Interview: Lauren Tate (Hands Off Gretel) “I don’t feel I’m ever going to listen to people that tell me what to do”

Fast becoming a runaway success story Hands Off Gretel has resisted the temptation of labels and remain steadfastly in control of every aspect of their future. Two recent new videos bode well for album number two while their reputation as a live act has grown to almost legendary proportions. Gary Trueman had a chat with HOG creative powerhouse Lauren Tate about new music, making those videos and rumours of another family member with a talent for singing.

You’ve recently released two new singles both with their own videos, songs which show you’ve refreshed you’re still unmistakable sound a little.  Is this just natural progression?

“Yeah I’d say so, as we’re playing live I’ve known more and more what I’m wanting to do. The first album was a lot more angry and alternative but with this album I wanted my songs on radio, I wanted it to be a bit more accessible. I wanted it to be for more people, and I wanted to broaden it but still keep the edginess. So far everybody likes it.”

Those two singles will be leading up to an album.  Is that completely recorded now and when can we expect to hear it?

“The album has been finished a while, we recorded it January into February and then we put a lot of planning behind it in terms of what we were going to do with different strategies to get it out.  We initially wanted to release it at the end of this year but I wanted to spend more time with the videos. I really want to release it but I also want to build up a lot more hype around it. I decided I wanted to do more music videos because before we released the previous album and then gone on tour and we never had time to do any videos. So this time I want to get as much out before the album is out.”

On the subject of those two new videos, they’re all home produced and directed by yourself. The first one featured a lot of people who are friends of yours. What was the thinking behind that video and how it portrayed the song ‘Kiss Me Girl’?

“I picked all the wildest people I knew because I wanted it to be kinda wild and sexy. I wanted to get a lot of friends involved because I could trust that they were going to bring out my imagery from the song. I wanted all that female sexuality. When I messaged people about it I found it really strange how to word it because I was like it’s kind of a lesbian scene and people were like “Oh my god you want me to kiss a girl”.  I was like no you don’t have to kiss, except Vish (Vicious Precious of Pretty Addicted) who was like “I’ll do anything”. But I knew Vish would be like that. And I got Freyja (Hazel) too, they just added so much to it. I just wanted to capture an alternative version of a lot of videos that I’ve seen with the women grinding the men and it’s all very clichéd. I wanted to do it with loads of girls, it was a majority of girls in the video. I just wanted to get it as crazy as possible. There were crazier scenes that didn’t make it but that was Vicious, haha.”

Are we going to see an out-takes video?

“Oh my god! Maybe.  I might sell it on pledge.”

The second video for S.A.S.S. is obviously a different theme, but the song still has that radio friendly vibe, and there’s quite a lot of Gwen Stefani in there too…..

“Oh yes. I always knew Gwen Stefani as a pop singer, and the band No Doubt, I never really listened to them much, then I really got into them and wrote this style of singing which I’ve never really done before. It’s almost rapping, if it were a bit faster it would be rapping. When I first wrote it I thought it didn’t match and I thought the band wouldn’t like it but they did. It’s still Hands Off Gretel but it’s got something else. I do really like singing that one.”

We have to talk about the making of video you did too, for the Kiss Me Girl video. That’s a fun video but it also shows the thought process and the work that goes in to making a video. Was that the intention?

“I think sometimes people assume someone else has done it all and I don’t want them to assume that because there’s so much that I’ve done. And a lot of the time when I’m doing stuff no one is filming it. Like when I say I’m busy all the time and people are like “Oh she’s busy all the time doing her music”, but they don’t see how much goes in to it. Like organising that video. I thought it were going to be easy. I said to mum it wouldn’t be that hard and she said it was a big job. We were talking to this guy who said he wanted to direct it and he said it would be hard and we’d need a load of crew and if you want extras we’re going to need this and this and this…… And I was just seeing how I could do it, but I don’t want to fail because if I fail they’ve all told me I’ll not be able to do it. I was like crap! if everyone turns up and I can’t do it and they’re all looking at me I’m gonna cry. It wasn’t easy but it was very doable and I’d definitely do it again.”

There’s a lot of bands out there that get so far and then they get management and they get signed, but you’re still very much hands on. Do you think that keeps you in control of your own destiny?

“I’d say so. I think if we were signed more or less everything I’ve done so far wouldn’t have happened because I probably would have just run away into the forest. If someone was to tell me they like this but we’re going to do this instead, I can’t work like that. I need them to come to me and say I like what you’re doing rather than this is what you should be doing. I need that mutual respect as well. I need to be still creating, I want someone to say I want to sign you and I want to help you. Obviously when you’re signed your budget is a lot bigger and you can do a lot more and on a bigger scale. But if you’re independent you can cement who you are and your fans get it.  Kiss Me Girl got 10,000 views in a week, so from just a small group of people you can create something that can go viral these days. You don’t always need people telling you what to do. I don’t feel I’m ever going to listen to people that tell me what to do because my brain just doesn’t work like that. If people don’t tell me what to do then my brain is great and I can create all sorts. So it’ll stay like this until somebody has a good deal for me. If there is no good deal for me then there is no deal.”

Rumour has it that you’re not the only one who can sing in your family but that somebody else is quite shy?

“Oh my god yes my sister Olivia! I heard her sing once at school and she never told anybody she were going to get up and sing. It was the leavers night so people got up and sang. We went there and she never said anything. She got up and started singing and I was like wow! Her voice is so good but I never hear her singing in the house. She waits until everybody has left the house. I did say to her that I have recording equipment and I could show her how to use it and she’s like “Oh my god no!”.  But she has got a really good voice.”

So are you going to persuade her to have a Tate family choir at some point?

“I would but I don’t know if she would. When we were younger we used to listen to songs and I’d sing but used to do it in a silly voice all the time but in perfect harmony. She gets so shy and because I sing she doesn’t want to sing near me. It’s only this year I’ve heard her sing properly. It’s a shame when people can sing and they’re just too shy too.”

Interview and photos by Gary Trueman