Photo by Marieke Macklon

Dream Nails: “Failure to politically engage is inexcusable”

Riotous four-piece Dream Nails are releasing their self-titled debut this Friday.

In preparation, they’ve made something called a “Gig Box” aimed at recreating all the details of a live gig in your living room. Inside you’ll find a livestream link, a wristband, a real ticket, a beer and even a square of sticky venue flooring – how’s that for attention to detail? Pick one up HERE and see the band play their debut in its entirety on Saturday 5th September.

In the meantime, we spoke to the band about their political message, how they made their debut album and more. Give it a read below.

How have you all been? What have you been up to these past few months?

Mimi: We’ve been figuring out how to be a band in lockdown, from instagram fundraisers, to Acapella sessions, to now, selling tickets to our livestream gig ‘Gig in a Box’!

Lucy: Yes! But importantly, we’ve not been putting too much pressure on ourselves to be exuberantly creative and productive during what’s been an unsettling time for everyone. We’ve been focussing on taking care of ourselves and our bubbles, but are now ready to get back to business. Punk business. 

Anya: We’re putting on House Party live streamed shows so that we can start playing live again. Like most people, I’ve been on a wild carousel throughout lockdown: caring for sick relatives, sharing beautiful moments of connection with strangers, existential dread, learning DIY life hacks, growing tomatoes! We’re also preparing for the release of our debut album… 

Janey: As a self-managed DIY band, we’ve really come into our own this lockdown and have gotten creative about how to continue producing music whilst holding down the rest of life. On a personal level, I’ve had a lot of slow, reflective time which has been really healing. I’m quite introverted so lockdown has been an opportunity to recharge.

‘Vagina Police’, your new song, is about the way people can have little control over their own body. What provoked you to write a song with this message?

Mimi: It’s exciting to be releasing version 2.0 of this song, it’s faster and more hard-hitting.  When we originally released the ‘Vagina Police’ double A-side vinyl, it came with a ‘reproductive justice’ zine, where we had commissioned writers to talk about their experiences, from dangerous at home abortions, to giving birth in prison, to trans people’s reproductive rights.  

Lucy: The song is our battle-cry against the persistent and pathetic-yet-insidious obsession of the state to police our bodies at any cost. It’s a song about reproductive rights and (in)justice in all its forms – and extends wayyy beyond an individual’s choice to have an abortion.

Anya: We’re gassed that a song that started off as a half-joke has gotten us coverage in Billboard! Having the word ‘Vagina’ in a song title comes with its own problems, though. Algorithms hide words like ‘vagina’ and ‘abortion’ from people’s social media feeds. It’s totally insidious – shows why openly talking about reproductive justice is still so necessary.

Janey: This was the first ever Dream Nails song, I wrote the lyrics way back in 2015, showed them to Anya on my bed, and she started playing the riff on my ex-boyfriend’s acoustic guitar. The rest is history. At the time of writing the words, a lot of my feminist thought was around issues of bodily autonomy, especially when it comes to abortion and sexuality. Basically how, as a woman, you face so much shame and judgment for the decisions you make about your own body. 

Photo by Marieke Macklon

Your music always has a strong political message behind it. How important do you think it is for artists to use their platforms to campaign for important issues?

Mimi: It’s vital that we practise what we preach, and it’s amazing that we get to be in a band, and have the opportunity to talk about issues we really care about.  It’s also important for us to use our platform to fundraise.  We are donating all of our proceeds from Vagina Police downloads this month to Mermaids and Abortion Support Network. 

Lucy: I take a hardline approach to this. Failure to politically engage is inexcusable in the UK in 2020, especially if you’re an all-white band. A-politicism is a preserve of the privileged and I’m sick to death of it. Intersectional feminism is at the core of our personal politics as well as our band ethos. We try to constantly educate ourselves, pass the mic, try to do better; we don’t always get it right, we are all learning – but we owe it to marginalised peoples to do this and to put at the forefront of our actions.

A-politicism is a preserve of the privileged and I’m sick to death of it.

Anya: During lockdown we used some of the proceeds from our single ‘Kiss My Fist’ to raise money for The Outside Project, a homeless shelter and community centre for young LGBTIQ+ people. ‘Kiss My Fist’ is our protest song against homophobia and it felt right to use the song to raise awareness and funds for such a vital project. 

Janey: In the face of so much overt oppression in society, people forget that doing nothing is a political act in itself – one of reinforcing the harmful status quo. There are relentless opportunities as a band to act in the name of justice, fairness and inclusion, and it’s astounding how many bands refuse to use their power and privilege to do this. The way we see it, every show, every tour support slot and every recording session is an opportunity to lift up more people, make sure you’re hiring and making space for more women, nonbinary and trans people, people of colour, queers and disabled people. 

What made you want to become a politically driven punk band? Did you always set out to write music about big issues, or did this happen later on?

Anya: Dream Nails has been political from the start – me and Janey met in a direct action feminist group in London. But from the start we were like – we’re feminist, but make it jokes too. 

Mimi: We are political, but we are also many other things!  We try to have a good balance of queer songs and jokes songs as well. It’s important to us, and it’s a radical act to be a woman and be silly onstage. We grew up listening to bands like Blink-182 and Green Day, we don’t think it’s fair for women to be in a band, and the default genre be ‘political’ or ‘riot grrrl’. 

