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Dream Nails: DIY Punk Witches Shaking the Scene

July 26th, 2017     by Valentina Reetz     Comments

Photo credit: Poppy Marriott

From The Slits in the ‘70s to Bratmobile in the ‘90s, female-identifying individuals have been using punk music as a vessel for self-expression and social change. Through punk, countless women have found their voices and made them heard. Among these fierce females are Janey, Anya, and Lucy of Dream Nails. Dream Nails is a London, UK based independent band recognized for their energy, spirit, and unapologetic politics. They released their first EP in 2016, and are in the process of crowdfunding for their next project – a compilation of recordings called, “Dare to Care,” which tackles topics of self care and perseverance.

Being a woman in a predominantly male industry comes with its own unique challenges and perspectives. Female-driven bands often face discrimination, aggression, and exclusion. I had the privilege of discussing these issues with Dream Nails. Their comments gave insight into a corner of the music industry that is often ignored.

SHAMELESS: Welcome to Shameless! You’ve been involved in music for a little while now. When did you first become interested in punk?

JANEY: I’ve always been interested in punk - the first band I really got into as a teen was AFI, with their song “Don’t Make Me Ill”. To tell the truth, I’ve always wanted to be in a punk band, I just wasn’t sure how to start it - and I thought nobody would be interested - then when I was 24 I realised that what I have to say is too important to remain silent about, and then I met Anya!

ANYA: I grew up listening to pop punk bands like Green Day and loads of grunge like Hole, Nirvana and Mudhoney. But it was only when Janey took me to a gig of a DIY punk band Wolfgirl in 2015 that I realised how energising and exciting punk still could be, in the here and now. We started Dream Nails not long after.

LUCY: When I realised it was the kind of music that valued attitude, energy and enthusiasm over technical ability. And when I first heard Sk8er Boi by Avril Lavigne!!

SHAMELESS: Were there any female-identifying artists that you found inspiring when you discovered punk?

JANEY: What’s sad is that I wasn’t really aware of that many female-identifying artists growing up as a teenager… I’m glad that’s changed now. I’d probably have to say Patti Smith, Brody Dalle and Kathleen Hanna, but I take most of my inspiration from Sharon Jones (RIP) - an incredible soul singer.

ANYA: I also love Patti Smith! I’m reading her memoirs at the moment, Just Kids and M Train. She’s so inspirational in that she always tries to finds a way to live that is authentic and meaningful. But I’m also propelled by the female and non-binary fronted bands in our DIY punk community here in the UK. Charmpit, Big Joanie, Screaming Toenail, Fight Rosa Fight, and so many more. Katie Gatt from Personal Best is a sick guitarist, for example. This is the kind of thing that inspires me to keep making punk music.

LUCY: The Slits. The first time I heard their cover of Heard it Through the Grapevine and their John Peel sessions where they forget the lyrics and the chords, but power through it in the most raw and exciting way, I knew that this was the music I wanted to make. Viv Albertine (the guitarist’s) book, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys, is one of my favourites and gives the most interesting glimpse into the Punk scene of the 70’s, as well as chronicling the contribution and legacy of the many female musicians and artists that are forgotten in the HIStory of punk. Aside from this, I agree that the bands in the community are an energising force when it comes to making our own music.

Photo credit: Poppy Marriott

SHAMELESS: So far, what has been the most significant challenge in your career?

JANEY: To be honest, I can’t really consider DIY punk a career. It’s something we have to do outside of working full-time day jobs and activist commitments, and there’s no money in it which is why we’re crowdfunding our next EP. The most significant challenge within music is about balancing your time -remaining available enough for gigs, carving out time for creativity, whilst still having to dedicate the majority of your time to paying your rent.

ANYA: I hear that. The music industry is haggard and rent in London is high. It’s a basic fact of MATHS. There are only X amount of hours in a week, and we’ve got X amount of rent to pay! So Y are we not signed by a major label yet lol. ZZZ.

LUCY: lol, yeah. I think the real challenge will be to actually MAKE music our careers.

SHAMELESS: Alternately, what has been your biggest cloud-nine moment?

JANEY: Opening Cherry Glazerr’s sold-out Berlin show back in May. Our set was only 25 minutes, but we’d transformed the room from 300 curious strangers to a feminist army singing “Nobody cares your dick is on fire!!!” and screaming for an encore.

