Dream Wife - Album General 1 - Joanna Kiely
Credit: Joanna Kiely

Who’s topping the charts, going viral, and ruling our earbuds? With Breaking Big, EW introduces the freshest music talent you have to hear now. Below, get to know Dream Wife, the art-school project that’s evolved into one of indie-rock’s most politically dynamic emerging acts.

Listen If You Like: Political post-punk, the Spice Girls

The Backstory: The trio behind Dream Wife — singer Rakel Mjöll, guitarist Alice Go, and bassist Bella Podpadec — met while attending England’s University of Brighton. All three were studying in artistic disciplines, and Mjöll, who was pursuing music and visual arts, initially launched Dream Wife as a performance piece. “We ended up forming this band toward the end of art school, because we really wanted to go to Canada,” Mjöll tells EW. “We had this idea that we would make a band with the sole purpose of touring Canada.” After recording some songs and posting them online, Dream Wife “somehow managed” to book a month-long Canadian tour. “We learned that we could make things together,” Mjöll says, adding that the positive reception they received on their Canadian “test drive” cemented the trio’s decision to pursue the group.

And, no, film buffs: Dream Wife’s moniker doesn’t come from the 1953 Cary Grant romantic comedy of the same name. “We’ve never seen that film!” Mjöll exclaims. “It got bad reviews, so we haven’t watched it yet.” The name — which she says they adopted “before we played a note together” — is a bolder piece of commentary. “In the 1950s, they had the dream car, the dream house, the dream job, and the dream wife,” she says. “The wife [became] a kind of thing, a possession to tick all the boxes.” Performing as Dream Wife startles audiences, Mjöll has found: “They’re expecting one thing from you, as a woman on stage, and then we completely flip the script.”

Why They Rule: Dream Wife’s energetic brand of punk also courses with lyrical poignance — even if Mjöll, the group’s chief lyricist, rarely drafts them before recording. “Something magical happens in the space when we’re together,” she says. “It’s not until afterward, when the song is ready, that we look back and we realize that things came out because of something that we were in deep thought about.” One example she cites is Dream Wife’s recent single “Somebody,” a track about slut-shaming and seeking justice for sexual abuse cases that Mjöll says “wrote itself.”

The band still finds room for humor among their enticing, razor-sharp fusion of punk and disco-influenced rhythms. Take “F.U.U.,” a thrilling cut that oscillates between “I’m gonna f—k you up!” and an interpolation of the hook from Spice Girls’ “Wannabe.” The connection to the iconic pop group wasn’t tossed off. “They make you feel good about being a female,” Mjöll says. “They made small girls feel like badasses!” The song will appear on their forthcoming debut — which required them to get in touch with their idols. “We had to extend a handwritten letter to the Spice Girls,” Mjöll shares. “We got a reply from Sporty Spice and she was happy for us to use it! I feel amazed that Sporty Spice read my handwritten letter.”

What’s Next: Dream Wife released their Fire EP last month and Wednesday announced their self-titled debut, which will arrive Jan. 26. They’re signed to the indie label Lucky Number, making them peers with Hinds and Sleigh Bells, and Mjöll says they’re excited to bring their live sound — honed opening for the Kills and during a buzzy SXSW showing — to an album. “The song is a living organism,” she says. “It’s changing and has its own life. When we write, we write for our live show, because that’s the most fun. That’s why you do music.”

Hear Dream Wife’s new single “Let’s Make Out” above.