It’s very rare that you come across a ready to go superstar but thats exactly what fierce front-woman Lauren Tate from Sheffield based new-wave grunge, rock band Hands Off Gretel is and there is just no other way to describe her. Successfully combining vulnerability and volatility, she together with the band, who are composed of Sean Bon on guitar, Sam Hobbins playing drums and Becky Baldwin on bass, together, are literally a time bomb waiting to go off.
I first met and saw the band perform when they got through to the final five bands at our competition at Pirate Studios to win a place on the InMusic festival in Croatia and was blown away by Lauren’s magnetic energy and charisma on and off stage – not to mention her amazing raspy voice. The band are currently picking up real momentum with their latest track ‘Kiss Me Girl’ which has been played on Planet Rock, Kerrang radio and made Classic Rock magazines ‘Track Of The Week’. One thing I massively admire with Lauren’s songwriting, is that she is never scared to face her demons or tackle issues that many people in the public eye tend to avoid which has seen her songwriting develop into some instantly relatable music. She’s a grafter and directed the music video for the new single, which Lauren says is to represent owning your own sexuality, experimentation and lesbianism, a subject that she felt wasn’t covered enough, if at all, in the mainstream rock scene.
I caught up with Lauren to put the world to rights and find a little more about herself and the band.
Firstly let’s start with you been the front-women of HOG and also working on solo material. Music is obviously a huge part of your life. What’s a typical day look like for Lauren outside of music?
Haha! A typical me day? That question just made me realise I need more of those. Yeah, from the second I wake up I gotta get my face on even if I’m having a pyjama day I don’t feel right without doing my makeup, I must point out though this usually means drawing stars on my forehead and experimental clowny stuff. There’s truly, very rarely me time, I spend all of it on the band running social media replying to messages, writing posts, making posters and banners and designing new band merch then thinking ‘Shit! I should practice’ then realising it’s 1am and I’ve started writing 3 songs at once. My brain is always faster than my body. I cried for the first time since mid January the other night and once I’d started I couldn’t stop, I don’t give myself much time to be human.
We’ve spoke quite in depth before about treatment of women in the music industry and outside of it. I know you’ve been in it a long while. What’s your personal experience been like?
I’ve found in the underground scene, apart from the very odd occasion, I feel a sense of respect being a woman fronting a band with other men at the shows I’ve played. I guess a lot of this comes from me being a loud and seemingly confident front woman though, if anyone ever disrespected me in any way I’d know how to address it. I’ve practiced standing up for myself a lot growing up so I instantly react when someone talks down to me even if it gets me in trouble sometimes, you cant just be the nice girl all the time you have to know when someone isn’t treating you right. There was a moment at a gig last year actually, when a young man decided to shout up on stage through my mic that he’d like to “lick me where it smells funny” to which I then dedicated the next song to him called ‘Little Man’ and giving him this look I said “after this song I’m gonna kick you where it smells funny” to which then he actually just ran off! HAHA YES!
How do you feel about the things in the press about females in music getting more attention and more chances to be on those highly sought after festival slots? Do things need to change?
Things totally need to change yes! Especially up at the top, rock music in particular is really lacking female rage, like it’s 2018 and there are so many cock rock bands at the big rock festivals, rock is not just Dads music anymore! I was recently nominated by the PRS Re-Balance programme that aims to get more women onto festivals and the reaction from people is usually ‘But there’s loads of women playing festivals‘ to which they then grab their magnifying glass to read the names out in the smallest print. The point is the more women getting that exposure, playing the big stages, getting that platform to connect with others, the more young girls are gonna want to join bands and become rock stars, they need someone current and relatable who understands their generation.
I know you’ve suffered some unkind behaviour from other girls which is really sad when we should all be sticking together. A huge misconception is that only curvy girls get stick about their weight but it’s also girls who are slim that get negative and bitchy comments about their weight and appearance – jealousy is rife. How do you deal with that?
