“We usually hang upside down from the ceiling,” says Joe [bass] about Hands Off Gretel’s creative process. “It was something I wasn’t expecting when I joined the band but, you know, Lauren is from a vampire family.” Lauren [vocals and guitar] releases an incredulous “Oh my God”, before promising that the band will answer the rest of the questions properly. She even dismisses drummer Sam’s answer to my second question as “shit” (hence why it doesn’t make an appearance here), before providing me with the first serious response of the interview.
Given that Hands Off Gretel have such a fervent DIY ethos, I want to know if they are willing to give up complete creative control if a tempting record deal comes along. “Okay, I’ll answer this one,” insists Lauren, who, in addition to being the band’s chief songwriter, designs everything from the album artwork to the souvenir t-shirts. “I think it’s a matter of getting signed by the right people that will understand us. Obviously if they’ve seen that we’ve got a big following doing what we do and are like, ‘We’re gonna take what you’ve done and put money in you,’ then we might.
“We kind of play hard to get, because if people find you before you know who you are, they’re just gonna mould you. We want to become a solid entity before we’re interested.”
Sam takes over: “We’re doing really well on us [sic] own. If they do want to sign us, they’re going to have to accommodate us as opposed to us accommodating them.”
Lauren’s opinion has been partly shaped by her own experience of record company interest. At one point, she was approached by Sony but soon spurned their advances after it became clear they wanted to turn her into “something else”: the final nail in the coffin came after they sent her songs to learn. It is no surprise, then, that Lauren also refused to go on The X-Factor after being approached by a talent scout. “I just absolutely hate stuff like that!” she says. “The talent scout said they were gonna fast track me so I wouldn’t have to go through the auditions – straight onto the show. All I had to say was yes.
“It only works for people who just like singing and just wanna be a pop star – that’s it. But that’s just not enough for me. To win singing other people’s music has got no integrity whatsoever. I wanna be proud of myself. My nan and granddad would be proud but they don’t really get it!”
Lauren has already got good reason to be proud. Without any outside intervention, Hands Off Gretel have amassed an impressive following, and are due to play at Download Festival this year. With the band continuing to be successful off their own backs, they’re understandably looking ahead: “I think [my hope for the future is] to make a sustainable living from music,” says Joe. “The whole rock star dream is nice, but it doesn’t happen for a lot of people.” Is it possible to make a sustainable living from your music? “Absolutely, yeah. I mean, there’s lots of bands that no-one’s ever heard of that earn good money doing it. It’s just not on telly!”
Sam adds: “We never post anything saying we want to become fucking millionaires and die on the toilet. We just want to keep up what we’re doing, and people really appreciate that, like. People are just so behind us, wanting us to do well, like.”
“I think they want to see the underdog fucking go somewhere,” concludes Joe. It is safe to say that the band are going somewhere, but how much longer they will be regarded as underdogs is another question. Whatever heights they reach, however, I am confident that Hands Off Gretel’s punk mentality and DIY ethos will remain.
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Cover photo by Andras Paul