Artist Insights

The great escape 2023

Posted: 23rd May 2023

For the last 17 years, Brighton and Hove have held the annual festival, The Great Escape. Hosting everything from spotlight shows to industry conferences, The Great Escape has something for everyone. This year the festival took place between the 10th and 13th of May and hosted names such as, Maisie Peters, The Pretenders, Arlo Parks and Witch Fever.  

Over the three-day period, Marshall showcased a line-up of over 15 artists on their own stage. Between sets, we were lucky enough to speak to Dream Nails and Cucamaras about where they came from, where they're going, and everything in between. 

Read time: 7 mins

dream nails

Dream Nails are part of a queer, punk counterculture ready to disrupt the world order. 

Fronted by trans performer Ishamel Kirby, the London four-piece has built a rep as one of the most vital bands in the UK. Think raw ferocity and rage but make it addictively ecstatic. With a steadfast commitment to fighting oppression in all forms, they’re igniting venues all over the UK and Europe. 

Dream Nails don’t just wear their politics on their sleeve; it reverberates through every fibre of their being, with unflinching observations on topics ranging from toxic masculinity and reproductive justice to celebrations of queer triumph.  

They've received adoration from the likes of BBC Radio 1's Jack Saunders, Radio 6's Steve Lamacq and Craig Charles, and Radio X’s John Kennedy. Their self-titled first album attracted critical acclaim from Kerrang!, NME, Clash and DIY. 

Whilst at The Great Escape Festival, we got the chance to have a chat with Ishmael, Anya, Mimi and Lucy to learn more about Dream Nails: where they came from and where they’re heading. 

How did you get into music? 

Mimi: I’ve always been surrounded by music and even grew up in a record store! I’ve been playing piano since I was a small child, then even when I moved from Canada to London I continued to play. I even went to university and studied piano performance! Once I’d graduated, I joined Dream Nails pretty much straight away – which is where I learnt how to play the bass.  

Lucy: Unlike Mimi, I grew up in a house in Harrow! I also started getting into music a lot later than Mimi, I didn’t really start until after university and I was about 22 years old, but I’d always loved music and been involved in the scene. I actually taught myself how to play the drums through just watching videos on YouTube. It quite funny now I look back at it, but I ended up joining Dream Nails after meeting Mimi on Gumtree.

Ishamel: I grew up around a lot of Jazz, Soul and Funk music in my home and I’ve just always loved music. I started in musical theatre, but I was simultaneously creating a lot of punk-inspired things in my other art. I loved to sing but never considered myself a good enough singer to take it on full-time in the musical theatre world so for me being able to be in Dream Nails has changed the way I see, and feel about, my own voice.  

Anya: My Mum was in one of the first feminist rock bands in the UK in the 70’s, so I also had a musical upbringing. I been playing in bands since I was tiny, but I’ve been in Dream Nails for the last eight years now! It’s been so amazing for me to be part of the band and bring everyone together.  

When did Dream Nails form? 

Anya: We formed in 2015, a bunch of us had met from Sisters Uncut – which is a feminist, activist group. Since then, the band have gone through a few changes but now we’ve evolved into what we are today, and this is where it’s at! 

What inspires you to make music? 
Ishamel: Community and politics are at the core of Dream Nails. I think that’s very clear when you look at our audience. Our politics are at the forefront of who we are, we’re unapologetic about that. That’s what fuels our songwriting and music making, we talk about things that we are worried about, things we’re passionate about or even things that bring us joy – we can draw inspiration from almost anywhere when it makes us feel something. It’s something that’s evolved with us as we’ve grown and gotten older and we see that as a gift, our music will grow with us throughout the years. 

Anya: The album that we have coming out later this year is feels so nuanced! 

Lucy: It’s definitely not ‘mature’ in the conventional sense but for us it’s developed sonically and emotionally.  

Anya: It’s like thoughtful, joyous and angry all at the same time... if that’s possible 

What can we look forward to in the future? 

Mimi: Oh, it’s so exciting! We have the first single of our second album coming out next month which we can't wait to share with you all! And then of course our second album later in the year. 

Lucy: And we’ve got some really big things upcoming! The future is so exciting for us, and we can't wait to share it all with you. 


Following on from the success of their previous releases and busy live schedule, Cucamaras are ready to take it up a step with their latest EP. 

The band, formed of Josh Hart, Ollie Bowley, Dan McGrath and Joe Newton have already developed a strong interest from their local scene in Nottingham, selling out The Bodega, in 2021. 

Taking inspiration from acts such as Fontaines D.C., Parquet Courts and Car Seat Headrest, Cucamaras’ latest EP demonstrates the expansion of the band’s direction. The band's latest EP also provides a peak into the future of Cucamaras. 

We got a chance to have a chat with Dan and Joe from the band as they share their top festival tips.

What tips would you give to someone who’s just starting out in music? 

Joe: Don’t overthink it! If something feels ridiculous, do it. Nine times out of ten that’s where all the good stuff comes from, sometimes it might feel like you’re pushing something too far but then you find something new and you stop and think... this is it, this is fresh, this is what we’ve been looking for. 

Dan: I have to agree with that. Just keep pushing whatever it is that you’re doing, whatever you’ve got is right it’s just about what you want. Sometimes finding that can take a bit of time but don’t let that scare you, just keep working at it.  

How did Cucamaras start? 

Joe: Me, Ollie and Josh know each other from when we were kids, so we've just been friends through that. Before Cucamaras me and Josh used to be in another band together and our bassist at the time left us, so we were on the hunt for someone else which is where Dan comes in! 

Dan: Yeah, so that’s how I joined and that was just before COVID so nearly 4 years ago now. Obviously with the pandemic my start with the band was really just a lot of writing, kind of knuckling down and getting things down whilst we had that chance - and now here we are. 

What’s been your favourite part about The Great Escape this year? 

Joe: Our set! 

Dan: Yeah, getting the chance to play was so fun. We've been very fortunate with that. But aside from that, we love being around a load of like-minded people. We all have normal jobs day-to-day, so it's nice coming to a place like this where we’re seeing people from every part of the industry and being able to chat to people and getting the chance to meet people. 

Joe: I think it's just nice to have the opportunity to go out and speak to people who you'd probably never speak to anywhere else really - or it'd be a complete coincidence if you did! 

What’s your number one piece of festival advice? 

Dan: Get to venues early - as early as you can! 

Joe: We’ve been stung by that one too many times already... 

What can we look forward to in the future? 

Joe: We’re going to be gigging a lot 

Dan: Yeah. We’ve got our new EP out so we’re going to be out playing that a lot and we’ll see where we can go from there.