Last year I tried to put on weight really bad, I was so body conscious because of a lot of comments I got online mainly from other girls. I have no interest in what men think to my body, like mostly if they compliment me calling me sexy or whatever I just ignore it cause it’s so cringe and I don’t dress to impress anyone but myself. It hurt me bad when I got messages from girls attacking my ‘image’ calling me a ‘fake feminist’ because I couldn’t be a voice for women because I had never felt insecure. For curvy women there is so much support now, so many trending hash tags and encouragement posts it’s amazing but then sadly for women who are super thin there’s always a very negative comments thread with no consideration at all of the individuals story. There’s always a lot of pressure to be seen as the ‘perfect feminist front woman’ there’s a lot of women relying on you to pave the way for them which comes with rules of how you should look, act and represent women as a whole.
What advice would you give to girls who don’t fit with society’s narrow mindedness on how women should dress and look like?
You’ve always got to be whatever makes you feel real and authentic. I often remind myself in situations where im anxious or nervous that I will die one day, that none of this will matter in 100 years, that I’ve got to make the most out of who I am before I’m worm food. I’ve found following creative people online is great for building self esteem and confidence in your individuality. Search for and discover your own role models and look further than what you see in mainstream media. Find your transgender vloggers and drag queens, follow the curvy models rocking swim wear with their stretch marks, find people that push boundaries and change the perception of what beauty is meant to look like, it’s so important to surround yourself in every way you can with positive imagery be it what you see in your news feeds online or what posters are on your wall the second you wake up in the morning.
Your lyrics obviously come from a place of honesty and experience and been a lyric freak myself, I always wonder where the inspiration comes from. The lyrics in ‘Bad Egg’ below give me a sense of struggle about your individuality that you’ve had to get past. Did you ever shy away from who you wanted to be and how you wanted to look or have you always been ‘This is me world!’?
Haha yes! I went through a chav phase when I was 14, I remember crying when certain girls didn’t like my hair and I’d only ever wear the same brands my friends would, I was a nightmare! Those were my awkward years, where I knew I was different but daren’t admit it in the fear of alienation. I transformed so much within a year. When I was 15 I cut my hair really short like my idol at the time P!nk and I focused entirely on my singing, declining offers to drink white lightning and smoke fags in the park after being chased by asbo vans. I’m still as naughty as I was back then, just this time I’m the leader of the gang, not just some copy cat at the back trying to look cool, I wish I had this confidence sooner.
Back to music, how hard is it do you think to make it in this industry these days? Do you think the internet has ruined everything?
I think its made music more accessible for the listeners with things like Spotify, people are now in control of their own playlists and everything is so instant. This is great to a point but people are quickly onto the next thing, albums don’t last as long in peoples headspace and artists aren’t getting paid that much anymore. We’ve been really lucky so far through social media as we’ve been able to directly get our music to fans without any big team or record label helping us reach our audience. People don’t want to pay for music online that’s the difference, in the small scale it’s amazing to get the exposure but big scale the industry will loose out big time because of how free music has become now.
Who do you look up to and admire?
Since I was about 11 my role model has been P!nk, she was so ahead of her time in pop music. Nowadays there’s a real buzz around female empowerment in pop which is amazing but P!nk has always been waving that flag for the LGBT community & people who felt outcasted and ostracised, she impacted me more than I ever realised growing up. I then found Janis Joplin and female singers from the 1940’s upward, I liked the blues and grunge singers the best because they were always sounded so imperfect and broken.
I know your a big fan of Courtney Love like myself, what is it about her do you think that makes her so special?
Courtney really opened my eyes to what It meant being a front woman, she was so unpolished and unapologetically honest. I was always in awe when watching her. She stood one foot on the monitor looking out to a whole world watching her every move, judging her, creating ideas of her and she didn’t give a shit. She was hardened yet so emotionally connected with her fans like she was truly just singing for us, like fuck whatever the rest of the world thinks. Courtney was so elegantly flawed, I held onto her every word. She empowered me to drop the pom-poms and become the team captain.
Is it difficult been the focal part of a band when all eyes are on you?
Sometimes performing can be really hard if I’m not feeling it. I stand at the side of the stage sometimes kicking myself to get excited by the crowd or to feel that buzz that I strive for. I had this feeling when we played at Download, it was by far the biggest crowd I’d ever played to, but I felt so disconnected, it has to be so authentic when I scream and dance or it just exhausts me and leaves me feeling really deflated. Sometimes I get shy on the mic, especially playing support shows where people don’t know us, I feel like I talk too much then I talk too little. When I feel like this it feels like I’m up under that spotlight for hours on end. I have to keep my confidence and energy high on stage, I have to entertain and its really tiring because all the music is just muscle memory the hard part is convincing people you are real, convincing them to go away after the show and continue to follow your band because if they don’t what’s the point? I always act so happy on stage and that’s kinda weird I don’t know why I do that because when I’ve wrote my songs I’ve very rarely been in that mood, I’m usually really sad it’s weird.
