Hands Off Gretel – Interview

Hands Off Gretel are a British punk band that have been making waves recently – they’ve got a UK tour coming up very shortly (keep your eyes peeled for a review of the Sheffield date), so we decided it would be a good opportunity to have a chat with vocalist Lauren Tate. See how I got on below!

By Jane Howkins

Hello! How are you?

I’m good. My mum actually didn’t tell me I was doing this interview until about ten minutes ago so it’s a good job I’m dressed (laughs), she likes to just spring them on me! I was doing quite a few, but yeah when I saw I was doing an interview I was like “Oh my god, what if I’ve forgotten what to do?”

You’ll be fine! So you’ve recently announced a new tour for autumn this year, it’s been rescheduled a few times. Are you excited to finally be getting out there on the road again?

So excited! It feels strange, it’s still quite scary going out there with covid and everything, but with it being rescheduled so many times we’re just itching to do it. I feel like a caged animal and I have so much energy to give to the tour, so yeah, I’m looking forward to it.

Excellent! Is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to playing?

I really enjoy London. See this is hard, because sometimes there are times when I think there are certain gigs that are gonna be better than others, but then sometimes the smaller gigs really surprise me, where it’s not about how many people are there. You can just land in a certain venue at a certain time and just have this energy, so I don’t pick favourites. I don’t have a particular favourite that I’m looking forward to, but equally I’m looking forward to them all.

Would you ever consider doing any socially distanced gigs – Is that something you’d be interested in, or do you think it would take away from the feel of the gig?

Yeah, I would, I’d be up for doing it. We haven’t done any of those because now we’re back out performing again, I think that’s gone and no one seems to be socially distancing anymore, but I would do socially distanced gigs. It would be very strange, but at the same time I understand.

Do you think the pandemic has hindered the work of the band much or has it helped, for example by giving you more time to write music at home?

I think it’s given all musicians a break to focus on the writing and the creation and I love that, I’ve enjoyed the break to write and not focus on gigs, it gives me more time to be creative. But for the rest of my band members, they’ve not had that time to create as I write the songs, so they’re itching to get out and start playing again as that’s what they do, that’s their job. All of them have said throughout lockdown that they’ve had very little to do because of that, so I’ve been lucky, but not everyone has been as lucky as me to be able to have a studio to write in. I have a home studio so I’m lucky that I have that.

Have you managed to use the internet to jam or collaborate much?

No, we haven’t tried that. We’ve had a few practices and we’ve had to relearn all the songs as it’s been 18 months since we’ve played them, so relearning the songs has been interesting and we’ve thrown a few new ones in there too, so finally being able to practice again has been good.

You’re originally from Barnsley, is that right? Do you still live there?

Yes.

What’s the local music scene like there, are there any local bands that you can recommend?

I don’t know, I’m not really part of the local scene in Barnsley. I don’t really know many bands from Barnsley, it’s very hard for us to find local bands when we do play shows in Barnsley. See I’ll say this and there will be local bands in Barnsley reading this that are like “What about me?” but I don’t know much about the Barnsley scene, I’ve never really been part of it. We’ve probably spent more time in London than we have in Barnsley, meeting people in London, Sheffield, Leeds, that side of things.

I guess those places are where the music and bigger bands are, rather than Barnsley.

Yes!

So, if people come and see you live, what can they expect from one of your shows. What is the atmosphere like?

Well, like I said I am a caged animal, so I have so much energy to give out. I always prioritise women’s safety at gigs, we want it to be a safe place where people can just be themselves. It’s a great atmosphere at a Hands Off Gretel gig where you can just be what you want, enjoy yourselves, and make a lot of noise – we are all just very insane, we’re just crazy.

I’ve seen that you’ve spoken before about the treatment of women within the music industry, do you think that’s something that’s changing or has changed over the last few years?

The gigs are starting up again, I’ve only played two gigs so far so I will let you know later on. I really hope so, if anything more people are talking about it – there’s a conversation happening, whereas before there weren’t many people talking about it, so hopefully there’s been change but I am yet to see proof that there is. I gotta see it happen to believe it’s really happening.

I’ll ask you again after the tour maybe! You released the Angry EP last year which got some good reviews. What can you tell our readers about the EP if they’ve not listened to it yet?

