yourself and binds you with those around you. It’s just fun.
FTR: What are your ambitions for your music? Do you see music as a viable career path?
Mimi: I’ve been a musician my whole life and have honestly never even thought about doing anything else. I see Dream Nails having a positive impact in the scene and with people who come to the shows, and I know personally I’ve become a stronger more assertive person since being in the band. I don’t think we’ll be stopping anytime soon.
Lucy: honestly not really and I never intended it to be. As much as I want to get more teccers on the drums and make songs forever, I think it’s important to be grounded and involved in the actual world outside of music. Saying this, we are making it work now and like Mimi says, we ain’t thinking of slowing in the next decade.
Anya: we are grounded enough to know that only the very privileged few bands – or those who are bankrolled by parents – can make music their only source of income. And that’s not us. We are hella ambitious but we measure success in our own way!
Janey: You know, being a DIY musician is way more viable than being a “mainstream” artist locked into the music business where lots of people are taking a cut from you. We can only tour places where promoters can pay for our travel, or give us a higher fee that takes travel costs into consideration – and without fail that’s the DIY promoters. It’s a beautiful scene to be a part of – where people are really living their values and respecting our labour!
FTR: What’s next for Dream Nails?
Janey: Touring! Our next big show is at Rich Mix on the 4th May, and then we’re off playing lots of new countries and festivals all summer. Keep your eyes on our instagram for realtime updates of our goofy adventures!
Vagina Police/Fascism Is Coming (Get Out Of Bed) is out now via Everything Sucks Music. Click HERE for more information on Dream Nails.