An Interview with: Hands Off Gretel

Since their formation in 2014, Alternative rock 4-piece Hands Off Gretel have grown an impressive fan base for themselves off the back of their unique 90's girl grunge inspired sound, unconventional image, DIY ethos and ferocious appetite for touring.
We caught up with the band's front woman Lauren Tate and talked about all things fundamental in not only surviving on the scene, but making a mark on it.

Firstly I just want to say how massive a fan I am of your music - especially 'Oh Shit' that's my fav! But when did you decided that you wanted to start writing your own music - was there something specific that fuels this? 
I was inspired mostly by the bands I listened to. I covered all their songs, from Hole to 4 Non Blondes and I guess from that I was inspired to write about my own experiences so the songs became more personal. I think my first song was all about girls at school as they use to treat me like shit and I just loved expressing myself through my own music, even if I was no good at guitar. I vented loads and ultimately it helped me overcome a lot of stuff in my life. 

Hands Off Gretel is obviously very DIY - what gave you the idea to release your music in this style?
 I did it this was to stay in control of my own music. It's always very important to me to keep it DIY so that I can create a certain style with my music and artwork and videos. Labels scare me because all they think about is money and commercial saleability, at the moment I don't care about being commercial and selling loads of records, I care more about being myself and creating music I connect with.

 There seems to be a decline in music sales and with venues shutting down its making it more and more difficult for emerging artists - that said you guys are doing really well! What's the secret to your success? 
Secret to success? Mmmm... that's a hard one. A lot of people ask me that but I guess all I can say is you have got to have a lot of material online. Lots of videos and photos and a good online presence so when people go to book your band you come across as professional. Ultimately you've just got to be good at what you do and people will catch on.

Are there any songs on your album  'Burn The Beauty Queen' you're particularly proud of?
At the time I was very proud of 'Bad Egg' and 'Always Right' because they where the last songs I wrote for the album but 'Little Man' ended up my favourite though after I layered all my vocals on it. It made me feel so hyper, the song has such a sexiness to it and I really wanted it to sound powerful rather than porno sexy if you know what I mean haha! I didn't want it to be cringy, I wanted it to sound empowering and strange, I think I achieved that in the end.

 What was the original inspiration for the band to form?
Frustration with not finding any more bands I like inspired me. I was singing soft pop stuff before I formed HOG which was totally boring but people liked my voice. I searched everywhere for heavier grunge/punk girl bands like Hole and Bikini kill and I was just hitting brick walls. I realised then I had to be that band, I had to make the music I was looking for.

What about influences? Which artists/public figures personally influence you and the band? Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill is one of my biggest role models. I watched the documentary "The Punk Singer"and as soon as the credits came up I ran upstairs, grabbed my guitar and screamed my lungs out! Courtney Love also, she inspires me so much! I know a lot of people don't like her but despite what people say I connect with her lyrics and the way she holds herself up on stage, foot on monitor, cigarette in mouth, that woman is a force of nature.

What are the main themes to your songs  and have they evolved with the band? 
The band make my songs heavier, I sing them more aggressively with them because Sam hits the drums so hard. But I write all the songs before I show the band so I already have in mind all the themes for the songs. My main theme for the album was based around a good girl gone bad. I mixed screaming with soft singing and the boys worked perfectly around what I was wanting to create!

As a pioneer for DIY band - do you feel there is still a need for record labels these days? Depends what you want to do. I think if you want to be huge quickly you've got to sell out a little. But if you want to keep control and work your way up organically a label might not be what your looking for. Depends on the size, independent small labels are cool as long as they don't hold you back from bigger ones and bigger ones are cool but they own you, you gotta know for sure if you want to be owned.

What are your views on downloading music and file sharing?
I personally hate downloads. Just because I love band artwork so much, certain bands have amazing artwork so I always treasure the physical stuff a lot more, especially the vinyls but I guess downloads are more instant and I mean... I got a mac that came without a CD insert hole, like... what the actual hell? Haha! The world seems to be going more digital at the same time as vintage Polaroid cameras, tape recordings and vinyls are coming back.

Are there any questions you're fed up with being asked in interviews?
Haha! "How did the band start out" is the most annoying, just because it's really long to explain and I never know how much detail to go into!

As a band that tour a lot - who gets to decide what plays on the radio? 
I decide then ask them if they agree really haha!

You certainly have a look - how important do you think this is in the industry?
 I think playing dress up is one of the most fun parts of being in a band. I love creating an image! The boys like it too, especially Sam... he paints his nails and dyes his hair different every time I see him. A lot of people are bitchy about us though because they think it's all a bit gimmicky. One of my fave things about Marilyn Manson and his band is their crazy image and stage show so they can suck it.

Your mum Helen manages the band and is clearly doing a banging job! How is it working so closely with your mum on your music?
Aw thanks! Yes she manages us and books the shows. She does such an amazing job. A lot of people hold it against me because my mum helps me so much, they are like "the only reason you get anywhere is because of your parents" which is so annoying because my mum works damn hard because she truly believes the band can get far. We've had other people manage us that where no way near as on the ball as my mum. We are quite professional about it really, most people have no idea she's my mum!

Are there any shows that have been stand outs for you - and why? 
I especially enjoyed our album launch show at The Black Heart in Camden. The room was packed and the show sold out on the night, I couldn't believe the support in the room. The walls where dripping with sweat and my makeup had completely gone when we finished the set, it was amazing!

Finally, what advice do you have for people who want to start out in bands?
Try and understand who you want to be, what you want to create, how you want to look and sound before you start. Don't start too early and give up too soon. You'll know when your ready, don't start until you are itching for it, use your frustration as power to never ever let doubt take you down. Write a shit list and add names of people that doubt you, title it "people to prove wrong" and understand that you can't give any less than everything. Above all understand that if you think you want to start a band and become a successful artist you are already believing you can, understand if you never give it a go that feeling of always wanting to be in a band will never go away. So Do it NOW!

Interview by Lorin Forster