Delilah Bon, the brat-punk alter ego of Lauren Tate (Hands Off Gretel) is due to drop her latest single/video, ‘School’, on 11 December 2020. Ahead of the release, Andy Houghton caught up with her to discuss the new track and her forthcoming album.
Tell me a bit about Delilah Bon. You’re well known as Lauren Tate for your work with Hands Off Gretel, for your solo work, ‘Songs for Sad Girls’, etc. So why did you feel the need to create a new persona?
I had no plans of creating Delilah really, she popped out of nowhere. Truly. I’ve been writing these songs for myself for a while and they were kind of rap/hip hop meets punk style songs.
During the last tour with Hands Off Gretel, I was getting a bit down during that time as quite a lot of negative stuff kicked off when I spoke about girls getting harassed at some of our gigs. So I started saying every gig, I want to create a good environment for girls, because I was getting messages from young girls saying that they’d been to a Hands Off Gretel gig and they had been groped, or they’d been harassed. So I was like, “What? In my gig? How the hell can that happen?” But we do sometimes attract really drunk guys who aren’t fans, that just come along, and they were ruining it for some of the girls.
So I was messaging back and forth with these girls, but it was something I just couldn’t stop thinking about on tour. I was playing gigs and in the back of my mind thinking, “Is everyone having a fun time?”, and it ruined it for me. I was thinking, you know what, I’m actually not having a fun time. I don’t feel great. And I was waiting for the end of the tour to come because I thought when the end of this tour comes, I’m gonna sit myself down and think, what am I doing this for, you know, having these questions, “Who am I? What’s my voice? What am I trying to say?”.
And then lockdown happened, which came at a very apt time, and I locked myself away, and I thought, I’m going to write these songs for me. Strangely, it happened to be rap, I’ve never rapped in my life. There I was trying something new for myself and as I was listening to it and just felt this is what I needed. I just needed a different outlet with a different feel, a different mood, a different version of myself. That’s when I thought I can’t hold this in anymore. I need to show people this. And Delilah was born!
How would you describe Delilah Bon’s sound?
I call it brat-punk. When I think of what that’s about, it has a few different reasons. The brat element is the sassiness Delialh brings and also, weirdly, the Bratz dolls aesthetic. So the brat is like a fashion style, all of the pink, all of the bubble gum side, the kind of hip hop element, whereas the punk is the attitude. And I like to call it brat-punk/hip hop, just mixing different genres of rap and rock.
You’ve done a couple of freestyles (based on Nicki Minaj’s ‘Chun-Li’ and Eminem’s ‘Godzilla’). Who would you name as your key influences?
I’ve always been a massive fan of P!nk. Always. And when she first started, the first albums were more like hip hop. That’s what I listened to at school at the time. I still love Britney Spears, and I used to love a lot of pop artists.
But then, as I became more of a rock chick, I just forgot about them and I pushed them back and thought, I don’t want to do that kind of music. But I’ve just been re-finding a lot of songs from my youth when I’ve been trying to discover: “Who am I again? Where did I come from? What am I trying to say?”
And then I’ve gone back to what I used to listen to. All of these influences. They’ve always been there but, with Delilah, I’ve gone back and discovered more people like Lil’ Kim – I love her. I never really listened to much rap, like female rap, but now one of my favourite artists is Rico Nasty. I just love the energy. I love the angst, the grits. I’ve listened to so many female punk punks, and grunge singers. Now I’m finding it in a different genre – like that same energy, but a different genre, is just refreshing.
You’ve released five tracks now as Delilah Bon (‘School’ will be the sixth). Have you been pleased with the response so far?
Yeah. I mean, I was never meant to release these songs. I told myself I wouldn’t release them. I don’t know why I thought I wouldn’t release them. But I just thought I liked them just being mine.
There’s a feeling when you put a song out there in the world, you instantly regret it. You just think, “Oh no, now you’ve got to hear opinions”. Before then you just loved it and then the second they’re out there opinions can change how much you like something. You could go from believing in yourself to then thinking maybe I’m not good enough, people can be awful online.
But luckily, I’ve had a really good response. A few people don’t really get it, they are kind of like, “Why are you selling out? Why are you doing this style?”, which is annoying, because it’s as though you can only do one style for the rest of your life. But the people that did get behind it just loved the message. I think the one thing they’ve really loved is my lyrics. And yeah, it’s been great.
How have previous fans, like fans of Hands off Gretel, reacted? Are they the people that have found it difficult to adjust, or have you carried them with you?
A kind of mixture. I would say the majority of people like Delilah, and they get it and they just see it as another part of me, they don’t see it as they can only like one or the other. Whereas some people, instantly the second I released Delilah, were like, “Oh, yes, but what about Hands Off Gretel?”
It’s like, some people don’t like change. And when when I did this, it wasn’t to replace Hands Off Gretel, it was just that I needed to do something different, I was driving myself insane singing the same songs over and over and over again. I just needed something else. Because that’s just how my brain works. And yeah, there has been a very, very small amount of people that don’t like it. But of course, they’re the ones you remember.
Do you have a personal favourite track?
Now that changes every day. I think my personal favourite is ‘School’, which is the new one. What it is about is really important to me. I feel like I’ve written everything I could ever write about school, because that’s all I used to write about when I was younger. But then it’s been a long time since I’ve sang about school and it just feels like it’s come at a good time, when I’m finally reconnecting with the girl I was at school and thinking about her. So I’m doing the song for her – me – in the past. And this is definitely my favourite one.
Where does the song come from? What inspired ‘School’?
