Recently when I was going through some emotional things in my life, I found myself doing what I did when I was growing up. I buried myself in music. Back then, I would put on The Lunachicks or Bikini Kill and feel like they were talking about exactly what I was going through. This time however, I was playing a band that wasn’t around back when I was a lonely high school kid. I played Hands off Gretel, the UK punk band fronted by the incredibly talented and beautiful Lauren Tate. Imagine Pink and Ani Difranco having a baby and then Courtney Love and Joan Jett adopting it and raising it. You would get Lauren. Her honesty lyrics paired with the hard rock and pop punk sound make for a needed feminist role model for women. Even more exciting is that she just released her first official solo album "Songs for Sad Girls." She wrote, played and distributed the entire thing all by herself even creating her own record label called Trash Queen Records.
Tate recently got “criticism” because she posted on her Instagram a long plea to men to stop sexualizing her and her female bass player, Becky. As much as women thanked her and loved every word of it, there were internet trolls making memes and being their usual asshole selves. I was elated when she agreed to do an interview about bullying in music scenes, being a feminist role model, and her new solo album. If you do anything today, go listen to Songs For Sad Girls.
I’m such a fan of your lyrics and I found myself enraptured in your music when I was going through a pretty intense bullying situation. People look at you and must see a woman so talented and beautiful and here you are writing about situations teenage girls go through all the way to experiences that women in their 50’s still face. You seem so confident so where does these lyrics come from?
LT: Aw man I’m so sorry to hear that you went through that. It’s awful, coming from someone who’s never had a friend group and basically spent every weekend in my bedroom with my cat and furry toys I really feel you there. I get questions a lot about my confidence and I think it’s funny because I’ve never been a confident person. If someone got me up on stage to talk or give a speech I think I’d just freeze. But when it comes to my music I can just let go and become a character, not saying I’m faking it though, the character is me but I’m not always this crazy confident singer, a lot of the time I’m just a loner who likes to sit and daydream.
I wrote ‘Miss American Perfect Body’ about this exact subject. I was receiving messages daily from girls asking me for advise, calling me perfect and I thought it was kinda crazy cause I was just spending most days that summer in my room feeling really depressed, tearing myself down. In many ways the girls who message me think that I’m helping them but they’re helping me too, there’s not many things as magical as women helping other women.
You are bringing back that riot grrl/punk mentality that isn’t seen enough with the music industry these days. How have you found it being a woman in the spotlight? What have been pros and cons for you?
LT: My teen years were one of the most angry times for me, I still feel like i owe that girl a shit load of songs. I freaking loved the books and documentaries on riot grrrl, especially ‘The Punk Singer’ dvd about Kathleen Hannah. I got that for my birthday when I was 17 and the first thing I did was pick up my guitar and look myself in the mirror. ‘YOU HAVE TO DO IT’ I kept telling myself. I was getting pissed that not enough women in music we’re talking thrashing guitars and screaming like back in the 90s, it became apparent quickly then that I had to be that woman I was searching for.
Let’s talk about you Instagram post that women loved, and internet trolls hated. How did that make you feel when you saw the negative comments?
LT: To be honest when I get negative comments from guys it doesn’t hurt my feelings the same. Some people will never see eye to eye and as shocking as some comments were I just had to laugh. It’s the same kind of men every time that gravitate towards Facebook to voice their old fashioned opinions while slating us ‘millennials’ and calling us snowflakes or whatever for getting offended all the mean while they’re the ones getting offended. I got a lot of ‘if you dress revealing, you’re asking to be perved on’ which is just disgusting. Made me uneasy to know there were so many men out there that actually believed this and thought us women dressed nice for their gaze. *gipping sounds* Kerrang! gave me a full page though to voice my opinions on men at gigs being inappropriate with myself and my bass player Becky Baldwin. I think a lot of girls in bands agreed with my statement but felt they couldn’t come out there and say it. Some people value amount of fans over the right kind of fans, I’m glad I got rid of a load of them, it made room for way more that actually support my message. I hope more women can speak up about this, creepy dudes at shows, groping girls and creating uncomfortable environments is just ruining it for everybody.
How do you handle bullies who hide behind keyboards?
LT: The bullies are the worst because I often worry about my safety especially at shows where these people that stalk me and create fake accounts to abuse me and slander me online know exactly where I am. I had fake accounts messaging all my fans individually, sending fake screen shots and telling them I was this awful person. It’s true when they say High school never ends!
