South Yorkshire band Hands Off Gretel deal in 90’s Grunge swagger, deliver riotous live shows and have enough bubblegum hooks to scale the top of the charts baby! It’s no surprise to find their Pledge Campaign for sophomore long player ‘I Want The World’ currently sits at a staggering 230%. Not bad for a relatively unknown and completely independent band.
We caught up with lead riot grrl Lauren Tate to get the lowdown on all things pink and girly and find out exactly what she’s been up to, locked up in her bedroom all these years.
Your pledge campaign reached 100% in under 24 hours. Were you expecting such a quick response? Ah, dude! It was crazy, we were all sat hitting refresh every second, it was so exciting! I’ve teased the album for a while; people were ready and willing to pre-order it. I was blown away that we hit it so fast though, it really gives me so much hope for the future of independent music.
Your new album is entitled ‘I Want The World’ …so what’s the message there then? ‘I Want The World’ is about how I’ve felt since I was a little girl. I’ve always felt shushed and muted, with everyone always telling me to shut up or stop being unrealistic, leaving me constantly thinking of ways to give everyone who doubted me or ridiculed me the middle finger.
‘I Want The World’ feels like my rebellion. I’m chewing gum, I’m not smiling because someone told me to, I’m not just being a nice pretty girl, I’m fucking angry sometimes and I deserve more, be it friendships or respect from others without being patronized. ‘I Want The World’ to me, means ‘I deserve more than this world is gonna give me and I’m gonna kick and scream until I get what I want’!
You’ve always been an independent DIY band, handling all the artwork, design and even producing the videos. Why choose now to go down the PledgeMusic route? The Pledge route to me is the best way for independent artists to self-release their music. It shows there is demand for your music, that your fans believe in you without needing a label to put it out for you. With Pledge too, you’re giving fans exclusive content. You can get personal with them, which would never be an option signed under a label. I’m not saying getting signed is a bad thing, I think if you’re wanting to be world famous it’s easier to be signed than it is to get there independently. But until the right deal comes along on my terms, I have no interest in searching for a record label.
Recent singles ‘Kiss Me Girl’ and ‘S.A.S.S.’ suggest a more commercial direction and a definite sense of stepping things up a level. Was this the intention when setting out to write the album? The first album I ever wrote was our first album. Before then I’d written a few acoustic songs here and there, but I’d never done an album before. Since that point in 2017 I’ve learnt so much about myself playing live and working with song formulas, that this time around I was just naturally better at composing songs. I knew more about what kind of artist I was too, without worrying about what anyone else wanted me to be. Songs like ‘Kiss Me Girl’ and ‘S.A.S.S’ came to me almost instantly, it was a very natural progression for me mixing more of a melodic pop sound with distorted heavy fuzz guitars, creating the newer sound we have now.
You’ve gone through a few line-up changes in the past, which is not unusual for an upcoming band finding their feet. Going by recent performances, you are certainly at your strongest live right now. With the addition of Becky on bass, does it feel like the band are now a cohesive unit? Yeah, I mean it’s bound to happen within bands. I’ve always been honest, I wear my heart on my sleeve and if anything feels wrong I gotta speak up about it. I think people who judge bands for having lots of line-up changes should try spending tour after tour with the same people without going nuts. You find out very fast if you can spend that much time with another human and with us, whenever anyone has left the band, it’s always made the line-up stronger because you can’t force something that just isn’t meant to be.
You recently toured with The Virginmarys, how did you go down with their fan base and were their fans even aware of Hands Off Gretel before seeing you live? Weirdly, we had a load of cross-over fans I didn’t even know about. I was announcing us each night imagining nobody knew us, but the majority of the crowd knew the songs. We picked up loads of new fans from those shows, it was a blast. The Virginmarys boys and their tour crew were lovely; we were saying we would defo do some shows with them again.
What’s your favourite venue to play? I’d say one of my favourite is my hometown venue The Old School House in Barnsley. The stage is a great size, same with the room and the sound rocks! We’ve played plenty of shows there which always sell out.
Lauren, you have become a bit of a role model for alternative girls, tackling issues in your lyrics that the mainstream avoids and advocating women being authentic, strong and true to themselves. Still, in this day and age, there is a lack of truly great female fronted rock ‘n’ roll bands out there. Why do you think this is and do Hands Off Gretel have the power to help change this? Sure, yeah. It’s always great to motivate and inspire young women. Growing up, I looked up to my biggest role model P!nk and I held onto her every word. She changed my life and she’ll never know that. It’s small changes that change the world, one individual at a time. I believe yes, 100%, I alone can contribute to a better future for girls and boys.
All my life I’ve been talked down to by ‘authority figures’ and teachers and made to feel like I couldn’t achieve even a quarter of what I have up to now. I’ve played with lots of women in bands, they are everywhere in the underground scene, just ready and waiting to break out to the mainstream rock stations and festival line-ups that still are mostly all-male bands. I think everyone realises now, with social media being a wonderful platform, that there is inequality still to challenge in society, and as long as people continue to speak out about this and create platforms for these passionate, angry women to have a voice, the world will have no choice but to listen.
You’ve had abuse from girls in the past online, but do you ever get heckled at gigs, and if so what’s the weirdest experience? I’ve had abuse from everyone online! It just hurts like hell when it’s a girl because I believe so passionately that women should bring each other up. People love to believe I’m a bitch, I think they really want me trip up and fall flat on my face because things are going well for me. I’ve had it all my life with teachers and kids at school, I’ve done this independently for so long without any mentoring or help. I know all eyes are on me when it comes to trolls and haters online and I’m determined to prove them wrong. Haha YES!!
One time this man wanted to buy pictures of my feet for $500, but he wanted me to give him a free sample, then he intensely stalked me and created multiple profiles attacking me with insults and threats online because I said I didn’t want to suck my own toes for money, that was weird haha! Gigs are alright though; I think the biggest stalkers and dick pic charmers prefer to stay behind the keyboard!
What was the best year for music in your lifetime? I pretty much missed all the ones my dad talks about seeing, as I wasn’t born until ‘97. It gives me hope though, I feel sorry for kids growing up having to listen to their parents banging on about the good old days. Sure the music back then was raw and brilliant and most of my favourite bands never made it past 1999, but I’m focused entirely on the current time and this generation of music because this is my generation. I’m so excited when I hear amazing bands that nobody knows about, being in a crowd of 10 watching something spectacular before everyone else knows about it.
At what point after you were born did you discover who you were? Probably around 14 years old, when I chopped off all my hair and started listening to The Distillers. Before that point I was totally lost, trying to be popular, trying to fit in listening to N-DUBZ, I was so chavvy it’s unreal. I cut off my hair and became hated at school, it was the most freeing thing I’ve ever done.
When you hear the word ‘successful’, what comes to mind? I think of being in a position where I don’t have to suck anyone’s wrinkled balls to get what I want. I mean, I’d never do that hahaha but I think of success meaning ‘I am now a boss bitch’, I think of finally being respected by those that have ignored me in the past and continuing to be authentic, making a living off my own self-built empire.
If you could have a drink with anyone alive or dead, who would it be and what would you drink? I’d sit in my music room with Freddie Mercury and ask him what his last thoughts were as he died. Did he feel quenched by his life, did he reach his goal? I obsess over death, it’s my biggest driving force because I’m so afraid of my time being up and not being finished with my creations. We’d drink a little vodka and cry together.
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Author: Ben Hughes