Hands Off Gretel, the alternative grunge band from South Yorkshire, will be supporting US rock outfit Skating Polly on six of their UK headline tour dates this summer.
The two bands, both heavily influenced by the riot grrrl bands of the 90’s, first met when Lauren Tate from Hands off Gretel watched Skating Polly supporting Babes in Toyland in 2015 in Manchester. Following an exchange of Cd’s at the gig, Hands off Gretel were invited to support Skating Polly in London in 2016 and played a sold out gig at the Lock Tavern.
Skating Polly return to the UK in July to support Kate Nash on her European tour. In between these dates they will play a series of headline shows and have invited Hands Off Gretel to join them as special guests.
Catch Skating Polly and Hands Off Gretel on the following dates:
Jul 27th: The Moon Club – Cardiff
Jul 28th: The Cavern – Exeter
Jul 30th: Yardbirds – Grimsby
Jul 31st: Broadcast – Glasgow
Aug 02nd: Thunderbolt – Bristol
Aug 11th: Sebright Arms – London
You can watch Hands Off Gretel’s video for their track “Plasters” below.
Hands Off Gretel’s album “Burn The Beauty Queen” is out now.
Alt rock band Hands Off Gretel is trialling a new social media tool to launch their latest video. Yorkshire’s grunge finest are using people power to help promote their promo clip for “Bad Egg”, due for release on the 18th of April.
Hands Off Gretel have utilised a platform called ‘Thunderclap’ after reading about it being used for political campaigns. It works by getting people to signup to support your campaign and agreeing to share a pre-defined message on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr at an agreed date and time.
The band has worked hard to build a strong online presence and crowd funded their debut album Burn The Beauty Queen in September of 2016. “Bad Egg” is a totally DIY production, something that Hands Off Gretel is very proud of.
Check out the band’s Thunderclap campaign video below and sign up to take part in the video release here.
Hands Off Gretel’s video for “Bad Egg” will be released on the 18th of April at 3pm BST.
It’s been a remarkable couple of years for Hands Off Gretel, seeing the alt-rock quartet on an upward trajectory worthy of their drive, ambition and – most importantly – superb songs. September saw the release of the Barnsley-based self-described “clungerock” band’s debut album, Burn The Beauty Queen, a harder, heavier collection than HOG’s previous EP and one that saw the band’s new lineup bed in with style.
Currently in the throes of a UK tour, we caught up with Hands Off Gretel songwriter, frontwoman, guitarist and creative powerhouse, Lauren Tate, from the road.
Skin Back Alley: Last time we spoke was about 18 months ago when Hands Off Gretel was still very new. Since then you’ve played a lot of gigs and festivals, released an EP and been through a line-up change. Now your debut album has been released. It seems safe to say that Hands Off Gretel has developed considerably since that last conversation?!
Lauren Tate: Oh yes! Definitely. The past 6 months have been the best months yet! When I told my previous drummer it wasn’t working out just before we recorded our first album I thought we’d really struggle to get Sam (bassist at the time) to the point where he could record a full album on drums knowing he hadn’t even touched a kit for 5 years. Sam literally changed everything. The songs got a lot heavier and I felt so inspired, most of the songs on the album were written about 2 weeks before we went into the studio. Sam stayed on drums and Joe joined us on bass and from our first practice with the new line up I was just so excited, the songs had never sounded better.
What have been some of your favourite moments or highlights in the past year and a half?
Playing the Isle Of Wight festival was a wild one. We were shortlisted from thousands of bands to compete in front of festival organiser John Giddings to win a slot at the festival. We came third place and played the ‘Hey Joe’ stage and it was just so crazy. After we played the show, Sam pulled me into a hug and said “Dude, we just played the Isle Of Wight festival.” And I could feel myself starting to cry because finally I could feel we were rising and I was starting to get everything I’ve ever wanted alongside people I really loved. That was definitely a high point for me!
And what is it with Hands Off Gretel and band members breaking bones?!
Haha! I have no idea, it’s crazy! Some people might believe I’m pushing them all down the stairs… but I’m not. *Evil Laugh* I still cannot believe Sam is playing the whole tour with broken fingers, he’s not even complained once. Part of me thinks he might be faking it so we carry all his drum gear down the stairs for him. Well, Sean will. Joe and I are usually running away at this point with a bottle of wine.
Burn the Beauty Queen has been out for a little while now. What has the reception been like so far?
