There’s a line in one of my favourite books, Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth, that goes: “Someone sees right to your backbone and simultaneously feels their backbone acknowledged.” It’s one of my favourite lines, from one of my favourite books, and it most perfectly (most ardently? Haha) describes how I felt when talking to the absolutely amazing Dream Nails, at a picnic table in the beer garden at The Victoria in Dalston. I felt understood and thoroughly acknowledged, and the ideas we were discussing felt like ones I’d always thought about, and I wanted to tell them (and in fact did tell them) my (somewhat clichéd) hopes and fears. And they responded in kind. So the below interview is kind of personal, it’s kind of important. I was a bit emotional still even the day after, and it was hard to pinpoint exactly why. It’s quite a special quality, to have people want to spill their feelings to you, it’s unique – you don’t come across it that often, especially not when you’re there to interview them, not the other way around – but it’s a powerful one. Dream Nails are self professed punk witches, and meeting Janey, Anya and Lucy before their gig, they did feel totally magic. Not to mention their mesmerising performance, which is brutal and joyful and heavy and light and raucous and soothing – a cacophony of happiness and rage. It feels pretty wonderfully supernatural, if you ask me.
It’s so cool that you’re crowdfunding your EP! Have you done it before?
Anya: No, we didn’t. But this is great cause the way Pledge works is they’re pledging for the CD or the zine or the t-shirt, so you pay for all the overheads & the P&P and you just get the stuff. It’s good!
Janey: The last time, when we did our EP before, it took us the best part of a year to pay ourselves back for so we’ve been ready to record for a long time and we couldn’t afford to record this for such a long time, and eventually we were like well, let’s ask other people! Cause everyone’s saying when are you going to record that, when are you going to record that. So!
Yeah, it’s direct! I’m sure you saw Kate Nash crowdfunded her album too, and she was all about it giving the fans control rather than management or a record company etc. calling the shots.
Lucy: Yeah! Cause she said, didn’t she, that she’s had record companies approach her and she’d just stuck to her guns and trusted her fanbase, which is really amazing.
Janey: Yeah, it’s really cool.
So how long does your Pledgemusic last?
Anya: We’ve got two months!
Janey: It’s amazing, we got 20% in pretty much 24 hours!
People clearly want to hear the EP! Which of course I totally understand, because I do too.
Anya: Go for one of the packages! Cause in there you get a face mask made by Janey’s mum. I really want someone to order that.
I’ll definitely get one of the packages! Another thing I wanted to talk about – Deep Heat, your first single, I love! It’s one of my favourites.
Anya: It’s so much fun to play!
Lucy: Every time we play it, it still cracks me up, watching everyone’s responses.
Janey: Sometimes I’m like right in the middle of the song thinking “what on earth am I doing?”
Anya: It’s like, when you say a word too many times and it becomes weird, like “lantern, lantern, lantern” – like what is this word? What does it mean?
Lucy: What actually does it mean?
Anya: In that same sense, what is this song?
What I wanted to ask you about it: is it a joke?
Anya: No, it’s deadly serious.
Lucy: It started as a joke, but it’s taken on a life of it’s own.
I mean, I take it seriously!
Janey: It’s really therapeutic and also, when we first started playing it, we used to dedicate it to George Osborne and David Cameron and you know what, they’re not in power anymore. So maybe there’s something to it.
Lucy: And I remember, one of the first times I played it with the band, afterwards I went up to the woman who was the promoter and she didn’t even say well done or like thank you or anything, she just goes: “you’re right… Nobody does care if your dick is on fire.” And it was just like a realisation, like of course! You’re so right – nobody fucking cares! The penny dropped.
Anya: The amount of people that look at me and go “Deep heat on your dick!”, I’m like yeaaaaah!
Lucy: It’s hilarious! It makes us laugh every day.
Janey: Our whole thing is like, destroying this binary between anger and joy, because actually you can be angry and joyful at the same time and I think there’s a lot of radical power in that.
Anya: There’s still this stigma against women being silly, in public, like joking around.
Janey: Fuck that.
Anya: Yeah, we definitely go against that, we’re ridiculous people. We’re total jokers…
Janey: We’re a HOOT.
Anya: But you know what I mean, like goofing around and not taking yourself too seriously. That’s something that some people find quite challenging.
Janey: Learning to laugh at yourself is really hard, like I didn’t want to sing in a band for ages because I was so scared that people would laugh at me. It’s like for fuck’s sake! That’s something that would genuinely hold you back.
Yeah, I totally feel you! I actually just finally bought my first guitar last week…
All: YES! Ahhhhh!
Anya: That’s so sick, what sort of guitar did you get?