When I started the Delilah project, I just wanted to reconnect with me and go back through everything in my brain and think, “Who am I? What do I stand for? What do I want to think about?” And school is a big part of who I am, because it completely shaped my confidence growing up, because I had no friends at school. And that’s when my dreams manifested. I used to stare out of the window and think, one of these days, these kids that just ignore me every day and these kids that are just twats, they’re gonna look at me one day and they’re gonna think I wish I spoke to her and not treat me the way they did. I used to just imagine my face on a magazine cover and imagine one day they’re going to see me and they’re gonna be like, “That’s that girl! I was friends with that girl! I knew Lauren. Me and Lauren were friends.” And so when I wrote this song, it was a fantasy of how it would feel to all of a sudden have all these people ring me up and text me and say, “Oh my God, you’re doing so well. I used to know you”.
You’ve also recently collaborated with Boy Danger for ‘The Downfall’. How did that come about?
[Boy Danger] popped up on Instagram one day. So he’s just this crazy guy from California that just messaged me. He’s been really supportive of my music – everything I’ve put up, he’s been the first to comment. So I recognised him and then I’d see his work, and then I’d be like, “Oh, it’s a really cool style”. And it’s cool, because he started his project this year as well. So we’re both doing it at the same time. He told me “I’ve written a song, and I can just hear your voice on it”, which, you know, massive pressure, thinking “Oh, God, what’s he imagined?” So he sent it me and I said, “I’ll give it a go today, but I can’t guarantee that I’ve got enough time to do it.” I’ve never collaborated before. This is my first time. And it’s scary, putting yourself out there. I sent him the track. I was nervous, I’m like, oh God, I hope his expectation wasn’t too high. But he loved it. Yeah, it was great. I enjoyed it.
How has lockdown been for you generally? Has it been an opportunity for you to focus on the new music?
I wouldn’t like to say it’s been a blessing, because it’s not been a blessing. It’s been horrendous for people. I’ve seen a lot of creatives go both ways during lockdown. A lot of my friends that are musicians have struggled; having all this time, it gets in your head, and you start doubting yourself and I’ve had a little bit of that, but I’ve kept going and I’ve just focused, kept planning. This is a time now to think about what I want in my life and plan. Really think about what I want to do more of, what I want to do less of. It’s been an opportunity to hit pause and think, life is so fast. Oh my God, it’s so fast.
It’s been six years since I started Hands Off Gretel and that has been my life since I left school, just gig after gig and doing this. We never hit pause, because you just can’t. You can’t stop the momentum, it has to continue. So having this time, where it’s forcing me to stop, it’s brought the best out of me I think. It’s also scary, because now I’m really nervous to play gigs again. I’m scared I’ve forgotten how. But I do practise dancing around my room and singing to the songs still. But yeah, I’m a bit nervous to meet people again.
One of the things that really strikes me about you is how involved you are in every part of the creative process – in the songwriting and performance and production. Is that because you’ve got a very singular vision of what you want to create, or are you just really bad at delegating?
Both! In my life, I’ve always seen it as a bad thing, until this year, when I’ve started accepting that it’s not a bad thing, it’s just how I am. But I’ve always felt it was that I’m a control freak, or that I can’t let go and I can’t allow people to help me. There is an element of that, I do find it difficult to trust people in the vision that I’ve got. When I have said “you do it and I’ll just see how it looks when it’s finished’”, and then I get it back and I’m like, “oh God, no, that is not it”, and then I’ve got to go back and tell them it’s not right.
I also struggle in the studio when we’re doing an album. I feel so much anxiety. I sit, listening to the producer mixing and I’ll be sat behind the producer and I have all these ideas and I hold them back, I think I don’t want to be annoying and tell these ideas because I have to let him do it. So I don’t know, I’m always in between, because I think no, I should tell everyone my ideas, I should share everything that I’m thinking – it’s my vision, so it’s my project, I should be in charge of what I want. But I think there’s also a thing where I don’t like other people doing their own thing if it’s not what I want, because I’m very visual.
One of the things we touched on earlier was misogyny. When you look to the future, do you feel hopeful that things are going to get better with all these misogyny issues? Or are we just stuck with it?
I get so many messages from young people that have the same views as me and everyone’s a lot more open minded nowadays which is great. I guess people are more aware of it now, and they’ll call people out for it. If someone’s being inappropriate with me, throughout my life I’ve been taught to just be really polite and to just smile and just laugh it off, to not say anything. But I think now it’s becoming more normalised that it is a problem and it’s not okay. And instead, people know, if something happens to them, they can talk about it and they can tell people knowing others will support them.
You have a new album, as Delilah Bon, coming out in 2021. Do you have a title for it yet?
No, not yet. I had a great idea for a title, but I can’t use it because it’s already taken! So I’m going to try and think of something that doesn’t exist, which is always hard. I’m mixing the album currently, and it’s just freaking ace! Like it’s so good, I can’t wait for people to hear it.
How do you feel about it coming out? Excited? Nervous?
I’m excited and ready. I don’t feel nervous anymore. I’ve accepted that people sometimes on the internet are just dicks and I don’t know I’ve just got everything to give. I just want to have nothing left to say when I die, that’s just what I want. I want nothing left. So that means I’m going to be putting it all out for now because I’ve held too much back over the years, old songs, and I listen to them and I think “I wish I’d released this”, but then the time is gone and I never did and then I’m on to something new.
Are you planning to tour next year as Delilah Bon?
No plans yet, no. I keep fantasising what it would be like and having pretend gigs in my room. But no plans yet. We do have quite a few [Hands Off Gretel] dates in the next year and hopefully they happen, but we still have no idea.
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