It’s been amazing! Our fans love it, which is the most important thing. We sold over 700 pre-order copies and heard nothing but praise since. I love that the fans get it, they buy my ‘zines and read my lyrics and I feel like they just understand me so deeply, it’s so wonderful. The bigger radio stations haven’t picked up on us yet though, we are yet to invade, it’s just so damn hard! We got played on Rodney Bingenheimer’s radio show ‘Rodney on the Roq’ over in the US and that is so freaking cool cause he broke some of my favourite bands and I feel honoured that he loves HOG!
How did it feel to successfully crowdfund the album, and not only that, but utterly destroy the funding target that you set?
Oh it felt fabulous! I was shy about it because I thought there was no way we’d get to 100%. Once we launched it I went on holiday so I couldn’t even see how it was going until I came home. It killed me! It was always important to me to launch it totally D.I.Y, to let us have full control and remain one-to-one with our fans. They loved it, some people were spending over £200 a time on everything they could to support us and nothing compares to that feeling, knowing your entire fan base has your back and shares your excitement for your new record.
You chose to record the album in Wales. Was there a specific thinking or logic behind the choice of location?
I wanted somewhere secluded, somewhere with lots of space and no distractions. The house was perfect for what I wanted, though it was a risk that it’d sound any good once we started recording. The house was miles away from any shops; we didn’t even have any Internet or signal for 2 weeks! We literally shut the whole world out to work on the record and apart from the vocals to ‘Little Man’ and ‘Plasters’ we recorded everything within the 2 weeks.
You’ve said in the past that P!nk singing Led Zeppelin covers helped turn you on to rock music. You weren’t worried that disappearing into Wales to record your album would result in HoG going ‘Full Zeppelin’ and coming back with an album full of songs about Hobbits?!
Haha! What? You’re telling me you don’t know that all HOG songs ARE about hobbits?!
How important a role has Pete Thompson of Flat Wave studios played in the making of the album?
Pete was so excited about the album right from the start when Sam laid down his drum tracks. He just kept telling me how good it was, telling me how proud he was after watching my transformation as a writer since my early days. Pete and I mixed & produced the album side by side right at the end, bouncing ideas back and forth, head in hands one minute, hands in the air the next. We made the perfect team. I think the best bit was when I made the decision to scrap the original version of ‘Plasters’ and add piano and crazy vocals instead. My friend Alisha Vickers came in and recorded the piano parts and him and I sat and experimented with the song for hours hoping that Sean and Sam would dig the whole ‘Dresden Dolls’ theatrical vibe. BTBQ was the first album Pete had produced and I wouldn’t change a thing, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted and I’m so happy he got to do it.
I caught your set at Barnsley Rock & Blues just before the album launched. I was struck by how focused you all were. Even though that night was a support slot, you owned that room. It was like it was a headline gig for you in more ways than one. Would you say you were a driven or ambitious band?
Yeah I’d call us driven. We all have that same dream within us. We all want to quit our jobs and play music full time and I just love looking around at Joe, Sam and Sean next to me on stage knowing that we are all in the same team fighting for the same spotlight. It’s lovely to know that we are all in the same boat, we are all also just mental. We laugh and argue, we scream at each other and punch each other and then love each other so much. You should’ve seen us on the first leg of the album tour, we got a little bizarre.
When I got to listen to the album, it struck me that there were lots of wonderful complexities within it. Confidence and vulnerability. Punk fury and a kind of intimate singer/songwriter confessional quality. A fairy tale dream but with a dark and twisted heart. Were those kinds of complexities and tensions something you were consciously weaving into the album?
You got it! That’s exactly what I imagine the songs look like. I took a lot of inspiration from fairy tales, they are always made out to be really sweet and innocent but the origins are nearly always awful. The Hansel and Gretel original story is god awful and I loved it because that’s what life feels like to me. The good covering up the bad.
Sonically, the album sounds heavier; fiercer than your previous EP and singles. Was that an intentional shift in sound?
That was from Sam joining the band really. I’ve always pushed HOG to sound heavier with previous members and I got frustrated a lot because it was as though people thought I was just bossy and controlling when I’m constantly saying “We gotta’ sound bigger and better than this.” The drums changed so much in the songs, the harder Sam hit them, the louder I screamed, the faster Sean strummed his guitar. Finally now in the band we are all as mental and loud as each other.
The songs on Burn The Beauty Queen feel more intricate than your previous EP as well; layered vocals and plenty of harmonies. Was that attention to detail a natural progression from EP to album?
