Lauren Tate has a history of confounding expectations. Her new “superhero” persona Delilah Bon is at it again, spitting sharp, witty and occasionally violent feminist rhymes over a bombastic explosion of hip-hop, punk, pop and nu-metal influences. While there is the same fire lit by her grunge-punk band Hands Off Gretel, this is an unexpected dive into new sounds.
The Tate sat on video chat, is also human and approachable, something you might not expect on the surface of her music and stage persona. As with the best performers, even at those that appear “extreme” to the norm, it is their humanity and relatability that really connects.
“I didn’t. I didn’t know it was today – the interview,” she opened our chat. With a full-on schedule, time had got away from her and she was having a well-deserved lie-in when a message dragged her out of her relaxed state! Maybe the perfect metaphor for her life and the life of most women in our on-going patriarchal status quo. Every day something drags Tate out of any sense that things are OK, forcing her to be a vocal critic on behalf of women.
Delilah Bon is a pure reflection of how Tate wants to be seen, how she wants to be heard and a real showcase of her talents. It is self-written, self-produced and the videos are made with her mum. In this day and age, it seems weird that this should be made a big deal of, but it is a big deal because women still aren’t taken as seriously as artists and producers as men.
Musically, it combines her young fascinations with noughties pop stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, her teen years discovering riot grrl and punk with her loves of hip hop (and trap) and nu-metal. It’s all thrown in, nothing is sacred.
“This is just me,” she said matter factly of her recently released self-titled debut album. That ‘me’ isn’t scared to express themselves musically and has a LOT of important stuff to say.
Tate’s story, from her teenage performances to producing this album is littered with the kind of stories which should act as a catalyst for music’s own #metoo moment. Over two hours her honest, considered and experienced views were vital to hear.
These are select points in full:
Talking about why Delilah Bon was created:
“I was on tour with Hands Off Gretel. And that’s kind of where the backlash came from speaking out, I was speaking out about women’s safety at gigs. And then I was realising that a lot of the audience was behind what I was saying, but then there were quite a few people that didn’t like the fact that I was speaking about women’s issues.
And I got really depressed. I wanted to sing about this thing. But then at the same time, the audience was quite male-dominated, who followed my band, and I decided to do this kind of music for myself. So I started to record Delilah Bon in my studio just for me, and I did the songs for myself.
The alter ego came about because I didn’t want to do it under my own name. She’s like a superhero. She’s my alter ego, and Delilah Bon, is the name I was going to call my baby if I ever had a baby. So I decided this is my, this is my baby. This is my new venture.”
How she was treated by men as a 16-year-old girl in a band:
So I started playing live gigs when I was 16. I was surrounded by men that were probably three times my age. And that was normal from the beginning. I’d never had any women come to my gigs for maybe a year. Only men came. And there were a lot older. But I was always really grateful that they came and I never thought anything of it. I was just like, “this is great”.
It just starts with photographs. A few times I’ve had men grab my bum, during the photographs, which is always uncomfortable. And over the years, I’ve learned now to kind of say something, but when I first started out, it was so embarrassing that I would just did not say anything. And then yeah, from squeezing my bum to kissing me. And this man, I played a gig and he was just like, “Can I kiss you?” And I said, “No, I don’t want you to kiss me”. And then he tried to kiss me and he’s grabbing me trying to kiss me. And then I’ve had a man pick me up in front of everybody, like just from behind come and swoop me up. And this man licked my face. I’ve had drinks thrown at me while I was performing by men.
And just weird things shouted out while I’m on stage, I had this man that said “I want to lick you where it smells funny.” And he kept shouting it over and over again at me at this gig. And I was like, What is this guy doing? “I want to lick you where it smells funny”. And then I looked down at him. And I was like, “What did you just say to me?” And then I made him say it down the microphone, which he did. And then I just said, “Well, I want to kick you where it smells funny”. And then he got kicked out eventually but just like, yeah, just all the time. Just a lot.
At 16 or 17 older men from magazines would ask to meet me, like on a date. And then when I’d say “Oh, I can’t come out and meet you”. I’m like, you know, “I can’t get in the clubs”. They would say, “Oh, yeah. But I’ve got so many opportunities, so many doors I can open for you. If you come out after a gig or after you’ve played, why don’t we meet up and get drinks?”. I’m a 16-17-year-old and I don’t, I don’t want to do that with older men. And then the second I didn’t do that they would then those opportunities would never happen.