What are 5 qualities that make the best front people in your opinion?
I’d say confidence, sense of humor, realness, excitement and unpredictability are my top things, obviously along with actually being good at the music too. When I see a live show I hate being too comfortable I want to feel like ‘what will she do next?’ I think it keeps live music so special and sets apart people who play music and people who perform it, you are an entertainer at the end of the day.
I love the new single ‘Kiss Me Girl’ can you tell me about the meaning behind the track and did I hear you directed the video?
Ah thanks! So glad you enjoyed it. I was so nervous to release it as it has a much different sound to songs we’ve done previous. I guess it’s a lot more commercial too which was my aim because I wanted radio to take some interest without telling me my sound is too niche. The song was inspired by that sexual confusion when your growing up and feeling strange feelings for girls and stuff, a feeling of.. is this normal? I feel there’s a real lack of this in rock music, in any commercial music really it’s all very straight and to a template, there isn’t much talk of two women having a wild night together. Rock and roll lyrics are always so heterosexual I wanted to make a sexy song for girls to enjoy especially. I felt a lot of people related to this song as it isn’t necessarily about being a lesbian it’s about experimentation and having feelings that might have previously felt alien to you. It was a real empowering feeling being able to direct the whole video and work with such badass bitches. Whenever people doubt my abilities to achieve something I am so determined to prove them wrong. Releasing this video was one of them moments as people always put doubt in my head telling me someone else should do it for me (usually a man). This year is the ground work for the next and I’m feeling the confidence I’ve lacked for a long time.
Lauren talks more about directing ‘Kiss Me Girl’ below…
Is there anymore solo stuff on the horizon?
The solo stuff was very spontenous, I got this sinking feeling out of nowhere that lasted a few weeks, I was just rolling around the floor following my cat around the house doubting everything and feeling like everything was pointless. I got my acoustic out for the first time in ages and just sang and cried a lot recording most of it and picking out the best lyric bits and writing them down. The songs are almost ballad types influenced by Lana Del Ray, P!nk, Amy Winehouse, Soko and even older singers like Skeeter Davis from the 1950’s. Theres a lot of lyrics in there about love, loving people that don’t love you back and stuff, the songs are quite explicit too, I wanted them to be very honest and I wanted to bare all and be vunerable for a while. I plan to do an album, I have so many songs I want to release and I’ve really neglected the bluesy qualities of my voice for too long singing punk rock, I’m super excited to explore that side of myself again.
A bit of a random one! If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Theres so much! Argh this is super hard! I pray everyday that the world will stop the mistreatment of animals. I’m not just talking about pets either I’m talking about farm animals, dairy animals, the caged animals in zoos, circus’s and aquariums. I’ve been veggie for 8 years and vegan for the last 5 of them and there’s so many health and environmental benefits of changing the way we live but above all that if I could change one thing tomorrow it would be the way we see animals in relation to ourselves. I really believe the world can change in the way we see animals as less than us by the time I’m an old lady, among many things I have to do before I die I’d like to somehow be part of that change and it’s amazing to see how many people also feel the same as me.
What’s coming next for HOG?
We’ve got a load of exciting things ahead, we’ve been planning none stop since last year up-to now and I think people assume if your not releasing new stuff every week you’ve been sucked into a black hole haha! But that’s not the case, we’ve got lots of new songs to release now and it was important to me to have ammo this year, I’ve made so many music video mood boards for the new singles. We release our new music video for S.A.S.S on the 12th October and I’m so excited for that!
Kiss Me Girl is OUT NOW!!
UK tour info: www.handsoffgretel.co.uk
Available to buy / Download / Steam Via –
Apple Music: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/kis…
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/music/a…
Pre-Order the ‘Official Kiss Me Girl’ T-shirt designed by Lauren Tate: www.handsoffgretel.co.uk
Facebook: Hands Off Gretel
Twitter: Hands Off Gretel
Instagram: Hands Off Gretel