It’s a Fender Squier Strat!
Anya: Nice choice! I play a Strat!
Janey: Can’t wait to hear you play!
I can’t wait TO play! Along the lines of the Deep Heat question – what is your favourite lyric that you’ve written, or that you play?
Janey: That is really hard.
Lucy: I always find really energising “This is not a joke, I hope you choke” from a song that’s about rape jokes and people that make rape jokes, that Janey wrote. I get a kick out of that lyric.
Janey: You know what, I think it might be the second verse of Love Fuck. So it’s a song in our next EP, which is about healing and recovery after a breakup. I think so many people are afraid to enter a relationship because they feel like this person is the last person they’ll be in love with and they’ll never love and fuck again. Anya and I have both been in this position quite recently, and we wanted to write a song about it that’s like a reassurance mantra to the world and to ourselves.
Anya: It’s as if a friend is giving a friend some really good advice.
Janey: It’s like: you love and fuck again. The second verse says “sometimes we hit the rocks, but you’re a wave.” and it’s this concept of yeah, shit gets bad, but you bounce back!
Anya: Oh yeah! I like the rap in Corporate Realness. And it is a rap. Janey says it’s not a rap, but it’s a rap. Janey will you say it?
Janey: It’s a list.
Anya: Ok, it’s a list.
Lucy: A list that is rapped!
Janey: A list that is said very quickly.
Anya: It’s about office life. It really conjures up the mundanity and the frustration of being in a job you hate.
Janey: Ok, it goes: FYI, KPI, swivel chair, swivel eyes, touching base, flagging up, paper towel, plastic cup, action point, kitchenette, one to one, cigarette, TOC, COP, kind, regards.
That is amazing.
Janey: One time we played it to Leeds, and it was a room full of students and they just didn’t really quite fully appreciate it. Except for this one guy, who yelled at the top of his voice “THAT’S MY LIFE!”
Lucy: And he just kind of dropped to his knees! Janey please tell that story on stage tonight!
Anya: And he’s since quit his job!
Anya: He messaged us on Instagram and was like “I’m the guy! From Leeds! And I’ve quit my job!”
Lucy: So watch out!
Anya: Bringing down politicians and getting people to quit their jobs.
Touching on that, I saw some of you met at a feminist direct action group?
Anya: Yeah, Janey and I met there.
Obviously, that’s pretty important to Dream Nails and your message in the band. I saw you’d also been doing the zine for the EP – and we kind of talked about it before with the joy/anger – do you feel like using a creative output is the best way to get your message across?
Anya: Definitely, yeah. We love zines, and I love going to zine fairs – there’s some really wicked ones in London. Grrrl Zine Fair is really good. And I think the community of people that are involved in zines, especially political zines, really crosses over with the activist lot, and then that crosses over with the queer punk lot. A lot of the things people are writing really resonates with the kind of stuff we sing about. I love the way that zines are made, I love the fact they’re handmade, and they’re limited edition, and they’re away from the mainstream – or even the digital – realm. Somebody has literally sat there and crafted it.
Lucy: It’s similar values to our music, like you might not have many resources or time, but you have something you feel is very important to say and so you’ll do what’s available to you to get what you want to say across.
Janey: I feel like zines are just one part of the broader picture though, in terms of activism. I think they’re a really good method for consciousness raising and introspection and processing, and connecting other people, and also hearing other people’s experiences. But ultimately zines aren’t gonna overhaul governments, you need organised political action and you need direct action, and actually my experience of the most creative ideas have been through direct action. And that is a very collective, terrifying act, and the risk is huge but the payoff is huge. So zines are really really lovely, but I don’t think they’re a means to political change on their own – but they definitely do support that process.
Anya: It’s a crossover between ideas and action isn’t it. You need one to have the other.
Janey: Both are needed. You need that process.
That’s really interesting. Speaking of visual output – and I know before, you said it’s pink day today and you all look awesome – is that important to you? Visuals, in what you do, or is it just something that comes naturally with it?
Lucy: Sometimes! We’re not very consistent with it – I actually don’t think it is.
Anya: I think it’s quite low down in terms of priorities, yeah.
Lucy: Occasionally we will all decide to do something, like at Glastonbury we all dressed up, or last time we played here the 3 up front dressed in white night dresses. So it’s just sort of as and when.
Anya: There’s not an obsession with it.
Janey: Yeah, we’re not obsessed at all. It just kind of gives us jokes, it’s more for ourselves than for anyone else. And if we had to for every gig, we’re playing so many that it would be really stressful!
And then that takes the fun away from doing it.
