Anger & Joy – Riot Grrrl Punk band DREAM NAILS discuss feminism & women in punk

8 mins read

In conjunction with the premiere of their new awesome video for the track “Deep Heat”, we’re super stoked to give you an insightful interview with London based DIY feminist punk rock act DREAM NAILS, featured on IDIOTEQ this past Spring. Their work is a wicked, uncompromising exploration of identity, feminism and serves the urge to create connections between members of DIY music scenes and people in general. The girls sat down with us to talk about their project, their thoughts on contemporary feminism and women in the punk scene. I’m hoping this post will inspire you to start discussing feminism and discover more passion in this uncomfortable topic.

DREAM NAILS are: Janey, Lucy, Anya, and Emmet.

Top band photo by Steph Jed.

Imagining all the possible pains that could be inflicted on Donald Trump via punk rock voodoo, the new track combines the screeching ferocity and infectious melodies of bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater Kinney with an anger only the politics of 2016 could inspire. “Sriracha on your dick/ Sriracha on your balls/ Sriracha on your eyes/ Sriracha in your heart/ Sriracha everywhere!” screams their singer, invoking whatever forces she can to bring pain unto our nation’s orange blight. The adorably dressed crowd joins in on the curse, using the power of the mosh pit to energize their incantation. / Nylon Magazine

Hi! Thanks so much for taking some time with us! I really love the crazy mood you managed to create on your debut EP and can’t wait to dig a bit deeper into this project! How are you?

J: Excited! We just launched our music video for ‘Deep Heat’ in time for the U.S. election. It’s a hex on male politicians that we hope reaches Donald Trump in time. You’ll have to listen to the song to understand the specifics of how this hex works…

Ok, so let’s start off with a short story of how you girls met and what prompted you to form this pack of ‘punk witches from hell’.

J: Anya, Emmett and I met through our involvement in feminist activism in London.

L: I found the gang through their call out for a new drummer on a Facebook page. An online romance that’s approaching its one year anniversary <3

A: We wanted to make a band where we could be angry, or playful, or be in stitches in hysterical laughter, all at the same time. It’s so hard as a woman to be able to express anger but when you come together as a collective and do something positive with it… it feels so powerful.

When you first fell in love with punk rock music?

J: When I was 12 and in love with AFI and Davey Havok.

A: I saw GREEN DAY play when I was 14 or 15 and lost my shit. Their old songs are so crisp and smart. I taught myself guitar playing along to ‘Dookie’ and ‘Nimrod’.

L: THE SLITS John Peel sessions, especially their cover of ‘Heard it through the grapevine’.

Have you been in other bands before DREAM NAILS?

J: No. I messed around at school with some friends but nothing as co-ordinated as a band.

A: Yeh, I’ve been in playing bands since I was a kid, I love it! Hotel Ukraine was my first band, later a band called Artibella when I lived in Leeds and I’ve also been writing songs and playing in an alt RnB project called Leisure for a few years now, we’re about to release another EP actually!

L: Not really, I only started drumming 3 years ago with the help of www.youtube.com


Photo by Steph Jed.

Where did the idea of the name DREAM NAILS come from?

A: Naming a band is as hard as naming your first child. Possibly harder, because you also need to worry about Search Engine Optimisation! No one has that problem while deciding to call their child Sally or Tina. We went for Dream Nails after I cycled past a nail salon after band practice and we thought it was spooky and fierce – the perfect name for us. Unfortunately though yesterday someone in Bay West just messaged our band’s Facebook page and asked if we are open on weekends! DREAM NAILS – punk band, not a nail salon folks. Stay safe out there.

Calling yourself a feminist punk band – that’s obviously a very conscious thing to do, right? How important is that part of this project?

J: It’s the backbone to DREAM NAILS. We’re all feminists, and our aim is to make music for women to enjoy. Our shows create a collective, safe space for women to meet and release shared anger and dance together. That in itself is an act of feminism, regardless of the lyrical content of our songs.

L: Whether or not we address it directly, four women on stage together is a very strong feminist act in itself. We then add an overtly feminist political message that is hopefully accessible as well as angry.

A: Yes! And we are so grateful to the feminist, queer, DIY punk scene in the UK for welcoming us in and supporting us when we started out. LITTLE FISTS, GAYR, THE WIMMIN’S INSTITUTE, FIGHT ROSA FIGHT, SUGGESTED FRIENDS, CHARMPIT… It feels like there are a lot of exciting things happening in feminist music in the UK right now.

Awesome, thanks! What do you want audiences to take from these wild danceable tunes from DREAM NAILS?

J: Being part of feminist protests and direct actions, I’ve realised that something magic happens when you combine rage with joy. Often it feels like you have to choose between laughing or being angry at something, and it’s ultimately empowering to do both at the same time. Dream Nails songs combine both emotions and the power within them.

A: I say this all the time, but after seeing Dream Nails lots of women who tell me they wish they played an instrument, wish they played drums or guitar, and I always say that they CAN!!!! If they only take one thing away, it’s that they belong up there onstage as much as anyone else! And if not making a noise with music, in a band, then they can make a noise in any other place they choose!

