Strong and fresh but at the same time nostalgic of 90's Riot Grrrl, we are properly impressed with Hands Off Gretel.
Perfectly placed to make a Mary-Jane shaped dent in 2016 Lauren Tate oozes charisma with an attitude drenched Brody-like tone to her vocals that twists into full-on Courtney husky growls.
Both strong and delicate are the absolute epitomy of Riot Grrrl to us. The Kinderwhore fashion, the Grungey unfazed shoegaze feeling to the songs and jangly chords that inevitably descend into empassioned screams are all brought to life by Hands Off Gretel.
We had a chat to Lauren this week, check it out below:
Hey Lauren, thanks for taking the time to chat to us!
Hey! Thank you! This is my first interview of the year so thanks for wanting to talk to me. I’m a super excited girl right now with all the plans this year!
The band launched in February 2015 with the 3 track EP "Be Mine", so has this been a project in the pipeline for a while, you seem really well put together for being pretty new?
I think the reason it’s worked so well is because everything went wrong in my solo band before that. I really wanted to front a band instead as I find it’s a lot easier to be enthusiastic about your music if you can say “listen to my band” not “listen to me”. How I wanted the music to sound and how I wanted everything to look was already all planned out. I found my only stumbling point was finding people who trusted in my vision, without being called a control freak that doesn’t know what she’s doing. People do find it hard to be told what to do by an 18 year old girl. I truthfully don’t know 100% what I’m doing, I just know that commercial music sickens me now. I find I’m living in the past listening to old bands like a lot of other young people that never had it, trying to find this certain energy in music that certainly isn’t being played on the radio. I’ve made it a mission of mine to become the band I’ve been waiting for. When I write my music I’m the perfect judge. I simply ask myself “Would I listen to it?” and if the answer is yes I know I’m on the right track, I know what I’m doing. People always remind me that I’m young, that I’m not as experienced as them. It just really annoys me because I see what they’re doing and I don’t want that; I want quite the opposite. I’m inspired by what was and I think a lot of people like me are just waiting to feel enthusiastic about current music again.
What started you off on your musical journey, was there anything in particular that first turned you on to music in a big way?
I decided to be a singer when I realised it was the only thing I was good at. I just hated the idea of everything else. I hated school, I hated the boxes they put us in, how they made us all feel dumb and ‘underachieving’. I couldn’t concentrate on school or even bring myself to listen. I’d just rip pages from my school books and draw myself on stage in different costumes, fantasising that one day I wouldn’t have to spend dinner time alone in the toilets with overflowing tampon bins any more. I only ever got praise when I sang. It wasn’t until I’d been banned from singing at school at 14 did I realise that I didn’t want to be a shy, soft-sung singer any more. I had a lot of frustration in me, built up from the expectation of what a young girl should be. I was sick of being lumped into a box. Girls had threatened to hit me after the show… I didn’t really understand why, but I guess sometimes jealously is enough of a reason for people to justify being mean. So as I played on stage they laughed at me, trying to make me feel intimidated and stupid as I sang. That’s when I realised the power of the stage and the power of being the loudest voice in the room. I raised my middle finger up at them and was banned from performing at school. That’s when I found music was meant for me. When I realised its power.
How about your creative process, what really inspires you to create particular songs?
I’m inspired when I listen to really bad music. Yesterday for example, we drove in the van for almost six hours listening to nothing but commercial pop radio stations and by the time I had returned home I was raring to write. My mum and I just kept looking at each other after every song had finished saying “Who buys this stuff?” When all I hear everyday on the radio are the same rotating repetitive pop songs I feel the buzz inside me to create my music. I’m also inspired when I listen to really good music, like when I close my eyes and listen to The Gits and I try and put my finger on what it is I like about it. It’s the rawness of it all, the damage and pain in the vocals, the honesty in the lyrics and angst in the guitars. It’s what resonates with me the most. I want people to feel me in my music and believe that it’s all genuine, that I’m not selling out.
You have a great D.I.Y. ethic with all your hand drawn merch, it really gives the band a great personality and connection to your audience, does it take a great deal of energy to put out your material exactly as you want it?
I love the D.I.Y part of the band. I’ve designed a whole new bunch of stuff for the album crowd funder in a few months. It takes up a lot of time, but I’m so proud of it. I draw all of the designs for the merchandise. I just love knowing people wear my pictures, that’s just so cool! I really like being able to say everything is hand designed. Fans then feel more connected to you when they support you through buying your merch. Hands Off Gretel is more of a brand than just a band to me. I get creative with much more than the music.
