Hands Off Gretel are a three-piece Alternative Rock/ New Wave Grunge band formed in 2015 and hailing from South Yorkshire. The band consists of Lauren Tate (bass, vox), Sean Bon (guitar) and Sam Hobbins (drums). Their first album “Burn The Beauty Queen” was released in 2016 and after playing the launch party in Camden, Kate Nash commented “Hands Off Gretel are my new favourite everything”, while Garbage singer Shirley Manson tweeted “Lauren Tate is a superstar”. They are indeed the hottest thing to come out of South Yorkshire since The Balti Palace entered “Satan’s Revenge” in the 2014 Curry Of The Year competition, and they continue their rise up the greasy pole of fame unabated. I spoke to Lauren and Sam fresh from the studios where they’ve been laying down some new tracks.
Hiya guys, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to have a chinwag with us. You’ve recently been in the studios recording, is that for a full album.?
Lauren : Hi, yeah we recently recorded our second album at Monnow Valley Studios in Wales which was just amazing, I mean the studio itself is really cool and it’s got a wicked history but like the music we made in that room just cements what we’ve been working towards for the past few years and I’m so happy with it. It’s like we learnt so much from our first album. Everything just fell into place for this one. I think we are all pretty clear about what we want this one to sound like, it’s got to be heavy and sweet with a big production without losing that raw energy that our fans love.
Have you completed it? What is it called?
Sam: The tracks aren’t mixed yet but I’m so confident we will achieve what we want. We haven’t named the baby yet, sometimes it isn’t until I’ve got all the album artwork ready do I decide her name. We also don’t have a release date as of yet as we are gonna be sending it to lots of people and seeing what kind of interest we get from it first, fingers crossed aye!
A few months ago, HOG went from being a four-piece to being a three-piece. Are there any plans to revert to being a four-piece or are you happy with things as they are?
Sam : We were lucky to get help on the remainder of dates from Ben Savage and Becky Baldwin who were both great, we recorded the album as a three piece and shared duties on the bass which worked out well for us given time restraints and commitments, we’ll be going back to a four this year, we’ve already put the feelers out.
I read recently that you’d been approached by Simon Cowell’s people. That must’ve been a bit strange, what were your initial feelings about that, and what advice would you give to people that may be tempted by that route?
Lauren: Haha! Yes it was so crazy, I was contacted by Xfactor when I was super young and most young girls would jump at it because a lot of people are without songs and rely on these kind of shows to give them their voices in the world. I know for some people it’s totally worthwhile but if you want to sing your own songs and be your own person, shows like this aren’t really going to give you that platform. My advice to others is that there is no right or wrong answers with talent shows like this, you have to weigh up what you want and decide what’s most important but know that relying on others to give you fame and success makes you very vulnerable, you can be easily moulded, exploited and ultimately dropped whenever the next exciting singer comes along but for some it’s a risk they’re willing to take for the taste of celebrity without building it up organically in your own control. I said “Hell no” because the thought of singing dreadful electronic pop songs made me a little sick.
For bands starting out, should you go for a unique look/sound, or just be yourself?
Sam : I’m no expert but I think people can tell if something is being forced, so just being yourself would be my advice, everybody has their own quirks and styles you can play on, we all tend to be quite bright and colourful in everyday life so it worked well with the band’s image, as for the sound, I don’t think you can force anything, the sound will naturally develop as you do, if it’s unique or not shouldn’t really enter the equation as long as you’re giving it everything you’ve got.
Everything HOG does is DIY, so you guys have total control, but not the big bucks backing you up. That must mean your fans are very important to you, and not just numbers on a media site. How important do you feel it is for bands to mix with fans at gigs?
Lauren: It’s totally important especially in the early days you’ve got to thank everyone over and over because without them there is no way you could be doing what you’re doing. You gotta be so grateful for every person that turned up at your shows! It makes me sick when I see these little small fry bands sat backstage acting like they’re rockstars or something, it’s so unfair! Especially when you have no label and your fans are the only reason you are able to live out your dreams y’know.
And the songwriting Lauren? How do you go about that? Do you do it all yourself, or do other band members get involved in the creative process?
Lauren : I write the best stuff on my own really, I’ve tried times before to jam stuff out with band members previously in the hope we’d all agree but it’s never worked. We work best this way with me bringing the songs forward and the band turning it up to 11. We all throw stuff in creatively and share ideas in the studio but the songs are all written in my bedroom with either an acoustic guitar, electric or bass, I sometimes write songs drums first! With the new songs I’ve got vocal hooks and put the music around them and it’s worked a lot better to get the catchy side of us out.
Have you ever considered making a solo album, or is the band sound the one that suits you best? I’m guessing that there must be songs that don’t really fit in with the HOG sound.
I’d consider making solo albums because I have so many songs and some of them don’t suit Hands Off Gretel. Maybe it’s a thing for the future but right now I’m focusing all in on the band and with the new album I’ve done so much stuff vocally that I haven’t been able to do before I’m fully quenched by HOG and I don’t feel I’ve got to do my own thing to show off my voice or whatever.
You’ve played in Germany before, how did the band go down there?
Sam : Germany was amazing, loved every second, the people, hospitality, food, beer and country itself were brilliant, we had busy shows every night and made so many new friends.
Do you have any plans to play in Europe again.?
Sam : Everyone was so kind to us, we all definitely want to go back and fingers crossed we will!
What are you up to for the next few months?
Lauren : We’re taking time off from gigs to really focus on the album release planned for later in the year. Lots of videos planned, finding our new bass player and getting the new live set ready so we can really step it up all up a level in 2018.
You recently played at Pirate Studios in Salford, hosted by Northern Exposure for a chance to play The InMusic festival in Croatia on the same stage as Queens Of The Stone Age, how did the evening go, and how were you received by the audience? Do you think you made an impact on the night.?
Lauren : The night went down really well, we had so much fun! A load of our fans came down and I’m not gonna lie, they out-danced everyone. They went wild haha, we definitely won the craziest fan award and just having them all there cheering away just made me feel like whatever the verdict, I wasn’t going to cry because I was surrounded by people that loved us in that little room alone. I would have loved to win and play Croatia but it just wasn’t meant to be, but I really believe in fate and there must have been a reason. Maybe Sean would have died on the flight or something, choking on a packet of crisps. Pirate Studios was ace too, they’ve asked us back to do a session at some point and the folks at Northern Exposure we’re so supportive so really hope to do something with them again!
Thanks guys, catch you at a gig soon.
PHOTOS: MAL WHICHELOW PHOTOGRAPHY & TRUST A FOX PHOTOGRAPHY
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