Anya: Yeah, I think it’s fun, and anything that makes us feel in the mood for playing an amazing show will help us perform well. And sometimes that’s wearing exactly what we’ve been wearing all day, to help us feel comfortable.
Janey: Our secret weapon to feel good on stage is…
Lucy: Sun cream!
Janey: We spray sun cream on cause it’s like “mmm holiday feeling”!
Lucy: Holiday vibes! We did it last week to like get a little buzz on, cause you know when you smell sun cream it’s like holidaaaay!
Anya: It’s like cat nip.
Janey: So that’s our hype.
That’s more important. Yeah, I get that. I guess I was kind of thinking, more than just your clothes, did you see the last EP FKA Twigs did? It was like a visual EP, so rather than being a record it was like a 15 minute music video, it was really cool.
Janey: That’s amazing!
Anya: If you had the resources, that’s amazing.
Janey: Yeah, if we had the moneyyyy!
Anya: We’re really keen to do more videos, for sure.
Lucy: Yeah! So many ideas.
Anya: We’ve got lots of ideas. We’re gonna be doing a video for our next single, Tourist, in August, which is going to be wicked.
Lucy: That’s all about having fun.
That’s exciting! So before, I was talking about Hot Blood and that conversation around girls in music, communicating it, just by talking to female musicians, covering their releases, reviewing their music etc. getting that out there – how best do you think girls in music could be communicated to younger girls? It’s something I think about a lot, because they don’t teach this sort of thing in schools, so…
Lucy: Well actually this is something I thought about ages ago – Janey’s got something started about doing a schools tour. I would LOVE to do it so much. I think the girls would be really receptive to it. Stuff you learn at that age, especially when you’re in the school environment, is really influential.
That would be amazing!
Anya: Do you think that we’d have to clean our lyrics up a little bit?
Lucy: Some of them, yeah. I think we’d have to approach it like a new, different project, and adapt some of what we have. But I think it would be amazing.
Janey: I’m up for it!
Lucy: I’ve always thought that. Do, like, a workshop.
Janey: Because we’re writing the songs that we wish we’d had growing up as teenage girls, and I really wish that I’d been able to hear this and have more female idols.
That’s exactly how I feel. When I was growing up, when I was at school, all of my friends that were male were in bands. That’s no exaggeration, all of them were. And I used to sit on the sofa and watch them play, watch them rehearse, and I never even considered why I wasn’t giving it a go too. And when I eventually saw myself represented, it was game changing. So I think that would be really cool, to perform in schools.
Anya: Yeah, totally.
Anya: That’s so sad, that we can all identify with that memory that you have. Cause that’s such a common experience for women, who would love to play music with other women, other people, and instead you’re committed to being an audience member for the rest of your life. As if there was no other option out there for you.
Anya: But even if at that age you’d seen like one or two women doing what you wanted to do, you might have felt encouraged or inspired to do it.
Yes! Cause I’d listed to the Riot Grrrl stuff, and The Slits and Blondie etc. but only once I’d discovered it.
Anya: But nothing beats having someone of your own age in your peer group doing it. Because these American rock stars don’t exactly feel like next door neighbours.
Lucy: They’re of a different era too.
Anya: They’re from the 90s! It’s not today, it’s not gonna make you think “oh, I can do it.” What you need is someone with a connection.
Like, something direct.
Lucy: And also women playing with other women! Cause I remember – I dunno if you know Tom Tom magazine? It’s an American magazine, it’s for and about female drummers, you’d love it, it’s amazing. I used to do a bit of writing for them, but I remember chatting to the publisher – this is before I was in a band – and she said it’s amazing and so rare that I only wanted to be in a band with other women. Because often female musicians think what will kind of legitimise them, and give them validity, is them playing with boys. Then they’ll have, like, made it.
Janey: Fuck that shit.
Lucy: ABSOLUTELY fuck that shit! It’s not something that enough women aspire to yet, playing with each other.
Janey: And I think there’d be different songs that come out of those spaces. I don’t think there’s a really sacred space when you’re with like – when there’s no men basically, a lot of political organising I do is without men, and we get so much shit done, and there’s a connection that you have with the people there that is logistical and highly focused but also deeply emotional, and supportive, and safe. Like, I wouldn’t want to be writing songs about rape in a band with guys – because I just wouldn’t. There’s a certain level of disclosure and creative output that comes from that safe space.
It’s a totally different setting, yeah. Along the lines of females in music – was there anyone that stood out as inspiring you? Any musicians?
Lucy: I always loved The Slits as well, although only when I discovered them did I love them, but when I read Viv Albertine’s book – Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys – after I read that I was like fuck it, enough is enough. I got that book for Christmas and then in January I tried out with Dream Nails and I was like I need to be in a band now. It was pretty galvanising. You should read it! You should get your hands on it.
