Yorkshire alt-rockers Hands Off Gretel (HOG) are in a sweet spot right now. Their album has just been released with a bit of help from their expanding fanbase, they have many festival appearances booked and this is just the beginning. We talked to HOG about their new album, their style and why they released their latest album on cassette…
RAMzine: So what is your new album all about?
Lauren Tate (vocals/ guitar): Overall I’d say the album is from the perspective of a young girl that feels she doesn’t fit in or belong anywhere. For a lot of my life, I’ve been told to keep my opinions to myself, shut up and just conform to what everyone else is doing, especially during my school years not so long ago. I wanted to channel a lot of frustration mixed with an attitude of ‘I want to be a star’. A lot of the songs are about wanting more from people that hurt me and striving to prove people wrong, fingers crossed I can do just that with this album, I want more than anything people just like me to connect with it.
RAMzine: This is quite a long album, did you record more that you couldn’t fit on this record?
Sam Hobbins (Drums): No, it was a pretty lengthy process of whittling down the songs that were lined up for the album. It was a conscious decision to keep the album a little shorter than our previous one. Keep it a little more to the point and in your face. I’m sure we will do something with the songs left over as some of them made it into our live set and people have been asking for studio versions.
RAMzine: The album started as a Pledge campaign. The campaign ended – why did it change?
Becky Baldwin (bass/vocals): We ended our Pledge Music campaign early and started collecting pre-orders and funds on our website instead. We had reached 100% of our goal on Pledge Music within 24 hours, so it was a huge success… But by the end of January, news had started to come out from other bands who had been using the platform, saying they hadn’t been paid by the site and the debts were still outstanding from over a year ago! By this point we had exceeded 240% of our campaign goal, meaning the company now owed us over 25K and we had also noticed that our first payment was late. As a new, independent band we can’t afford to pay for products and send merchandise out to our fans if we aren’t going to receive the money for it, so we acted quickly and moved the album campaign to our website. We are currently at over 200% of our new target, which is amazing that our fans have come to the rescue! The fans are the only ones that have stepped in to help us. But it’s still very disappointing that our first effort has gone to waste and that Pledge have lost the money of many of our dedicated fans. Pledge has been extremely vague about what has happened, why they have lost band’s money… It’s hard to really process how bad the situation has become! It’s stopped us from being able to chart the album and with well over a thousand sales we think we may have made an impact.
RAMzine: Are pledges the way forward for young bands?
Lauren: I think it works for some but not all. A load of people have messaged me asking how we did so well doing a crowd-funder and if I recommend it to them. Really it depends entirely on your fanbase and whether or not you have one big enough to support you the way ours did. I’ve built our fanbase up organically since my solo career when I was 14. It took years to get to this point where we are able to do what we are doing. Our connection with our fans is real, I know pretty much all their names off by heart and that’s important to me especially when they are so passionate about the music it makes everything so personal and exciting. After Pledge Music screwed us over I was really worried we wouldn’t be able to get back on our feet, but our fans turned that situation around for us and got together stronger than ever helping us by donating and re-ordering items Pledge Music still owed them. We were able to re-coup the 25K we lost from Pledge Music for a second time via our own website within a few months!
RAMzine: As you are inspired by grunge and 90s style alt rock – do you think the current music scene needs a kick up the backside?
Sean McAvinue (Guitar): I would argue that art can come from any and all places, that contemporaneous happenings are what drive it and are sometimes irrelevant to the finished piece. There are some amazing bands, with amazing songs that will exist because they hate their town, or local scene, or the state of music in general and wish to change the set formula with their art… and there are definitely others whose sole focus is their music – they create because they need to create, and if change occurs via this creation, hindsight deconstruction is a wonderful tool. I did feel the music scene needed a kick up the arse until I really joined it; I have seen some INCREDIBLE artists that prove art transcends whatever the media, or them PubeyPies or whoever off YouTube tell you is the ‘Next Big Thing’.
People power (see our Pledge debacle and subsequent salvation via the sheer fucking brilliance of people power for example!) can easily change a perceived era or scene, and with access to information like we have now, trends mean less than they did. The internet has truly humanized art – giving us the potential for the best-to-the-worst to come to stimulate us – we just need to stop accepting the horseshit that’s fed to us and LOOK for that which emotes and motivates. That being said, don’t look at my browser history. Christ.
RAMzine: A lot of your songs follow themes of bullying and mental health- do you think it’s important for bands to address these issues?
Lauren: For me, music was my biggest escape. I looked up to role models that I couldn’t find elsewhere, these we real people that talked about emotions that in everyday life nobody really did. I resonated so well with artists like P!nk who for me sang all the time about how she felt outcasted and alone from others. I’d sit in the school toilets at school with my earphones in skipping class and it felt like she was sat there with me. I think if artists like myself have the power and voice to address these issues they should, it saved me in many ways and I’d love to be that for someone else.
RAMzine: The way you dress and merch is a big part of your identity- where do you get your style from?
Lauren: My style has changed and evolved so much over the years. I get bored really easy of the same things so I’m constantly thinking of ways to re-invent myself. The fun will start when I figure out how to work the sewing machine though haha! I theme the merchandise and the whole band aesthetic around my style, it’s a whole package really. I think style is really important with music, it almost makes you into a cartoon version of yourself and makes you and your brand easily recognisable. Even now so early in my career, it’s crazy to see people trying to imitate and copy me be it my hair or clothes or overall band aesthetic haha, I’m never sure if I should feel flattered or creeped out. I guess people see what I’m doing and instead of being themselves and working with that they are actually just trying to be me, it’s a sign that I’m doing something right I guess.
RAMzine: Your new album is available on cassette and vinyl as well as CD- are physical format still important? Or is this one for the nerdy collectors?
Sam: I think music fans are usually somewhat nerdy and into collecting by default. We had loads of requests for vinyl as it seems to have made quite a comeback so thought we’d offer as many platforms as possible, and yeah they’re definitely still important. Years after CDs and USB sticks and digital downloads people are still into picking up the vinyl.
RAMzine: Are you planning any tours or festivals this year?
Becky: Yes! We begin our album tour in June, with those dates being announced this week! Until then, we have a few select gigs around the UK, including our two amazing album launch parties in London and Barnsley (28th and 29th March), and 4 dates with ‘This Feeling’ events which we are very excited about! This summer’s festivals so far include Rebellion, Camden Rocks, Amplified and Lindisfarne. We plan to tour in Europe later this year.
RAMzine: Finally, do you have any other plans for the future?
Lauren: Yeah! We plan to record a few more of the tracks that didn’t make it on the album, lots more music videos and singles to come. Looking at touring more of Europe and doing lots more writing. It’s going to be a crazy year! Can’t wait for it!
Hands Off Gretel’s new album is available now via their website.