Hands Off Gretel
Interview by Lucky
Photography by Svenja Block
UK sensations Hands Off Gretel have been kicking up quite a stir as of late thanks to relentless touring, social media blitzkriegs, and favorable word of mouth worldwide. Lucky from SugarBuzz Magazine took heed upon recommendation and reached out to the band with inquires of interest in hopes to learn more about this exciting rock and roll foursome. The following transpired.
For readers that are new to your band, can you please provide some need-to-know background info including country of origin, years of operation, and important factors behind the insemination of the band?
Sam: The band as it is in this form has been running just over a year now, prior to this Hands Off Gretel had been going 7/8 months before I joined and prior to the formation of Hands Off Gretel I had worked with Lauren and Sean for a few months on another project. We’re all currently residing in and around Yorkshire in the UK, although Sean originally lived in Ireland, which provides an amusing accent for the band. When this line up became concreted the biggest factor was ease of working together, it was important we all had the same direction and weren’t struggling for creative control or pushing in different musical directions which had been an issue in the past, we all have our strengths in certain areas and agree on most things these days which makes things nice and stress free musically.
What were other band names bantered about before the decision to go with Hands Off Gretel? Is there a story or special meaning behind said moniker? And just who had the inspiration to suggest such a name?
Lauren: It took me ages to find a name that suited the band at the start. Sean wanted to call it ‘Millie’ originally and I wanted to call it ‘ Mowzer’ because they where my cats names. It was my mum actually that picked out ‘Handsome Gretel’ which was my favourite Babes in Toyland song but I then told her I couldn’t use it for obvious reasons. She then said “change it to hands off” and at first I was like “WHAT that’s not gonna… oh actually that really has a ring to it.” I really liked the idea of basing the band name on the fairy tale ‘Hansel and Gretel’ because Gretel was one of the only strong female roles that didn’t play damsel in distress and I really liked that. The bright colours in our videos and the lyrics of my songs really suited the fairy-tale-like name.
Please share your earliest rock and roll memory.
Joe: Well, my dad has been a drummer all my life so I got to see plenty of gigs growing up. It’s had to say exactly when my first was but there is one that stands out more than others. I was at one of my dad’s shows when I was very young. My dad’s band was playing on the balcony of some pub that over looked the river Aire in Castleford. They’d just got finished with their sound check when there was a sudden downpour. In the confusion to get all the gear inside as quick as they could, the guitarist fell over with a pint in one hand and his guitar in the other but didn’t spill a drop or even scratch his guitar. There was a right silence few seconds, the guitarist got up and once he found his balance, he just yelled at the top of his voice YEEAAAHHHHH and everyone else in the building kinda raised their glasses and shouted YEAAHHHHH with him. I was only really young and couldn’t really understand but now I’m old enough, it’s pretty rock and roll.
I’m seeing a lot of Fender guitars in your videos whether live or promotional, are these weapons of choice for both on stage and in the studio? What other brands are involved in your creative process? Is the band blessed with any endorsements? Is a band selling out if they take on a corporate sponsor?
Sean: Indeedy do. To explain my love think Kel from “Kenan and Kel,” with his finely chronicled love of Orange Soda. ‘Kept’ y’know, replace Kel with me and Orange Soda with like a bottle of Jazzmaster or something. A previously undisclosed fact: Lauren’s father is actually a Fender Marauder.
Sam: There are no brands or outside “corporate” influences in our creative process and I don’t think any one of us would feel too comfortable handling things if there were, unless we’re talking producers. Currently we don’t have any endorsements, although there have been a number of small offers. There are a number of bands at our level that seem to be breaking their neck for sponsorships for some kind of validation or bragging rights rather than the strength of the product itself, and at the level we’re at you’re extremely lucky if any company wants to hand you over something for free rather than at a slightly discounted rate, called an “artist package” Its so hard trying to earn a wage or living through music today that if any band can earn something through corporate backing I say go for it, as long as its not affecting your music or morals take the companies for a ride they like do to musicians, because god knows musicians have been screwed enough over the years.
Are you guy’s punk, grunge, alternative, experimental, or just a badass rock and roll outfit? Are genres just musical masks worn by performers, or are they truly offshoots of a rock and roll core with a life and breath all their own?
Joe: It’s hard to say what genre we are as we all take our influence from all walks of music but It does reflect in the way we present ourselves and in the way we work together, but ultimately we all kind of triangulate onto our 90′s/punk and grunge influences. I don’t think genres are masks per se, just a way in which an artist can express the influences they have had themselves by changing a more established meaning of the word ‘genre’.