It still happens now, where we play a gig and the promoter or one of the guys in the bands will say “you want to go for drinks?” And I just think like “I’m in the middle of Camden. And I don’t feel comfortable going for drinks.” But then I feel like if I don’t go for drinks, these opportunities that I could get, I won’t get because they’ll think I’m just like not interested.
I had a guy tell me that I should talk differently. That really crushed me when I was like 15. And he just said, “Yes. Well, you need to be of presenting yourself a bit differently.” Like “in the way you talk to people you’ve kind of got a thick accent and you need to sound more Barnsley.” Yeah, it just said that I was apparently doing a fake accent, it really knocked my confidence when I was younger, because I was like, I’m not doing a fake accent. This is my voice.”
Being vocal about the everyday issues women face:
“I’m writing about the things that we’re talking about to each other, that I think some people are kind of nervous to voice in music. When I go out with my friends, we’re talking about outfits we want to wear that we can’t wear, like if we go dancing in the clubs together. We’ve got outfits that we’ve bought that are in our wardrobes, but then we think I don’t want to wear them because if I go to the club, I’m gonna attract really creepy people.
So I’m not gonna wear this, I’m gonna wear a jacket over the top. And we’re talking about walking home alone and discussing just how we feel. And then, and the more we talk about it, it’s like there is a real issue here. Talking about situations that they’ve been in with like sexual assault and walking home alone and outfits that they wear and the way they feel that they’re kind of being treated, but then also silenced because no one’s talking about it. And then that makes me want to scream about it because it’s like, I want to, I want to voice what I know so many people are talking about and but also sing about things that are really hard to sing about. But then, also make it fun and make it like empowering and make it like you can dance to it as well.
Me and my mum went for a walk in the woods, and it started getting dark. And we were like, crap, you know, it was too late. It was probably seven o’clock, but it was getting dark. And like we said to each other, “what are we doing out so late?” Why don’t we come on a walk so late when it’s getting dark?
And then as we came home, like, my dad is just, he’s just going for a walk now. And it’s pitch black outside. And then it’s like, we’ve had to live like this in the fear of “what if?” And then when, when you actually talk about that. And you tell like men, you say, this is what we live with. We live with the “what if” fear, we look outside, and if it’s too dark, we change our plans?
Because we think, I don’t know, I don’t want to risk it. My dad can’t imagine ever thinking that way. He just thinks you know, why would you be scared of something when it might not happen? And some, some women don’t care, as they will walk, they’ll go jogging at night. And that’s how it should be it should be, able to go places and do things. But it’s like now especially people are more wary. And I don’t know what kind of, I don’t know what you can do about it. Really, it’s just I guess, keep, keep talking about it, keep the conversation going and have people that are aware of it. So like, if there is a guy walking down the street and he sees a girl on their own, then he can make sure that she’s okay. He doesn’t have to like, I don’t know, he can you can see that behaviour and other men and like, think that man is following that girl and I’m just I’m actually just gonna go and make sure like she’s okay. And it’s just small things like that, that now I think people are starting to do which is really good.”
Male audiences attitude to women in music:
“All the girl fronted bands that I see, like, if there’s a girl in the band if it’s a full girl band, or it’s just a girlfriend in the band, I see it attracts a lot of men, that sometimes the men that do come to these gigs, they’re not coming for the music, and they’re just coming to cause trouble. And when I talk to girls in other bands, they all have it. And it’s like, we just seem to be attracting these zombies that just come to the gig and they get drunk, and then they just disrespect us throughout the show. No one’s really saying anything about it. And then I wanted to say something about it. And I think people are a little bit scared to say something because they don’t want to offend anybody. But at the end of the day, it’s ruining the scene, seeing these men just not there for the music, because a lot of men, and then they all get all offended, maybe thinking that we’re talking about them, but we’re not, we’re talking about these certain men that ruin it for everybody.”
Rock music’s mythologising of sexist behaviour and misogyny:
“Yeah, it’s just, it’s just awful. I’ve never thought it was cool. Even when I was younger, I went to see Guns N Roses. And I remember. I think I was about 14 when I went to see them. And I noticed straight away that they were pulling girls from the crowd. So like, there were loads of girls that were pulled out of the crowd and taken backstage. Yeah. And like, I just, I just knew that was wrong.
