We recently had the opportunity to speak to Lauren from up-and-coming punk band Hands Off Gretel, who have had an exciting couple of years! See how it went below…
By Jane Howkins
You recently released a new single and video called Milk. What can you tell us about that, for those who haven’t heard / seen it yet?
It took me 4 years to write about animal rights. It’s been something I’m so passionate about but never knew how to put into words really. The song is about exploitation and in many ways, applies to women in the same way as it applies to actual animals being seen as ‘just a body’ or a ‘piece of meat’. The video had to portray the right amount of gore and Marilyn Manson style discomfort to get my point across visually, focusing a lot on animal testing and the meat industry with myself and Becky etched with meat cut markings before being covered in blood. Punk rock should always have a message and for me it’s got nothing to do with how you sound, it’s delivering your truth knowing not everyone will agree with you, fighting for the voiceless and, as a woman, speaking up when people expect you to stay quiet.
The theme of the track is animal exploitation. Are we right in thinking that you’re quite politically minded with your music? Is there anything you would like to highlight here?
I always said I wasn’t political. I think all music is political in a way, especially when it comes to social issues. I always thought being political meant writing about the government but nowadays I think it’s more so having an opinion that’s gonna make people think. Writing about veganism and singing about women’s rights and safety at our shows, speaking about body positivity and female empowerment have all being dividing topics for me with people either loving or hating that I address these things. Some people want you to sing nice songs and others want you to start a revolution. I’ve always been more interested in the revolution side of things, using my platform whenever I can.
You released an album last year called I Want the World, which we absolutely loved! We know you have the new EP, but have you thought yet about releasing another full-length album?
I’ll release one when I’ve written one. Haha! A third album is always scary and there are expectations this time that we need to smash. There’s no rush to release the album until I’m convinced it’s going to exceed the last one so I’m gonna take some time to really think about what it is the next era of Hands Off Gretel will be. It’s very exciting!
What can you tell us about I Want the World, and what should people expect from it upon first listen?
I’d describe it as heavy grunge 90s alternative rock-influenced bubblegum pop with a mouldy cherry on top. I wanted it to contrast styles with harmonies and screaming with fuzz guitars flowing between heavy and sweet. Lyrically, it addresses loneliness, feminism, feeling like an outcast, exploitation and battling through high school.
You’ve recently released The Angry EP. What can you tell us about that, and is anger the theme of the EP?
Anger is definitely the theme. I spoke out on social media after our tour in 2019 about the inappropriate behaviour of some men coming to the shows who were kissing, touching and harassing myself and Becky each night on and off stage. I had backlash from guys claiming it was because of how we were dressed, that in skimpy outfits we were ‘asking for it’ and that as female musicians it was part of the job description to have to deal with sexism and being groped by ‘excited fans’. After all this kicked off I decided to take some of my angriest songs into the studio and themed the entire tour around safe gigs for women and getting angry about how I was made to feel last year. So far, I’ve noticed such a shift in energy at my shows now people know we aren’t gonna stand for that shit.
You’ve just started a new and very lengthy UK and Irish tour. Are you excited? And is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to along the way?
Yeah, Ireland was great, Dublin and Belfast in particular, and it was great to see so many new faces especially the young girls. We’re really excited for the tour. Most dates are close to selling out too which is awesome! The best part for me is meeting the fans and hearing their stories. I get so many messages from fans afterwards, especially the young girls, saying how the shows inspired them so much to start bands and make art. It’s really beautiful what I’ve been able to do for these women coming out to our shows, as people don’t realise how much some of us need that safe space.
What can the audience expect from Hands Off Gretel gigs? Have you changed anything about your stage show since the last time you toured?
We are really giving a raw energy this time round, playing more of our heavier songs. It’s been great to see the number of women coming out to shows because we haven’t had that before as most gigs I’ve been to have been mostly male dominated especially, when it comes to girl bands. It’s always been a mission of mine to connect with more likeminded grrrls who wanna see a punk show without getting thrown to the back and I feel like it’s finally happening.
What are your thoughts on the current punk scene in the UK, what sort of music influences you, and what have you been listening to recently?
I’m not too much involved in any scene, especially after the past few years I’ve never found I fit in anywhere, which is something I’m learning to embrace. The punk scene is different wherever you go, I love what Idles are doing and Dream Wife, and I love Nova Twins, for me there’s a real lack of women of colour in the rock world and young girls need that badass representation!
You’re from Yorkshire, hailing from Barnsley. What is the local music scene like there, and are there any up and coming bands that you can recommend?
It’s weird that we do so well in my hometown because growing up I never felt part of it or identified with any music scene. There’s no alternative scene here, only indie so when people come out to see us it’s so refreshing. We played the biggest venue in our town and the owner said how blown away he was that we could sell so many tickets as an original band because people usually only paid to see cover bands.
Finally, any last words for your fans?
Yep! See you all on the tour! Let’s have the wildest time together and live in the moment leaving social media and stresses of the real world behind. Our shows are a safe space for everyone, we are trying to create something really special and we are so proud of the strong community we are growing this year combating sexual harassment at shows and celebrating a new era of punk rock grrrl rage music! Grab your tickets before they sell out!