I started adding harmonies to nearly everything when we did the album songs. I firstly added them to ‘One Eyed Girl’ and then thought “Oooo I could add it here, and there and everywhere”. I deleted quite a lot off in the final mixes because I did get a little carried away. I had a few weeks before recording the album to do all the pre-production on my mac at home using logic so I had lots of indulgence time to work the sounds out exactly how I wanted them, whereas before with the first EP I didn’t even consider harmonies or fancy vocal things like that.
In your time prior to HoG you’ve turned down approaches by the likes of Simon Cowell’s team. Have you been tempted away from your full-on DIY approach as the band has risen in profile over the past 18 months or so?
Every once in while people approach with these ‘ideas’ and these huge offers and to be honest I’ve never been tempted yet. The second I hear “I’ve got some songs I want you to sing…” I’m instantly turned off because I’ve got some songs too, I haven’t finished saying what I want to say just yet. I’m not strong enough or ready for the big boys to control me just yet, I’m still building myself.
When we last spoke you said that success for you would include “…to play and play and play as many good gigs as we can and build up a live following. I really want to connect with people, I want people to come up to me after a gig and tell me Hands Off Gretel has been something they’ve been waiting for.” Mission accomplished in that regard?
Oh my god yes! You’re right! That is the best feeling, so many people give me their stories each night and I love to listen, I love to connect with them person to person and relate to them. Young girls tell me they have started bands after being inspired by my band and God! I cannot describe to you the fuzzy feeling I get inside me.
What are some of your next milestones as a band? Do you have defined goals in mind?
Next milestone for me is to tour out of the UK. We have so many fans in the USA, and in Germany, France, Spain, all over! I owe it to them to make it over there and play to some different faces. I want to release lots of new music videos too and then on to the next album I guess. You can interview me then as I sit in my yacht drinking Mojito getting my toe nails painted by Simon Cowell as he begs me to become a popstar. Haha!
Hands Off Gretel’s debut album, ‘Burn The Beauty Queen’, is out now. Read our review here.
Hands Off Gretel will play:
Oct 13th: Trillions, Newcastle
Oct 14th: Parish, Huddersfield
Oct 15th: Sanctuary Rock Bar, Burnley
Oct 17th: Krazyhouse, Liverpool (w/Barb Wire Dolls)
Oct 27th: Fulford Arms, York
Oct 28th: Soundhouse, Leicester
Nov 05th: Surya, London (w/BirdEatsBaby)
Nov 11th: Mulberry Tavern, Sheffield
Nov 17th: Nice N Sleazy, Glasgow
Nov 18th: Bannermans, Edinburgh
Nov 24th: Rainbow Venues, Birmingham
Nov 25th: Brain Freeze Fest, Ebbw Vale
Nov 26th: Mothers Ruin, Bristol
Dec 03rd: Rebellion, Manchester
Dec 09th: Lincoln Imp, Scunthorpe
Dec 10th: Chameleon Arts Centre, Nottingham
Artist: Hands Off Gretel Album: Burn The Beauty Queen Our Verdict: 8/10 Release date: 16th September Find it at:Handsoffgretel.co.uk Review by: Graeme Blackwell
The raging fire of 90’s Riot Grrrl alt-rock returns with a vengeance
Hands Off Gretel’s “World Against She” points directly to the febrile tension at the heart of the band’s explosive debut album, Burn The Beauty Queen. It perfectly illustrates the meticulous and intricate nature of this ferocious set of songs and the way in which it navigates its way through a complex web of human emotion, juxtaposing self-aware strength and total confidence with the weight of the opinion and expectation of others.
“According to these people // That are spying through my pupil // I am never gonna get shit right! // But I know I’m right!… // According to these people // I am worse than every evil // And just maybe I believe they’re right! // But I know I’m right!”
In that tension is an insightful mix of self-knowledge and self-doubt that runs not only through Burn The Beauty Queen’s music and lyrics, but every aspect of Hands Off Gretel’s hugely compelling aesthetic. Drawing heavily upon the influence of the grunge and Riot Grrrl scenes of the 80’s and 90’s, every part of the band’s art takes established and limiting perceptions of the self – often imposed and reinforced by outside influences – and turns them squarely on their head.
The album title that challenges contemporary notions of beauty; the fierce DIY way Hands Off Gretel conduct their business; the painstakingly hand-drawn album and poster art; the stage-wear adopted by frontwoman and creative powerhouse Lauren Tate that points to the tilted darkness at the heart of the fairy-tale dream; Burn The Beauty Queen wants to overturn and upend every lazy and accepted stereotype you’ve ever been boxed in by, and every lie you’ve ever had forced upon you as the truth.