Sometimes I think women can be the most vicious toward other women. I find a lot of women are afraid to speak up for others and the ones that do can be outcasted. First, I thank you for speaking up for other women. Second, have you had a women-bully situation and if so, how do you think these kinds of people effect our music scenes?
LT: Thanks so much. I really try my best, it’s so important to me to bring other women up and empower girls with my music. There’s a load of backstabbing and jealousy in the music scene especially when you’re doing well and getting recognition and I tend to just stay in my own little corner and not get involved. I think people might think I’m stuck up because I don’t socialise or hang out like most of the other bands do. I’m just not into it, any wiff of gossip and I refuse to be part of it. I don’t have many friends in the scene, like I said I’m a total loner and im gonna keep it that way. I think too many people focus on what others are doing and loose focus on their own music. It’s sad because when I first started out I thought I was surrounded by friends, it took me a while to realize I was being very naive and not everyone around me wanted to see me succeed.
I was thinking about the song by Tori Amos, These Precious Things, which is almost an autobiography of her life. Do any of your songs feel like that for you? Obviously, all your songs are personal but is there one that you consider to be most autobiographical about yourself?
LT: All my songs like you say are personal. I’ve not written anything yet that is like a full autobiography, I will though. The more I write the closer I get to the core of myself, I just want my songs to sound like open diaries. I want people to listen to my music and feel like I’m talking directly to them like a friend, especially if they have nobody to talk to or understand how they feel.
You have another solo album out. Tell us more about that and how will it differ from Hands Off Gretel?
LT: Yeah! I mean technically it’s my first ever solo album as before that I’d only had a EP which I did when I was 16. The songs on there are softer than Hands Off Gretel, more personal to me lyrically tackling subjects like relationships, abuse, self love and sadness. I wrote, recorded and produced that album myself which was super special, I was able to capture a real raw part of myself without any overly processed sounds or effects on my vocals. The response so far has been amazing! My inbox has been inundated with lovely messages from fans saying this album has really helped them understand feelings they’d be feeling themselves.
People tend to feel like people in the spotlight have no “real” problems. What challenges do face everyday that others could easily relate to?
LT: I hate my boobs. I used to fill my bras with tissue and socks at school. I overcame depression in my late teens but suffer with anxiety especially socially and I’m trying everyday to not let crippling doubt kill me. I love Instagram for talking about all these things about myself that I struggle with. I follow many body positivity pages that really help me too. In school people used to tease me for being too thin calling me ‘anorexic’ and my relationship with my body is an ongoing battle. I use all my stories like these to help others who’re feeling the way i do. It sucks that every woman dislikes something about herself because I find all women beautiful no matter what shape.
Do you consider yourself a feminist and what does that word mean to you?
LT: Yes of corse I do. 1000%... Feminism for me is about my self worth and power as an individual. Feminism comes in many different forms and in my life as a British white Girl I’m more than privileged for all I have. it’s really unfair because feminism for women in other parts of the world is more about their basic freedom and rights to exist as a human being. The world is so messed up. I think some people forget how much women had to fight to get to where we are now in society. feminism for me is also about body positivity and everyday outlook, being supportive of other women and creating empowering music about self love allowing girls to feel like they can be anything regardless of stereotypes attached to ‘being a girl’.
Who was the most important female influence in your life (outside of family) and what did they teach you about yourself?
LT: P!nk was my idol during school. I was teased because I cut my hair like hers and I sang her songs on my YouTube channel. I remember boys in my class playing my singing videos out loud and laughing at me. “Do you think you’re a rockstar Lauren” they’d always say to me. I’d always say no but I knew the answer was yes. Id sit and cry in the school toilets with my earphones in, skipping class. Every word just touched my soul especially “conversations with 13 year old self” as I was 13 at the time and every lyric described just how I felt.
If you were a girl in school these days being bullied or outcasted, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now?
LT: When you leave school you’ll realize that all that time worrying what others thought of you or said about you was a complete waste of time. Stay focused on your dreams and never ever give them up just because other kids don’t have any and feel threatened by yours. Know that being a loner and a freak teaches you a huge lesson in life that most kids don’t learn. You learn to be yourself in that time, you learn to stand alone and cope without anyone by your side propping you up just to let you fall. In this life being able to walk comfortably alone is more important than being surrounded by fake friends. Learn to love yourself, learn to laugh at yourself and never ever feel pressured into anything that makes you feel anything less than the queen that you are.
Lauren's new album is available on all streaming devices as well as limited hot pink splatter vinyl via her website. Visit the links below to keep updated on this amazing women. Support musicians and please buy the music!