When I meet up with feminist punk duo True Dreams at drummer Hannah Nichols’ Brooklyn apartment, they’re wearing what they call their “uniforms”: black school girl skirts, leather harnesses, and crisp white Dickies button downs, each emblazoned with half of the band’s logo: Nichols’ shoulder says “TRUE” and guitarist Angela Carlucci’s says “DREAMS” in a slimey green font with pink stars Carlucci embroidered herself. It’s a twisted take on the “Best Friends” necklaces girls trade with their gal pals in grade school, each half of the necklace a broken heart that connect to the other whenever said besties reunite. Nichols and Carlucci are very much two halves of a whole, their friendship the gooey glue that holds their band together; on their forthcoming LP No. 1, you can hear it pulse in their call-and-response vocals, shouting out supportive messages to one another (and to anyone else that might need to hear them).
“A big part of our band is our friendship,” Nichols says. “We’re best friends – [Angela] is like a sister to me. You can’t separate the two.” They co-write everything, and Carlucci says the act of writing together is a huge adrenaline rush. “We really try to make it 50-50,” she says. “There’s no one leading.” The egalitarian approach is rooted in their political ideals, which make their way into the songs as well.
Carlucci and Nichols met at a video shoot for an ex-boyfriend’s band, back when Nichols was just beginning to learn drums on an electronic kit in her living room. Carlucci had already been involved with a number of anti-folk bands, most notably with duo The Baby Skins and as a backup singer with Herman Düne, as well as releasing solo work under the moniker Little Cobweb. As the two became close, they realized making music together was the next step, and punk music felt the most accessible. “Growing up listening to punk bands was what made me want to play drums,” Nichols says. “[Punk] is fairly easy to pick up; it’s simple when you’re first starting out. It was what I wanted to do and what I was capable of.”
Carlucci says “as soon as I learned Hannah was learning to play I was already scheming” to get a band going, but it took a while for Nichols to feel confident enough to do so. They formed True Dreams about four years ago, and the project is now beginning to bear fruit – they released a three-song EP in 2016, and slightly re-mastered versions of those songs will appear on their forthcoming full-length No. 1, out Novembver 22 on King Pizza Records in Brooklyn and Lousy Moon Records in Frankfurt, Germany. Audiofemme is pleased to premiere its first single and title track, “No. 1.”
“No. 1” is an excellent introduction to the album, a delightfully lo-fi affair recorded mostly live in a few days at their friend Frankie Sunswept‘s New Hampshire studio. The single quickly gets to the heart of what the band is all about; its jangly guitar riffs show off the duo’s DIY garage rock influences like Shannon & the Clams and Bratmobile. “It’s made to feel empowering,” Carlucci says. “It’s about getting dumped and owning the bad feelings around being dumped, feeling that thing that happens in New York where you feel really alone and lonely but there’s people right next to you on the subway.”
Carlucci’s verses dial up the snotty factor when she sneers “I am my own horror show” and laments “Why is it so hard to find somebody who will call me No. 1?” Nichols chimes in her support with a deadpan echo of Carlucci’s inner monologue (“Never should’ve left you!” she agrees as Carlucci bemoans the end of a relationship). “[My vocal] is kind of calling the person out on treating me bad, and [Hannah] is basically like, ‘Yeah what she said!’ like a team or something,” Carlucci says. “That’s how it goes down with your best friend when you get dumped,” Nichols adds with a laugh.
There are a couple of songs on the LP of a similar theme: the contemplative “Across Your Arm” and seething surf-rocker “The Scum” both express frustration with being taken for granted. Though these frustrations feel acutely personal, there are just as many moments on the LP that express frustration with society at large. Whether it’s the rollicking, tongue-in-cheek “Female Artists” or the incensed “Please Sir,” (Nichols warns: “If you were born a woman you better act sweet/We’ll save you a piece, We’ll save you a seat” and Carlucci spits back, “Everything I’ve suffered for and all that I’ve achieved/doesn’t mean shit when you’re a piece of meat!”), these songs demand respect when it’s lacking without feeling heavy-handed – more like complaining about the state of the world to a girlfriend than excoriating the patriarchy. “I feel like the act of creating this band is sort of a feminist statement in a way,” Nichols says. “It feels good to scream.”
Even if the band’s feminist anthems are cathartic to perform, their casual delivery is all in the spirit of fun. “We play music to have a good time,” Nichols explains. “We’re not here to like, try and be self righteous or condemn other people. We want to open up a conversation; we want people to have fun when they see us. It’s like… we could be your friends, but also, shut the fuck up and listen to us.”
In other words, True Dreams is not looking to alienate anyone, just state their piece. “If you’re trying to connect to people and have them hear what you’re saying, singling them out or telling them they suck is not gonna get anyone to hear it,” Carlucci points out. “It’s a little bit scary, but I’d be happy to talk with anyone who felt negative about it.” Their biggest goal is to inspire young women, particularly those keen to start their own bands (because “There aren’t enough, aren’t enough FEMALE ARTISTS!” as the two sing on “Female Artists”). “Music was so important to me [as a teenager],” Carlucci says. “I would love to somehow influence women or girls, especially ones in high school, feeling left out or different and not really knowing where they fit in [to start their own bands].”
For now, the pair live double lives – Carlucci as a baker and Nichols as a barber – and rock out on short weekend tours. But they’ve got big plans; in February, they’re off to Europe to play shows in Belgium, France, Germany, and possibly more. They’re having a blast – like their mutual heroes The Ramones – with making music, but what drives them day to day is knowing that they’re at the forefront of a progressive sea change. “The world is really changing right now in a tangible way and I feels good to part of it,” Carlucci says “We’re with the change, adding our part to it, and that’s awesome.”
True Dreams’ No. 1 is out via King Pizza/Lousy Moon Records on November 22. Pre-order the cassette here and RSVP for their record release show at Alphaville on 11/23.