Meltdown may be over for another year; live music here at Southbank Centre most certainly isn’t. But if you’ve learned anything from Nile Rodgers’ festival, and our wider gigs programme this summer, it’s surely that we like to keep you guessing, and revel in testing the boundaries of musical expectations. Queer feminist punk band playing an outdoor stage on a Sunday afternoon? Why the hell not?
The band in question are Dream Nails. Founded by feminist activists in 2015, the hotly-tipped foursome – Janey Starling (vocals), Anya Pearson (guitar), Mimi Jasson (bass) and Lucy Katz (drums) – have been on a steady rise ever since, building a reputation, and an ardent fanbase, across Europe for their riotous live shows. The past year has also seen the group headline Glastonbury’s Sisterhood stage, receive airplay on BBC Radio 6 music, Radio 1 and XFM, and review a satisfyingly unhealthy amout of chips, frites and fries.
At 3pm on Sunday 18 August the band took to The Clore Ballroom stage for a free BSL interpreted performance. Ahead of this specially adapted ‘family-friendly’ set, we caught up with Dream Nails’ singer Janey, and guitarist Anya to talk punk, politics and DIY.
For people who’ve not heard you before, how would you summarise Dream Nails?
Janey: Feminist punk witches who bring the party.
Punk is largely a male dominated genre, do you still find the band is treated differently just because you’re four women?
Janey: Most definitely. It’s funny noticing how men backstage at punk festivals interact with each other – and then with us. It’s like back-slaps and “dude-man-bro-pal-dude-bro-man”. To be honest the performative masculinity in the music industry is exhausting.
Anya: We have as much fun as possible onstage, make each other laugh and make space to be silly. People aren’t used to women in punk music having a sense of humour – but loads of the male punk bands we grew up listening to were hilarious and goofy. I think people find it surprising that we’re like this.
Would it be fair to say that the politics - in terms of the causes you support and stand for - are as important to Dream Nails as your music? Or is the latter a means of channelling the former?
Janey: In my case, absolutely. I wouldn’t be in a band otherwise. Dream Nails was born when Anya and I met through feminist activism back in 2015, and feminist principles are core to the way this band operates. But we bring the fun and party too! Because anger can be exhausting, and creating a space for collective joy is essential to our survival.
Anya: Our band is a purple and gold spray-painted vehicle for our feminism to ride in with the windows down and the music blaring.
You’ve achieved a lot in the Dream Nails’ short lifespan; what’s your proudest moment or achievement as a band so far?
Janey: Headlining the Sisterhood stage at Glastonbury!
Anya: Recording our first album. We’re announcing more stuff about this soon, but expect the first single in a few weeks – we’ve a launch part on 7 October – and the album release in early 2020!
You’re proudly 100% DIY, so do everything from promo to tour booking yourselves – how do you balance this with day jobs?
Janey: Good question; it’s exhausting. We all have jobs outside of the band, but that’s why our music is so energised. Because we’re writing these songs after long, tiring days at work while the world burns around us. And that’s a feeling that almost everyone can identify with!
Anya: The truth is that most musicians we know are balancing side hustles, day jobs, all sorts, just to survive. The industry has changed a lot since digital damaged record sales. and musicians have had to adapt. But we like managing ourselves and share the work equally between us. Lucy our drummer moonlights as Lucy From Finance, while Mimi our bassist does all our merchandise and has even curated an entire stage for us at Greenbelt Festival later this month!
Lastly, what makes a great Dream Nails gig?
Janey: All the women and nonbinary people at the front! We have this as a gig policy as a means of challenging male entitlement around space at shows and it creates a really magical atmosphere. Our man-fans totally understand it and give that space, and the result is moshpits of babes and rape survivors thanking us for creating such a liberating vibe.
Anya: When Lucy cracks out our fastest song, ‘DIY’ (about being self-sufficient in a capitalist patriarchy) at 260 BPM with a wicked glint in her eye. I usually get heartburn during that song, but the crowds seem to love that one!
Dream Nails performed in Southbank Centre’s The Clore Ballroom as part of Disco Loco on Sunday 18 August.
More than just the home of Meltdown. Every year Southbank Centre presents live contemporary music gigs and performances that blur genre boundaries and showcase the best new sounds from across the globe.