Well, the name is quite self-explanatory, it is an ‘angry EP.’ And the sound, I wanted it to capture our live sound a lot, so it’s got a lot of the aggression, it’s quite raw. It’s produced to a high level, but it’s also very raw. I wanted it to capture a really 90s sound, with my influences being Hole and Nirvana and bands like that. The songs are very much about women’s rights and women’s issues so there will be subjects on there speaking about sexual harassment and rape – they’re just powerful songs, they’re angry songs.

Have you got a new album or EP coming out soon, or is it too soon for that yet?

I’ve been writing a lot but there are no plans as of yet. Everything’s gone a bit crazy, everything’s gone out of order – the tour was supposed to be finished by now, we were supposed to be onto the next chapter but with the tour being delayed it’s delayed the new album quite a bit. I’m writing songs but there are no dates or plans yet.

Have you got any singles planned for release or are you in the same boat there?

Well, we were talking about getting some singles out and new music videos because I love filming the music videos, so that is something that will be coming out soon.

How soon, can you tell us?

No, there is no date just yet. We’re fantasising about what we can do but with covid everything’s been held back so many times we haven’t been able to actually put a date to anything just yet. Like the tour, we still (fingers crossed!) hope this tour happens and still don’t know for sure.

Well hopefully it does!

I think it will.

Now you’re obviously quite political, a lot of your songs have political subjects and you’ve spoken in length in interviews about things like that before. Are there any particular political causes that you’re interested in at the moment, or anything you’d like to draw attention to?

All I ever really talk about is women’s rights and veganism. Being vegan, I’ve only got one song about veganism which is called Milk, which is about animal exploitation. That’s what I’m really passionate about and I want to do more with, do more for. So that and women’s rights – there’s so much that I want to do, there’s so much that I care about like the environment – I really care about that but I’m yet to include that in a song, but I shall do. My focus now is everything I care about, that’s what I want to write about.

You also perform under your alter ego Delilah Bon – why did you decide to start performing solo and why did you decide those songs weren’t right for the band?

I think because with Delilah Bon I record all the instruments myself, I produce it myself, it’s all very much within my own little bubble – I like to keep it that way, I like it to just be mine. With the style it’s different as well – I do rap with hip-hop and punk and it’s a different genre to Hands Off Gretel so that’s kind of like my little experimental baby, I can do whatever I want with that and there’s no pressure and I really enjoy that. I’ll always need to do different things, I can’t just do one thing – I can’t just stick with doing the band or the solo stuff, I have to have multiple genres and multiple projects because I’m an artist, so I like to do everything.

So, you must have some quite wide influences apart from the punk stuff, are you into a lot of different styles of music?

I started out listening to Britney and Christina Aguilera and girl bands, Kylie Minogue, that sort of thing. I moved over to Pink and then I started listening to my dad’s music, so it was like AC/DC and Whitesnake , but from then I found my own style – I found Janis Joplin and then I found punk, The Distillers and Brody Dalle, Hole, those kinds of bands like Bikini Kill. And now I’m going back to listening to a lot of older music – like Christina Aguilera, I’m listening to her a lot again. I’m listening to a lot of rap I’ve not listened to before like Lil’ Kim and Rico Nasty – I really like her. So many, I like to keep it exciting and just listen to new things because I get bored of the same thing.

So, going back to Delilah Bon, where did the name come from for that, I’m quite curious?

Well, I knew I had to call it something else as I’ve already realised music under my own name Lauren Tate. But this style of music didn’t match so I wanted a fresh start – I always knew that I wanted to call my baby Delilah Moon Bon – I decided that Delilah Bon would be my movie star child that I imagined in my mind, and then when I couldn’t think of a name I thought “I’m just going to have to steal my baby’s name”, so that’s how I ended up with the name Delilah Bon. I used one of those machines on Google where you type in two different names and it picks a choice for you, so I typed in Princess Puppy (which is another name I had in my mind which I’m so glad I didn’t use) and Delilah Bon and Google picked Delilah Bon so there we go.

So, have you got a different name lined up for your child now?

Yeah, I’m gonna have to!

Have you got any tour dates lined up for the Delilah Bon stuff or are you just focusing more on Hands Off Gretel for now?

I haven’t done any gigs as Delilah Bon yet, but the first gig is in February, I’m playing the Drown You Out Festival, it’s a Slam Dunk festival but it’s a new festival for hip-hop. I will be doing a tour for Delilah Bon next year. Everything for Delilah Bon is next year, my focus for this year is Hands Off Gretel.

That’s pretty much it, is there anything you’d like to say?

I don’t think so, I feel like I should say something else, but I think that’s maybe it. If I had an album coming out, I’d have more to say!