When as women, our voices are often silenced, it’s no surprise we want to be loud. It’s even less of a surprise that we have things to be loud about. Music has always been an effective form of expression for getting the point across. It’s driven political fire and held times of turmoil together. Harmonies and melodies holding a magic far more powerful than any other medium that dares try.
Janey, Anya, Mimi and Lucy are Dream Nails; punk witches from London who are making a noise. Showcasing DIY not just on stage whilst performing their raging and authentic hexes (that’s right, they’re hexes not songs), but in their zines such as Reproductive Justice and Dare To Care. As an independent all-female punk band with an admirable political agenda and a mission to use their voices for positive change amongst women’s rights, I was interested to hear all about how they juggle running the show themselves.
It’s a slightly later-in-the-month upload to March’s instalment of Make Magick Happen, but what can I say - it’s Mercury Retrograde and Dream Nails already wrote a song about that.
I caught up with my favourite punk witches…
Tell us a little bit about who each of you are and your mission as Dream Nails…
Janey: I’m a Leo who lives a double life working in homelessness by day and being a punk singer by night, with feminist activism sprinkled all over.
Anya: I’m Anya, an Aquarius aquavore who plays guitar in Dream Nails. I also edit a political blog and I’m writing a queer graphic novel with illustrator Sumena Owen.
Mimi: I’m also Aquarius (that’s all you need to know about my personality) and I play bass!
Lucy: I’m the drummer so my mission is to not drop my sticks during the show and get my trouser leg caught in the kick pedal. I work with refugees and asylum seekers in the day time. Cancer. Fave colour: lilac.
What is your biggest challenge as an independent DIY (not to mention, female-based) punk band?
Janey: Balancing the double life! Lots of people assume we do music full time because of how busy we are, but there’s no way we could ever afford to do that.
Mimi: I feel like each person in the band does the work of an entire team of people, on top of our everyday lives, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Anya: We run everything ourselves using Slack, a project management tool. Punk is 90% admin!
Lucy: Recently, trying to negotiate ‘the music industry’ which is generally run on lines which are superficial and basic and alien to us because we live in the actual world and aren’t being secretly bankrolled and managed.
Your identity as a band is extremely strong and powerful…Do you think this has helped you attract the right tribe of fans?
Janey: We’re honest and we laugh at ourselves, and our fans do too. My best friend told me that she’s seen queer women put Dream Nails on their dating profiles. That’s the best reassurance that we’re on the right track!!
Lucy: I just feel lucky that we as a band have found each other and are so supportive of each others ‘journeys’ as musicians. This acceptance is incredibly empowering to us individually and I think our fans really respond to that.
Mimi: I think this is the beauty of our band/the fans/the songs and the scene. We could avoid political conversations and saying “women and nonbinary people to the front, but then we wouldn’t have met all of the amazing people we have, and maybe not have been able to put together things like our reproductive justice zine.
Anya: We continue the tradition of Girls to the Front by our Riot Grrrl foremothers but we update it to be women and nonbinary people. We didn’t start a feminist band just so men can block your view at our shows! Basically, if men don’t go to the back, we put down tools (or like, guitars) until they comply!
If you had one spell (or hex) to use on the music industry, what would it be for and why?
Janey: To be braver.
Mimi: Destroy the capitalist aspect. There are tons of talented artists out there that get taken advantage of by people who just want to make money off of them, with enticing contracts that leave the artist in debt in the end.
Anya: To turn sexist sound engineers into tiny toads. They can be so rude. Once we got called ‘motherfuckers’ while we were soundchecking. Bye, toad.
Lucy: To stop them incorporating political and social movements into their trends and fads and draining them of all meaning in the process: ‘OMG. Rage is soooo hot right now’.
What advice would you give to girls in bands that are just starting out to ensure they don’t get fucked over by old men in suits?
Lucy: Work on creating a mission as a band that accurately reflects YOU, and remain true to it.
Janey: I think as with anything - relationships, work, opportunities: always trust your gut instinct.
Anya: Don’t play for free unless it’s for a good cause. So many people will ask you to, but you don’t need to devalue your work like that.
Mimi: Be honest and true to yourself, research everything and TRUST NO ONE!
In most creative industries, artists’ battle with the idea that to “make it”, they have to sell their souls…how do you stay positive whilst staying true to your politics?
Janey: We just always stay true to our politics and have never deviated from that whatsoever. If that means we make less money then fine, but otherwise what’s the point? We started this band as activists and that’s what motivates us. Without that, I think we’d get pretty bored pretty fast.
Mimi: Honestly what is “making it”? Cus I feel like we are! We get to play shows, travel, and meet amazing people, wear glitter and scream “text me back!”, and people sing along!
Lucy: Exactly I agree, Mimi! Bands don’t ‘make it’ anymore like they did in bygone eras, you don’t get whisked away to tour the world and make your billions. The goalposts are for you to define and I feel like we’re ‘making it’ right now.
Anya: Drifting away from our politics just to sell more records isn’t an option. Our band is a beautiful vehicle for our feminism to ride in. We would be directionless without it.
Do you have any pre-show rituals before going on stage?
Janey: We all warm up together! And drink plenty of water.
Mimi: You can usually hear Janey and I in the distance singing our vocal warm-ups, which I assume sounds terrifying.
Anya: Mimi, I can confirm it is terrifying. Our physical warmups are insane too. “Pat your neighbour” is my personal favourite.
Lucy: I pop a couple of ibuprofen to prevent muscle inflammation 30 mins before our set so I ‘come up’ juuuust at the right time.
What can we expect from Dream Nails during the rest of 2018?
Janey: Lots of shows! Everywhere! We’re touring Europe, Scandinavia, Turkey and Spain and playing loads of festivals in the summer.
Anya: If you’re going to Live At Leeds, Handmade, Manchester Punk Fest, Rebellion or Boomtown, make sure you catch our set!
Mimi: You can also expect to see hencher and healthier Nails! We are all working on some real self-care.
Lucy: ...and some real tekkers. We’re working hard on our musical craft because to be respected as female musicians, you don’t just have to do it well, you have to do it better.
Finish the sentence: ”Success is…”
Janey: … completely unique to every individual person.
Mimi: being happy and fulfilled (and not waking up in the middle of the night worried about wasting your life)
Lucy: hot lunches every. damn. day.
Anya: I just googled this cause I had no idea, and the first suggestion was “the best revenge”. Yeh, revenge against all the sexist pricks we’ve had to deal with in our lives! Hi!
Listen to Dream Nails on Spotify (personal faves are Deep Heat and Merkury)
And for all their latest news, follow them on Instagram and Twitter and check out their website!
All images by Ant Adams.