I’ve not even really thought much about any of this. But I just saw that when I was younger, and I thought that they’re like, they’re like old men. And those are really young girls.
And, and then when I saw Aerosmith at Download Festival. And he walks out on his intro, and he was walking out and he had these girls under his arms. The girls are just accessories to these rock stars. And, and it just frustrated me because it’s like, I don’t want to be an accessory to a rock star. I want to be THE rock star. You would never see a woman walking out with like men under her arms. It’s just not the same thing. And yeah, just the whole rock and roll thing. Like when you watch documentaries, and it’s like sex, drugs, rock and roll. I think a lot of boys look at that and think, “Oh, I want that.” I’ve been on tour with boy bands. And it’s like, you can tell they think that this is a realistic lifestyle.”
Writing songs that speak of consent and female sexual empowerment
“With the song ‘Chop Dicks’, I didn’t want it to be like, anti, like, it’s not, it’s not about a girl that’s anti-sex it’s about a girl that wants to be treated properly. It’s not that you don’t like men. Because you might say you don’t, you might not want a man.
But it’s to say that you might want a man, go out and meet people. And that’s fine. You can go and meet and have sex with people. And that’s fine. But it’s like, if you don’t want to have sex with someone, they have to accept that as well. And that songs about the fear that there is a man walking behind her on the way home and what I did on that song is it could have gone a lot darker because the very end of the song when I sang “he didn’t hurt you”. But imagine if he did, would you feel the way that I feel if that girl was your kid?
I ended it with a question. Instead of saying, he followed her and then something bad happened. In the song nothing bad happened. It was just a “what if”. And I wanted it to be like, from the perspective that the song is about a girl, Delilah. It’s singing it to Delilah, her dad and saying like, would you feel the way that I feel if that girl was your kid? And yeah, I wanted it to be like an education song. Especially, I’ve had a lot of men say that they listened to that song. And although it was quite uncomfortable, and they were really glad that I’d written it because it helps them understand like the teenage daughter a little bit more. And, and yeah, but I’ve had a lot of dads kind of complimenting that song, which is good.”
Fighting to be taken seriously in music production.
“I’ve always had an ear for production throughout all my band’s albums. I’ve always sat behind the producer and said things like, “I think if you change this, I think it will sound better” or “maybe we should try this”. And most of the time the producers just been like, “right, can you just go and sit in the other room while I work on it” and tried to keep me out of that side of things. And I’ve always felt like, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Or that every time I have an idea it’s like “what? Nobody, nobody agrees with me.”
And I remember when I was doing an album, the producer said to me, “I am the producer, you are the singer. So let me do my job. And I’ll let you do yours.” And I remember that really stuck with me because it was my album, I wanted it to sound like what it sounds like in my head at me just kind of pushed my ideas aside. But then in the final mix, that’s when I got involved, with emails back and forth.
And I’ve always had ideas with every record, and I’ve always, ended up mixing it with the producer through emails. I’ve always just been seen as annoying. Like, if I’ve got an idea. It’s like, “oh, what does she know?” So then I just committed to doing this on my own, with no one’s help. Finally, I can just, I can commit to my ideas, see what I can achieve without someone just telling me that it’s not gonna work all the time. So yeah, I’m really glad that I’ve done the album myself, just to show them I can.”
Her on-going evolution as an artist
“It’s ever-evolving. I think this [Delilah Bon] is, probably, me so far. And now I’m discovering I’m challenging myself more. There are other things I want to do. Like, with the rapping, I didn’t start rapping until last year, that my first attempt. So it’s not even been a year yet of trying to rap. And on my newer songs, I’m challenging myself more and rapping faster and using different words.
And it’s exciting because there’s just no limits. I can do a song where it’s just singing. And then I can do a song where it has screaming. And then I could do a song where it’s just rap and there’s nothing else really. It’s just everything up to now I’ve put into the sound and so many different directions I can take it, which is exciting.”
The energy and the honesty bubbles throughout our conversation, of which the above is just a fraction. We also covered how her mum only really listens to her daughter’s music, being inspired by seeing Pink live and her concerns about doing an 8pm interview following an afternoon BBQ and drinking session later that day. All important, real talk!
The album is out now and Tate talked about taking Delilah Bon on the road with an “all female band with a DJ, and a bass player, a guitar player, but electronic beats,” which will no doubt combine the visceral power of her previous band with the colourful unpredictability of this new persona. In other words, essential.