Hands Off Gretel’s journey began in earnest with the songs featured on their EP My Size. Having discovered the likes of L7, Bikini Kill, The Distillers and Hole, and developed her commanding, gravel-toned singing voice through cover versions of her favourite songs, Tate ultimately recorded a solo collection of original material, Reflections, building a band around it in the process. That band developed into Hands Off Gretel and 4 tracks of self-penned, grunge-inflected punk rock that dealt with themes of personal identity, confusion, desire and the letting go of fear.
Photo: Kimberly Bayliss
Months of touring, rehearsing, writing and a line-up change later, Burn The Beauty Queen picks up these threads and develops them into something bewitching and substantial. It is an album that has a brash and energetic immediacy about it, but reveals its careful craft and detail over time and with repeated listens. For every snarling, mid-tempo rager such as the blunt but magnificent “Oh Shit”, there is an equally impressive “Under The Bed”, its rising and falling chord progression bonded to arresting guitar lines that snake their way through the arrangement and take you by stealth and surprise.
Indeed sonically, Burn The Beauty Queen hits that sweet spot that saw grunge dominate the mainstream for much of the 90s. Angry enough to please the punk crowd; heavy enough to catch the ear of the metal cognoscenti; melodic enough that discerning pop fans will sit up and take note. The album never once tries to be all things to all people, but nevertheless has a real cross-over appeal.
It’s a notion borne out by the likes of “Teethin'”, its insistent guitar motif a memorable hook that drives the song to an explosive finale, crowned by an exemplary vocal performance from Tate. And there’s that thrilling underlying juxtaposition again, this time presenting a singular and knowing drive to get what you want in the context of the imagery of a teething child: “I don’t get what I want // And I will not let go // I’ll scream and I’ll scream till it’s mine // And I’m a teethin’ girl // I control my world // I don’t get what I want and I’ll cry.”
“Awfully Miserable” tackles self-sabotaging malaise head-on in visceral terms: “I have this voice under the bed // That says I’m meant for more // Although I do believe // I breakdown to the floor // And bash my brains out // I’m so bored.” The song plays out like the nihilistic cousin of the aforementioned “Under The Bed”, a track which sees its narrator tantalisingly close to something resembling emotional release: “My hands are held // My eyes they roll // And standing right beside the door // The light, the light, the light.”
Those of a cynical disposition might point to the similarities between Hands Off Gretel’s material and that of Tate’s musical heroes such as Courtney Love or Brody Dalle and cry foul. But that would be to miss the point. Hands Off Gretel wear their influences proudly on their sleeve and make no bones about the tradition in which they work. The themes and complexities in their music speak to an audience in the way that the best art always does, allowing for authentic connection, identification and a sense of not being alone, hopefully acting as an agent of change through the empowerment of that same audience. The fact that Hands Off Gretel’s music works so well speaks volumes about their hard work, talent, passion and will to succeed.
If you thought that the kind of grunge-laden alt-rock that drove the 90’s Riot Grrrl scene was long since dead, think again. It transpires that it was only dormant, awaiting a worthy successor to the crown.
Camden Rocks festival have confirmed a host of new acts for 2016 including Billy Bragg and Carl Barat & The Jackals.
Over 200 bands will be performing at venues across London’s Camden Town for this year’s event, taking place on Saturday the 4th of June. Other new acts confirmed for the festival include Creeper, the Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock, CC Smugglers and Tellison.
Billy Bragg will be in conversation about his new lyric book, A Lover Sings, with Daniel Rachel, acclaimed author of Isle of Noises: Conversations with Great British Songwriters, punctuated with songs and Q&A in what promises to be a very special performance.
“Its great to be taking part in Camden Rocks this year and I’m really looking forward to discussing my lyrics and playing a few songs,” says Bragg. “Camden remains at the heart of where generations of new music got its start and I’m proud to be a part of that tradition.”
Acts already confirmed include Hands Off Gretel, Louise Distras, Young Guns, We Are The Ocean, InMe, Ginger Wildheart, New Years Day and SikTh, alongside The Virginmarys, Warrior Soul, As Lions,The Dirty Youth, Shvpes, Queen Kwong and Forever Never.
Every prior Camden Rocks festival has sold out and 2016 looks to be no different!