*I have since bought Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys, and will be consuming it ASAP*
Anya: I’ve always loved Sleater-Kinney, because they’re awesome musicians. I love the fact that they kind of came out of the Riot Grrrl movement, but they’re still going and they’ve evolved and they’re still touring. They really are incredible at what they do, and I think individually as women they have incredible careers and they come together in like this powerhouse. So yeah, they really inspire me.
Janey: In terms of performance, I take a lot of inspiration from a soul singer called Sharon Jones who passed away last year. She was phenomenal. And also, she was in her 50s when she finally made her big break, which takes her performance and charisma to a whole new scale. She was telling anecdotes on stage about when she used to work as a bodyguard! And she’s a brilliant dancer! So her. Yeah, her. But also – this sounds really strange, but – I read Jenna Jameson’s autobiography
*which, if you Google it, doesn’t FUCKING come up as suggested search though all the salacious bullshit they write about her does*
at quite a young age, and her attitude is phenomenal. Obviously loads of it is about the porn industry and how to give an amazing blowjob – great advice – but something about her drive and attitude and fuck you I’m gonna make my money, fuck you I don’t care what you think I’m gonna take my clothes off and get paid really well for it, and if someone can do that and go to that level of, like, exposure then anything’s possible. She’s like, laughing her way to the bank.
Have you seen Jacq The Stripper? She’s really cool, you’d like her, she’s got the same kind of attitude. She’s a stripper who believes the same sort of reasons – like fuck you, if I can manipulate the patriarchy like this for money then of course I’m gonna. But also she does comedy about her stripping and she’s written some books on it, she’s really cool.
Janey: Oh amazing! Cause we often get asked “what is punk?” but I think so much more of it is about the attitude, more than musical sound. That is part of it, because it is a genre of music, but we all have influences across a huge spectrum of backgrounds and genres and ultimately it all builds up to the same thing, which is having a vision of something you want to create and just bloody doing it.
One of the things I think is really cool about Dream Nails is that though your sound isn’t necessarily the same as like 70s punk, everything I read and see about you totally receives you as punk. And I think that really supports what you just said, it’s an attitude thing.
Janey: We have a really solid contingency of older, male fans, who say they haven’t seen anything like this since the 70s. And we realise there’s this chunk of people in the audience who come because it reminds them of their own youth.
Anya: Welcome to the time capsule!
Lucy: Buy the merch!
Janey: There is something in what we’re doing that like revives an era that we weren’t even born in! It connects with people that were there.
Me & my best friend saw Dream Wife at The Old Blue Last a few months ago (they were amazing) and they sound nothing like 70s punk, that’s not what they’re trying for, and actually what they do is far more pop as a genre – but afterwards, we heard a man say “Yeah, they were just like a female Sex Pistols.”
Anya: No way. Absolutely not!
Lucy: So lazy! Such a lazy observation. I hate that.
Anya: They’re so much more like guitar pop, not guitar rock. They don’t even claim to be that! It’s just that people see women with guitars, and they look a little bit alternative, so it’s like oh they’re Riot Grrrl, they’re punk. No, listen to the music, it’s fucking guitar pop. And it’s very good. But it’s not punk.
Yeah, like: you just listened to that whole show, so open your ears.
Lucy: That’s a direct by-product of the way that the mainstream music industry and journalism term artists and love pigeonholing. This band sound like this band, this band sound like this band! I fucking hate that. I can’t read it, for that exact reason. Like any music made by a black woman, they just call grime. Like Little Simz, I just read a thing with her, and she’s like “I’m not grime. Everyone’s calling me grime.” So lazy.
I know. I know. So, one more, talking about other bands: who have you seen or listened to recently that you loved?!
Anya: Ooh, good question!
Janey: I mean, I really like Selena Gomez’s new song! It’s not even that new anymore, she’s got a new one since. It’s called Bad Liar, it’s fucking great.
Lucy: Oh, it’s amazing. I’ve watched the video a few times already.
Janey: Great, solid, pure pop banger. It’s great.
Lucy: I think The Big Moon! Cause I’d not seen or listened to them much before Glasto, and they changed my day. For the better.
Anya: Our bassist Kate is in a really really great band called Velodrome. And she’s an incredible singer. She’s got like a Kate Bush meets Rufus Wainwright kind of vibe, and she writes great pop songs. So yeah, Velodrome.
Dream Nails are Janey (singer), Anya (guitar/vocals), Kate (bass/vocals) and Lucy (drums).