Is there anyone in the band that is spiritual? If so, do you have a specific mantra that stimulates your life’s mission?
Lauren: None of us are really spiritual, I think about dying a lot and the after life though. It inspires me a lot being so afraid of dying because whenever I perform I always push myself like it’s the last time. I’ve been religious, I’ve been into Buddhism and meditation, I’m yet to find myself properly though as I’d love to be a more spiritual person.
Who, either in Hands Off Gretel or outside the band, motivates you the most to go the extra mile?
Sean: Easily answered. Lauren Tate and Helen Tate. They never cease in their determination to finish a job, and finish it well. No matter the obstacle they’ll force through it, inexorably pushing you through also. Astonishingly ambitious, confoundingly creative and perseverance personified, knowing this duo are a part of your project will instill in you all you need to succeed. I should point out that “Lauren Tate” and “Helen Tate” are what our 7ft tall, 120kg manager calls his fists.
Hands Off Gretel has some really amazing promotional videos. Who are the people responsible for the overall look and feel and actual captures to film or video? Who did the fucking radical animation for the “World Against She” promo?
Sam: Lauren does all our videos and is responsible for the bands presentation when it comes to music videos, posters, photo shoots and online imagery, although now the workload has increased other band members are being handed smaller responsibilities to help out. We do however buy our own clothes and dress ourselves… Lauren did the cool animation as she has a huge talent for drawing and out of all of us is the least likely to throw the computer out of the window when it comes to learning how to use software, plus, she’s bloody good at it.
I love the freak show carney type feel in the video for “One Eyed Girl”. Have you any stories of dark and sinister carnivals or fairs that may have come to your town? And if so, how did they affect your psyche?
Lauren: Back when I was 13 I was a right chav. Every year the fair came to the town and I’d go with my friends and drink warm flat beers and yeah there was always this weird feel. There were always fights and boys getting hand-jobs behind the waltzer. I had a bad experience at the fair with the gross guys running it, I would say that really inspired the lyrics for one eyed girl and I’ll leave it there haha! I never went to the fair again.
What was the best birthday present you have ever received?
Sean: This is where Lauren is DEADLY LETHAL. She can craft beautiful, soulful art as easily as I can fart the alphabet (few cans and I’ll show you. Be grand), so she always wins birthday fights. She will make beautiful little books, filled with beautiful words surrounded with incredible drawings truly personalized to guarantee maximum heartsplosions, thus fulfilling the year’s quota of Love-Tears. I’ve been given a number of ‘best’ presents in this fashion, and you’re not gonna understand unless you’re Me, which you’re NOT ALLOWED BE. Shoo, bold little entity-that-has-been-given-a-facsimile-of-life-purely-to-suit-this-sentence, shoo!
Looks like Hands Off Gretel has played shows and festivals with some pretty amazing lineups. Any other band performances stand out in your mind’s eye that you care to talk about? Please name a band that you have yet to share a bill with that you would love to support or be supported by.
Lauren: When we supported Skating Polly on their UK tour last year I was blown away by how amazing they were. I was a big fan already so I became a little star struck sharing the stage! I also would LOVE to support either Courtney Love, Rob Zombie or Marilyn Manson someday! That would be a dream come true.
Please discuss any upcoming tour plans. Have you guys been to the States yet, and if no, are there any plans for a US invasion?
Joe: Well, we have gigs and gigs and gigs. We embark on our first semi-European tour in September. This year (2017) we are getting well stuck into our ‘World Against She’ tour. What we’re trying to do is fill up the band bucket so we can fund getting out to the states and spreading the love. We’re all just looking forward to meeting cool people, playing with ace bands and doing what we love.
Are tattoos and piercings passé in this day and age, or do they still make a statement? And if so, what would that statement be?
Sam: I don’t think they’re passé, lets not forget people have been stabbing themselves with ink for thousands of years now, this is not a new phenomenon, but that being said it is finally starting to become accepted as a social norm which is a triumph for people who want to try stand out in their own unique way. It’s never been about making a statement for me, it’s just as simple as me liking them and how they look, and I think that’s the same for most people. It’s only skin and it’s really not going to matter when the worms are biting it off you, that being said if having ink on your skin or metal in your nose is seen as an offensive statement to someone, then you should absolutely roll with it and go out of your way to offend them even more and ruin their day for having such an idiotic world view.
Finally, please tell us something about yourself that no one knows, perhaps not even yourself.
Sean: I’m actually a horse painted to look like a Sean. Does this subterfuge bother me? Nay.
Watch the brand new Hands Off Gretel video for their smash “Bad Egg”