ANYA: Ah, that was amazing! I don’t know, there have been so many cloud-nine moments! Being able to say ‘THANK YOU GLASTONBURY!” at the end of our Glastonbury set at the Sisterhood stage last year felt unreal.

LUCY: Playing a packed out set at The Garage in London with Cherry Glazerr. I’ve seen so many bands I admire in that huge room, and getting to play to such a massive and warm home crowd was GREAT. The room was so big that the boom of my own kick drum scared me in the soundcheck.

SHAMELESS: Much of your music addresses political and social issues! What role does feminism play in your music, and what role does music play in your feminism?

JANEY: The message is what started this band and drives this band. The music is a vehicle for delivering a message about liberation, self-belief, freedom from violence and coming together to fight patriarchy. Music also enables community - shared safe spaces to be joyous and angry together.

SHAMELESS: What challenges do women in punk face?

JANEY: Women in punk are still women in society, which means they face a whole ton of oppression in their daily lives - so it’s incredible when women find the energy, confidence and means to even start a band. Women are generally discriminated against, objectified and assumed to be not as good as men - all of that applies to behind in a band.

LUCY: The punk scene and aesthetic are typically understood to be aggressively and toxically masculine. Now this isn’t always the case, but trying to negotiate the music industry/certain aspects of the punk scene is hard work sometimes.

SHAMELESS: Do you believe that sexism in the music industry is institutional, or simply perpetrated by individuals?

JANEY: It’s institutional - like anywhere else in society, it will take a whole lot more than some rad individuals to overhaul the fuckery of this industry. In white supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchy, the music industry perpetuates the same problems of women not being respected, paid properly, or viewed as technical experts in their field.

ANYA: I’m so bored of seeing the same type of man-bands come through on the front pages of NME and the mainstream music press. For real change to happen, a few of these males are gonna have to step aside. Guys, ask yourself: is there a point to my dry music? Should I make some space and support women and non-binary people doing something new instead?

LUCY: Oh wow Anya, yes. There are a lot of back-slapping, self-congratulatory alt-bros around who might seemingly encourage and endorse diversity in the music industry, but in actuality do very little about making room for these kinds of acts.

SHAMELESS: In the past, the riot grrrl movement has been criticized for its lack of inclusiveness. Where does intersectionality stand in modern-day feminist punk?

JANEY: Punk is still way too white, straight and middle class. Well, at least the punk that gets attention is. We’re white but we’re queer as fuck and we come from a mix of class backgrounds. We’re always backing our sisters of colour and working class sisters whenever we can. When we’re putting together our own show or headlining, we’ll always look at the line-up and make sure it’s intersectional, inclusive, and everyone gets paid. We also check that the venue is wheelchair accessible too - this is a particular problem in London!

SHAMELESS: In your experience, are women of colour prevalent in the punk scene?

JANEY: Increasingly so, but still not enough. Women of colour need to be heard in general, and punk is an amazing place for that. Two of our favourite bands on the London DIY scene are Big Joanie and The Tuts and they’re always creating spaces for and inspiring women of colour to make music. Big Joanie, along with other punks of colour, kickstarted ‘Decolonise Fest’ in London - a festival by and for punks of colour - and by creating that space and performing as a black feminist punk band, they’re rapidly multiplying the number of women of colour on the scene. It’s history in the making.

SHAMELESS: Speaking of inclusiveness, where does your pride in your sexuality intersect with your feminism?

JANEY: Patriarchy demands heterosexuality as a default, and polices that through violent homophobia, so queer feminism is one of the most vital ways to challenge sexism as a whole. Being part of a queer feminist community is also survival - it’s a safe space and it’s helping push structural change.

ANYA: In the music! Pride in our queerness comes through most purely in our songs about queer crushes like Bully Girl and a new song Chirpse Degree Burns, which we’re playing live as an improv at the moment. Who doesn’t love a good old crush? Apart from when they don’t text you back - that’s a world of pain and sickness obviously.

SHAMELESS: What challenges or experiences are unique to queer women in the music industry?

JANEY: Being openly and visibly queer is a political act as well as a challenge in itself in any area of life. I’m super femme, as is Lucy, so get read as straight a lot of the time, so Anya probably has more interesting experiences to share.

