Dream Nails have been successful in applying for funding from the Arts Council in England for a project aimed at making live music more accessible (in various ways) and running zine-making workshops for LGBTQ+ groups. It’s an ambitious project with various strands and I spoke to guitarist Anya to found about more and why Dream Nails felt Dreams of Revolution was a necessary undertaking.
What prompted you to create this project?
That’s a great question. Ever since we started in 2015 Dream Nails has been a politically active band. We met at Sisters Uncut. We’re doing things like raising money for abortion support network, raising awareness with anti-sweatshop campaigning and of course we do a lot of work around LGBT+ rights. So it felt like a natural evolution for us to look towards the music industry and think about ways we can change it for the better.
We thought of Dreams of Revolution as a project because we released how screwed up it was less than 5% of music producers and sound engineers are female and non-binary and of course the pipeline starts incredibly young so it’s about getting young people involved in this line of work. That’s why one of the strands of this project is developing opportunities for work experience for young people to shadow sound engineers at some of our shows.
Also we had a wonderful girl called Poppy who did work experience during the recording of our album which was amazing too. There are lots of elements to Dreams of Revolution which make up a punk DIY ethos that we are trying to empower other people to experience and hopefully bring joy and agency to their lives.
You are providing opportunities for young LGBTQ+ people, a supportive environment where they can develop skills. What do you think are still the main barriers to entry for young LGBTQ+ people in the music industry?
Its really sad to say that the music industry is still dominated by the cis male dinosaurs that it has been for decades. Our experience as a queer trans fronted band is that it is still incredibly hostile. There is a lot of gatekeeping, there are a lot of assumptions made about your ability as a musician and your dedication. Your experience and skill level as a musician is constantly called into question because of who you are. However, there is a healthy DIY punk scene for the LGBT+ in the UK and I think actually showing young LGBT+ people there is a whole scene out there that they can take part in will hopefully encourage them to start their own bands or work in the industry. Sadly, as musicians, when you look to try and make money from the scene to support yourself, if you’re not rich enough to have a trust fund, that’s when you come up against problems. Chronic underpaying, the fact that streaming doesn’t pay and is incredibly exploitative for musicians – all those things are massively difficult. But on the flip side I don’t think that LGBT+ music community has ever been healthier. There are so many more openly queer bands now then when Dream Nails started in 2015 and we love to see. So lots of barriers but also lots of opportunities and we just want to inspire other people to realise they can do it themselves.
How can individuals apply to participate in the workshops and work experience opportunities’?
All the work experience opportunities and workshops are geared towards specific community groups that we’ve partnered up with. These things aren’t open to the public to apply per se. However I will say that if you are a young musician living in Essex you are more than welcome to reach out to We Are Music or Black Cactus who are incredible local community groups where you might be able to link up with them and access the workshops that we are running in a couple of weeks on 3rd and 4th June. Also if you are a young queer person living in Essex you can get involved with the Outhouse which is an incredible LGBT+ community centre. Likewise if you live in Cambridge there is the amazing Kite Trust which we are doing a zine workshop for. We want to highlight the amazing work these groups are doing. Also Breakout Youth in Southampton who are brilliant. We’ve done a zine workshop with them already. And there’s the Rainbow Café in Blackburn. So there are lots of cool groups that we are encouraging people to find out about if they live in the local area.
Why did you think it was important to put on all-ages, accessible concerts in Colchester, Norwich and Cambridge, and acoustic concerts for LGBTQ+ groups in Blackburn and Southampton?
We’re finding that the punk scene in the UK is so centred on the bigger cities: London, Brighton, Manchester its always the same places, but we are leaving off the map other places. For example Dream Nails had never played any gigs in Blackburn but we had the warmest reception when we went to play there for an acoustic show at the Rainbow Café. So its not just about making accessible gigs its also about geographic inequality and going to places that don’t have the same access to political music. We believe that political music should be accessible for all people. If you think about the average gig environment it’s not very accessible for LGBT+ people, for young people, people under the age of 18 aren’t usually allowed to go to gigs. Not always a family friendly environment. Sometimes the lyrics aren’t appropriate for children, or it can be too loud for those who are neuro divergent. So we decided to have gigs that were truly accessible by bringing gigs to LGBT+ community groups and also developing some all ages shows partnering with some amazing venues like The Cambridge Junction, The Smokehouse in Norwich and The Mercury in Colchester which are all really fantastic and all renowned for doing community engagement work.
You are also running free Zine-making workshops for LGBTQ+ community groups. Why do you think this is important?
Zines are so important to Dream Nails because they are essentially vehicles for political thought, for personal writing, for rants, for your poetry, for photography. They are just these beautiful little gems that anyone can make. It’s amazing now that anyone can publish on their social feeds anything they want to make but there is something uniquely special about making something tangible that you can physically give to someone else to read. And watching young people make the zines they have made already I can see the joy. It’s a tactile experience that is very rewarding, to cut and paste and write and colour in and it’s a very interactive experience where everyone can see what everyone else is doing, rather than everyone being stuck on their own individual devices. Zines are super empowering. They encourage you to express yourself and share what you think and it’s so important for us to share what we love about zines with people who might otherwise not know what a zine is.
How involved will the members of Dream Nails be across the various initiatives you are running?
It’s all hands-on deck at Dream Nails HQ making this huge project happen. All four of us are firing on all cylinders for the workshops, acoustic concerts, all ages shows, and making our second album. I would say that I’m leading the project in terms of the organisation side but we are all super passionate about Dreams of Revolution and really excited to be able to finally talk about it with everybody.
The funding for the project has come from the Arts Council in England, who have also funded the recording of your second album. How important is such funding for the Arts and do you have any advice for others who may want to propose similar projects in order to bring change to the music industry?
We didn’t have enough money to record our second album. So we think it is absolutely awesome that we’ve managed to persuade Arts Council England to fund with public money an unapologetically queer trans fronted record that is questioning the status quo. We probably wouldn’t have been able to afford to record that album otherwise to be honest. We know that funding for the arts has been slashed around the country. The Arts Council has had its funding cut as well. Not only that but the Conservatives have been pushing and moulding the Arts Councils agenda to fit their idea of what the arts should be and why the arts exist which is so completely wrong. Public funding for the Arts is essential otherwise you have a situation where the only people who can create art in a country are the ones that are wealthy. It’s to the detriment of all of us if that happens, yet it is already happening.
In terms of advice for others who might want to propose similar projects and bring around changes to the music industry themselves, we are all for it. Please just reach out. Our DMs are always open @dreamnailsband on our Instagram or you can get in touch via email. The main thing I’d say is that make sure you centre the people getting impacted, the people that you’re engaging with, with your project because its people first really. It’s not necessarily about the art form per se its much more about the change that you can bring about to peoples lives through the art. So that is a really good frame to start with. We’d love it if people were inspired by our project to do their own so please do reach out if that’s something you want to discuss.
For more information on Dreams of Revolution please check the website.
For more information on Dream Nails please check their facebook and instagram.