L7 and Babes In Toyland both reformed last year and showed us they can still kick serious ass. How do you think you bring a new edge to the scene?
I saw both of them live last year. It was incredible to be there. Jack Off Jill reformed too! I couldn’t believe my luck. It’s what I needed to really kick myself into gear. I saw these bands that I loved, 25 years later, playing to young screaming fans and it really inspired me to see that people really missed the angry obnoxious women in music like I did. I think the world is lacking in strong female individuals. Girls like me need someone to look up to. Someone to relate to. My music is inspired by bands like Babes In Toyland and L7, but I know my music is for a whole new generation of Riot Grrls and boys; the ones who missed out on the movement like I did. From the bands I love I’ve gained the confidence to make music just the way I want to. To shout out and be loud without feeling I should be a sweeter, softer kind of girl. The album reflects this feeling more than anything. I think I need to be a loud mouth girl of this generation, singing about my experiences. I think there’s a real lack of it. It’s like young people are too afraid people will tell them to turn their amps down and stop shouting. To sing properly and learn to play Jimi Hendrix solos. Girls rebelled in the 90's, music was like their weapon and their shield. Riot Grrrl is a huge inspiration to me, the whole movement just gives me tingles. I think it’s needed again, but stronger this time. It’s been far too long.
How do you see the music scene generally in 2016. Is there anything you would change if you had a chance?
Yeah. I would probably change all of it. There are so many bands I find that are unknown, that are just so cool but not commercial enough for mainstream radio. I think I’m mostly annoyed by how rock music has become so commercial and cheesy over the past few years. My younger sister listens to all these pop rock boy bands all the time in her room and I just can’t believe they’re being considered punk. I’ve got my hopes in the unknown ‘too cool for school’ bands that aren’t getting the recognition they should be. I just want to scoop them all up in my hands and plan a world takeover.
If you had to pick out one icon in music to celebrate who who it be and why?
I’d pick Amanda Palmer. She’s awesome. I read her book all about the art of asking and ultimately getting what you want with the help of others without feeling bad. I love everything about that woman. I’m inspired massively by the fact she doesn’t have a label, that she is entirely funded by her fans to make music directly for her fans. She even arranges events to sign her book and cuddle. How cool is that? She has so much trust and connection with her supporters. I think it’s wonderful. It’s a big thing for me to connect and properly thank people. I spend most of my spare time replying to every comment on social media, making sure people feel valued.
If you had to describe each band member (including yourself) in 3 words only … what would they be?
That is so hard! Okay… Me: Bossy, Bipolar, Ambitious. Sean: Bonkers, Perfectionist, Know-It-All. Sam: Mental, ambitious, multi-instrumentalist.
What's next for Hands Off Gretel? We hear you have an album in the pipeline … maybe also a UK tour soon?
Yes! We are heading off to Wales to record our first ever album on the 30th Jan, I am so excited! I feel that the world is yet to hear what Hands Off Gretel is really about. I’m confident this album shows off our dynamic and captures the noise I’ve been creating in my room for so long. We do plan to tour the UK, yes! Although I would love to play outside the UK this year too depending on how well the album goes. Fingers crossed!
Anything else we need to know about Hands Off Gretel?
I’ll tell you a little about the song ‘My Size’. This was one of the first I wrote and it’s about this feeling I had when I was younger. I would sit for hours as a kid playing with my dolls with my sister, probably the oldest kid I knew at school that still played with them, refusing to throw them away. I remember the feeling I had when my mum would shout me down for dinner… How I’d grit my teeth because I didn’t want to leave the imaginary game I had going on. I got really into my imaginary games; it was hard for me to let go of that world, knowing I was growing up, admitting I was too old to play any more. The song is about how real that world was to me, how even now I remember the names of every doll and I remember every story I played out with them. The song is about knowing the adults will never understand, that they will never see what I see. That’s how I saw it when I was younger, when my mum would tell me to tidy up. It’s a refusal to grow up. It’s a frustration that I felt. It felt really good to smash up the dolls house at the end of the video. I’m like a pissed off little girl. I prefer how children get annoyed, how they stamp their feet, how they stick out their tongue… that’s what it’s all about for me.
Check out the new single released today below!