ANYA: That’s an interesting question. I guess male music industry peeps tend to be even less interested in me as a queer female musician, than they would be in me as a female musician. So there’s a challenge in terms of visibility and accessing power and resources. But also, I love being in a queer band and the queer DIY scene is a fucking riot, so it’s their loss!

Photo credit: Poppy Marriott

SHAMELESS: In the near future, what changes would you like to see in the music industry, and more specifically punk?

JANEY: Line ups to be more inclusive and featuring bands that really have something interesting to say or have a true need to create that safe space - more women of colour, more queer women, more working class women, more trans women and non-binary people.

ANYA: I agree with this. And I’d also like to see a profound reorganisation of the economy, you know. Why not? The internet has screwed with the ability of musicians to make any money from music. But if everyone received a citizen’s income then musicians would no longer be reliant on crumbs from the table to make a living, and would be freer to create bangers. And lord knows the world needs more bangers.

LUCY: Always more bangers. Like I mentioned, I would love the music industry to stop paying lip service to the need for inclusivity and political engagement. I would like to see them actively putting marginalised voices and people at the forefront of the industry. There seems to be a lot of talk about how ‘rage’ is all the thing in music right now, with the attitude of punk being at the centre of this resurgence, but I want this rage to not become sanitised and corrupted and used to feed a shallow aesthetic.

SHAMELESS: How can fans advocate for these changes?

JANEY: Buy music, buy merch and show up. Seriously - if you want great bands to keep playing music, back them and they’ll continue doing it! Fans are what keep music going, so don’t be shy about supporting - musicians already dealing with oppression are likely to be doubting their ability to even do this, so give them the confidence and support they need to keep going and in turn this will open more doors and platforms.

ANYA: Get involved with political activism too. It’s all connected.

LUCY: Yes, putting their money and love and attention behind DIY and small scale venues, nights and ventures. We all know how much smaller venues are closing at an alarming rate and part of it is that fans money is getting sucked by bigger promoters and places. Sharing alternative music press and blogs and zines would also be a good one.

SHAMELESS: Your use of social media to promote your ideals is very inspiring! How has social media impacted your ability to create movement?

JANEY: Thank you, I manage our social media and it’s becoming something of an addiction. Social media is the best way to spread a message far and wide, and encourage other people to share it too. We’ve attracted fans across the world through social media, made friends online with designers, photographers, journalists and filmmakers who want to work with us - it’s an incredible platform.

SHAMELESS: I’d like to address your series on Instagram, Chip Advisor! Surely you are receiving offers from major television networks. What inspired you to begin this (frankly genius) series?

JANEY: We’re all vegetarian or vegan, and we all get hungry after shows but usually the only places open are kebab or chicken shops. So we’ve eaten a lot of chips, we’re chip connoisseurs, and one day the pun came into my head. It’s fun, we challenge each other - each episode is done in 1 take, with less than 30 seconds and whatever comes out comes out and goes online!

ANYA: Janey always videos us doing random shit to appease her aforementioned addiction to the socials. Chip Advisor feeds the beast! We’ve done them in Berlin, Belgium, all over the UK and even Glastonbury. And people really seem to love it. They come up to us at gigs at go, “haha, Chip Advisor is the best!” A fan even designed a T-shirt for us which are for sale on our Bandcamp.

LUCY: We take potato based products incredibly seriously, and there is nothing more disappointing than really craving some chips, purchasing them with your precious, hard-earned £1.20, and then then having them not satisfying you for whatever reason! We want to wake the people up to the characteristics of a good chip so that they too can become chip connoisseurs. If you don’t like our music, you will damn well respect our opinions on fried potatoes.

SHAMELESS: Finally, do you have any advice to youth interested in punk?

JANEY: Seek out music and scenes cultivated by people who need to be listened to in broader society. Set up your own shows, live your activism through your music and your music through your activism. Do it - do it yourself, do it together with friends, and do it with people whose voices need to be heard.

ANYA: You can do it. Amazing songs, beautiful songs, life changing songs, have been written with three chords, a bass and a snare drum, and a good idea.

LUCY: Acquire an instrument on the cheap, or hone your wicked voice and songwriting talents and go at your own pace, on your own if you want, for as long as you need. When you’re ready, you will be able to find people and places to cultivate your talent. Do not let anyone make you think you can not be in a band, I promise that you can.

Tags: media savvy, music, queer

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