Do you feel women aren’t really represented enough in punk today?

J: Women aren’t represented enough in punk, or in music in general. When it comes to representation, I don’t think we should ask “where are the women?”, we should ask “is this space safe for women?”. Ultimately, when it comes to women’s participation and representation in anything, from punk music to Parliament, you can’t just add women and stir – huge cultural shifts need to happen that not only give women access to those spaces, but make them spaces that women can stay and thrive in.

How can we better support women artists?

A: Music fans can support women artists through buying their music on Bandcamp and iTunes (as streaming doesn’t really make artists any money) and sharing music on social media, spreading the word. That’s not a hint, haha! It means the world, because people often won’t hear about women artists in other ways, and this kind of sharing and support is what builds movements.

J: And when it comes to gigs, we need to create more safe spaces for women to be in, both physically and mentally. We were lucky enough to start performing right as the ‘Loud Women’ scene was starting up in London by some great women: nights that only feature female-fronted bands, and that have a really supportive and friendly vibe. This helped us build confidence and has made us more resilient in later gigs that are full of men and feel quite leery. Loud Women work with ‘Good Night Out’ to change the culture at venues, with zero violence policies, making them safer for women to be in. There’s also a really great London-based project called ‘Love Sex, Hate Sexism’, who work to reducing violence against women in the punk scene.


Photo by Dream Nails.

Feminism means different things to different people, I have no doubt about that. What does it mean to you?

J: For me, feminism is a movement to liberate us from sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression. And within ‘oppression’, I don’t just mean gender-based oppression and violence, but all oppressions, like racism, classism, ableism, Islamophobia, transphobia and xenophobia. All oppressions are connected and the feminist movement can leave no one behind. Feminism means fierceness as much as it does listening to each other and having an honest perspective on privilege.

A: Yes to all of that. Sometimes I worry I’m a bad feminist, but you know what, that’s okay too. We’re all trying the best we can.

L: yes yes yes. The Feminist movement should strive to create strength and connections between people. Growing across as well as up. Anger and joy, like Janey said before.

Is there some terrible myth about feminism and women artists you’d like to demystify most?

L: In terms of punk specifically, I wish there were more myths TO demystify. The pivotal role of women in the early punk movements has, like in many movements, been almost totally erased from popular music history. Seen most recently in Viv Albertine’s graffiti on the exhibits in the British library’s punk exhibition, which neglected to include the founding contributions of many incredible women.

Ok, apart from that, what else encourages you to run this band?

J: It’s really fun – in rehearsals, in the studio, onstage and backstage! We all make each other laugh a lot. On a deeper motivational level though, we’re saying important stuff and people appreciate that. After shows we get audience members from all genders approaching us and thanking us for creating the music that we play, and that’s hugely rewarding and keeps us going.

A: Yes! We have heard from people from around the world who get in touch to like… show appreciation for what we’re doing with DREAM NAILS. Some feminists in Australia asked if they could use one of our songs in a documentary! It makes me realise that maybe there aren’t too many other feminist bands out there and people really need this music. And I love love love seeing our audiences dance around with us and sing with us, it makes me grin from ear to ear.

L: it’s honestly just the most fun making something out of nothing with these incredibly talented women.

DREAM NAILS band photos

Photos by Danial Thompson.

What advice do you have for emerging independent artists?

J: Well, we’re emerging independent artists so I’m not sure what position we’re in to give advice, but something that’s helped us is trusting your vision and practising lots.

A: Collaborate with people other than musicians, too – be that visual artists, photographers, people who make videos, people who make podcasts and zines or draw or want to stage a hair braiding party. I don’t know. Everyone has a different skill. Build a community of people around you and help each other do what you want to do. That really is satisfying for us and it’s how our video came about.

L: Use social media. Facebook can be lame but is incredibly effective at joining like minded folk together.

Ok, so what are your next steps, both recording and touring wise?

What are you working on now?

J: Right now we’re celebrating the video release for Deep Heat! Once we’re done with that hype we’ll be planning some exciting UK and Europe tours for 2017!

Lastly, one of the main goals of IDIOTEQ has always been inspiring the readers with new bands, ideas and independent projects. Can you recommend some of the recently discovered artists, projects or initiatives that were particularly memorable to you?

A: My strong strong feeling on this subject is that everyone needs to go and check out this band called SLAGS. Bree and Chloe came to our music video shoot for Deep Heat which is how I met them. Their music is inspired in part by Eastenders and they shred the guitar most ferociously.

J: There’s a band I love called CHARMPIT (previously mentioned) and they’re totally DIY, cutesy and hilarious – the best thing about them is that they theme each of their gigs with different outfits like ‘sleepover’ or ‘prom night’.

[email protected]

Karol Kamiński

DIY rock music enthusiast and web-zine publisher from Warsaw, Poland. Supporting DIY ethics, local artists and promoting hardcore punk, rock, post rock and alternative music of all kinds via IDIOTEQ online channels.
Contact via [email protected]

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