Hands Off Gretel
It’s easy to get the grunge look – simply find yourself a flannel shirt, a pair of battered Doc Martens and throw in a bleached hairstyle for good measure.
That’s the easy bit. What’s not easy, however, is replicating to a tee the raw, guitar-driven energy and rasping snarl that gave bands like The Distillers their fame.
But it would appear that Hands Off Gretel have risen to this tricky task remarkably well, with lead singer Lauren Tate’s Brody Dalle-esque roars leading the charge amongst a wall of noise provided by fellow bands members Sean McAvinue (guitar), Laura Moakes (Drums) and Danny Pollard (Bass). We caught up for a pint in Sheffield gem The Washington, a long-standing pillar of the local alternative rock community, to make with this month’s Sesh chat.
WARNING: reading on may cause dangerous levels of ‘90s alt rock nostalgia – when punk was more than a fashion statement and MTV played actual music videos, not Teen Mom.
First things first – have you picked the tracks you’ll be playing for us?
Lauren: Yes we have. The first track will be called ‘My Size’ – it’s a song that’s about a lot of different things. Mainly, though, it focusses on that child-like feeling when nobody quite seems to understand you. I say child-like because, when you’re a child, adults just don’t seem to get it – and they can’t see things from your point of view. There’s a lot of frustration pent-up in that song.
And the other one?
Lauren: ‘In the Eyes’ – which is basically about making a mistake. A big mistake.
In terms of your sound, there’s a clear ‘90s grunge/alternative rock influence. ‘Be Mine’, which is probably your best known song to date, lends heavily from the Distillers school of thought: loud, raw and grungy. What is it about that era of music that appeals to you?
Sean: Ha! Well, I’m from Clare in Ireland so we’ve only just hit the 90s. But on a serious note, and this doesn’t apply solely to ‘90s rock bands, we all love any music with a bit of rawness about it. You can’t seem to find much unapologetic rawness in music anymore. It was there for the punk movement, but the ‘90s alternative rock scene, for me, was more about the angry apathy which shone through in the music. Today, people will still listen to bands like Mudhoney and be like ‘YES!’ when there’s a scream or a particularly messy bit of guitar – it still resonates with people. Hands Off Gretel are trying to channel that sort of energy.
I suppose there’s an onus on bands being very well polished nowadays – both in terms of appearances and tracks. Grunge challenges that, right?
Laura: Grunge was kind of forgotten about for a bit, but it’s still kept that huge audience. For example, we still listen to the same bands today from years ago. We’re here to bring a bit of that back and remind people how important grunge rock is. People seem to appreciate what we’re doing.
I suppose that could be a sign of the time we live in – a lot of people aren’t happy with the establishment and that usually lends itself to a rise in raw, emotional music.
Sean: Completely agree.
Lauren: People are angry. As you say, music usually goes hand-in-hand with the times.
Lauren, there’s an interesting line on the band’s website bio which mentions how you have ‘resisted easier routes to success’ to focus on your ambitions with HOG. Can you give us a bit more info on that?
Lauren: Well, Simon Cowell’s A&R team messaged me once to offer a ‘fast track’ onto The X Factor – I didn’t need to audition or anything like that. A lot of people thought it was a great opportunity, but I wasn’t at all interested and declined their offer. The X Factor isn’t really my thing.
To be honest, it would seem that more and more people are starting to fall out with it; I heard that hardly anybody turned up to the Meadowhall auditions t’other month.
Danny: Surely people are starting to see through it by now? It’s just the same shit, different year.
Lauren: Speaking of X Factor, Adele’s producer got in touch to tell me that I should do Ting Ting’s style stuff – which, of course, isn’t what I want to do. I think it’s important to have control over how you look and what you want to be like.
You’ve only been together as a band for about six months, but have managed to accumulate a lot of love in that short space of time. ‘Be Mine’, for example, has received over 10,000 views in the space of two months – which is pretty good going for a new band!
Sean: Yeah, it’s great! The official band launch was in February and there had been a bit of hype generated beforehand. But yeah, we got some tracks out there and things have really kicked on since.
You’ve got a very busy tour diary over the next few months – Leeds, Barnsley, Rotherham, Sheffield, Newcastle and London are all on the list. Is it a case of getting as much live experience under your belts as possible?
Lauren: Yes, building up live experience is always useful, but we also want to spread out and develop our following as much as possible. There’s also the Crystal stage at Tramlines which we’re looking forward to – I did an acoustic set at The Rocking Chair last year, but it will be great to play Tramlines as Hands Off Gretel.
So, we’re currently sat in the cosy confines of The Washington Pub – a haven of live music in its own right. They’ve had the likes of Drenge, Wet Nuns and The Long Blondes playing gigs ‘ere, and allegedly Jarvis and his muckers would often pop in for a drink before heading over to The Limit club. If Hands Off Gretel ran their own live music pub, who would be playing on your dream bill?
Danny: Royal Blood.
Sean: Can I bring a band back? If so, I’ll choose Nirvana.
Lauren: Bikini Kill
Laura: Mine would be Foo Fighters. Could we have Michael McIntyre as presenter?
Of course. What’s this hotspot called? Pick a word each.
Lauren: Bubblegum. It will be the Wang King B*stard Bubblegum Arms.
Words: Joseph Food @JosephFood
Pics: Timm Cleasby The Picture Foundry
Camera Operators: Jonny Harrold & Jess Hutchinson
Edited: Jonny Harrold
Recorded & Mixed by: Paul ‘Tufty’ Tuffs
This year, In Session has teamed up with Tramlines Festival to bring the best local talent to the Devonshire Green stage. The Exposed In Session stage will feature the likes of Joe Carnall Jr, Slow Club, Nat Johnson, The Crookes, Trash, Blessa, and more! Keep an eye on our social media feeds for all updates.