Lucy: Live music has always been one of my favourite experiences – it’s an environment that’s about the collective, the ‘we’, not the band and the crowd. Music alone is not going to change the world – that is done by thankless, tireless campaigning and frontline work over many years – but creating gig spaces where people feel empowered is a good place to start. And like, really fun.

Janey: As Anya said, the political intention is what made us form as a band in the first place! If I’m honest, I wouldn’t be a musician otherwise. The first song we ever wrote was Vagina Police, so we never shied away from naming systemic oppression, but a lot of our songs are more subtly political – they’re about the small issues that are actually big issues; like the grief and fear of coming out as a queer woman when you’re in a loving relationship with a man. That’s a massively political issue that’s not talked about enough. 

Photo by Marieke Macklon

In what ways do you think the average person could strive for change when it comes to societal issues?

Mimi: Join an organization you really care about.  If you can spare even £5 a month, set up a direct debit donation. 

Anya: Join a union, even if you’re freelance or your colleagues aren’t unionised. Covid-19 has shown how important it is to use our collective voices and stick together when things get rough at work. 

Janey: Become a better listener to people who don’t share the same lived experience, power and privilege that you do. Listen to them and take their lead on what you can do to support. If you’re white, listen to people of colour; if you’re a man, listen to women and nonbinary people; if you’re cis, listen to trans people! You get the idea!

Moving onto your debut album, what can we expect?  

Mimi: You can expect, anger, jokes and queer content.  Including skits and a secret track, if you buy the physical copy!  Our album was produced by Tarek Musa (Dead Nature, Spring King) and he really helped us to enhance our sound and level up as a band.

Lucy: It’s wall-to-wall bangers in there. I would personally offer a 100% money-back guarantee if you don’t agree. Hey, that rhymes. 

Anya: If you love Camp Cope, The Aces, Dream Wife, or Le Tigre, you will love us. 

Janey: You can expect a big smile on your face. 

Photo by Marieke Macklon

When you set out to write the album, did you have a clear idea of what message you wanted to put across?

Mimi:  We didn’t write an album per se, we just played so many songs and shows over the years, and chose the best ones!

Lucy: We wanted the essence of Dream Nails – it’s been growing inside it’s lil’ cocoon for a few years now and we wanted it to be a perfect concoction of the silliness, queerness, politics, rage and jokes that has fuelled us thus far.

Anya: If it did have a message, it would probably be ‘Hex the Patriarchy!’

Janey: Yeah, “hex the patriarchy and have fun while you’re doing it!” 

What’s your personal favourite track from the album and tell – if you could – the story behind creating it?

Mimi: I think my personal favourite is Corporate Realness. It was a song before I joined Dream Nails, and I loved it then, but that version was way different to what it is now. Anya and I wrote the ending in her parents living room on a piano, and I feel honoured whenever someone says it reminds them of The Pixies.

Lucy: Text Me Back (Chirpse Degree Burns). Chirpse is London slang for flirting. It was written after a fateful Glasto where 50% of the band were spurned by prospective soulmates. Gutted mate. The song literally flew out of us in a fit of rage and desperation. Everyone can relate and it’s basically a big group therapy session when we play it. 10/10.

Photo by Marieke Macklon

Anya: At the moment my favourite song is This is the Summer. It’s our take on the global disruption caused by climate change and white supremacy. We wrote it during a heatwave in the summer of 2018 and recorded it during the 2019 heatwave. Now it’s summer 2020, bloody boiling hot again and the world is on fire in more ways than one. It’s our next single and it’s out on 28 August. 

Janey: Kiss My Fist. We wrote it shortly after two queer women were violently assaulted on a London bus, taunted by boys who were demanding they kiss – and when they didn’t, they beat them up. It’s both angry and euphoric, and it’s about the fact that men will jack off at home to lesbian porn and then attack queer women in public spaces. We searched weird porn titles for the lyrics! 

One of your album bundles contains customised roller skates – where did those come from?

Anya: Roller skates are such a great symbol of queer power! And they’re fast and furious, like us! The artist we’ve worked with for this album, Genie Espinosa, drew a woman roller skating for our album cover and we instantly loved it. So we decided to run with it – artist Rhi Lee is customising lots of roller skates for our fans, and we’re shooting a music video for ‘Kiss My Fist’ featuring some players from the roller derby scene in London too!

Photo by Marieke Macklon

After the record comes out, what’s on the horizon for Dream Nails?

Mimi: Live Streams until we can play gigs again!

Anya: Yes! We will be touring again in 2021, but until then, join us at our next House Party live stream. We’ll be holding them throughout 2020!

Lucy: Political and creative spade-work behind the scenes before we can unleash ourselves back on the world I-R-frikkin-L. 

Janey: Some rest! Nobody talks about how important rest is in this industry of relentless productivity, and people burn out so fast. Even in lockdown, we’ve been working really hard to prepare for the album launch, and we deserve some downtime!

Listen to Dream Nails on Spotify and Apple Music. Grab the latest copy of our print magazine featuring girl in red HERE.