Culture, Interview, Music

“A man told me to lose my guitar because it was distracting”: Delilah Bon on sexual harassment in music and empowering others

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Featured Image: Press

You may recognise Lauren Tate as Hands Off Gretel’s ferocious frontwoman. During the pandemic, the self-styled rage queen unveiled a new alter ego in the form of Delilah Bon.

After hearing stories about sexual harassment at gigs from women at her shows, the 23-year-old was prompted to take matters into her own hands, providing both an outlet for her rage and a voice for others.

Since Bon’s inception in July, she’s wasted no time in releasing eight new tracks discussing prevalent issues in our society – from harassment in clubs in ‘Chop Dicks’ to reflecting on school life in ‘School’.

Every single track is an attention-grabbing anthem centred around empowering others. She successfully fuses beat-driven hip hop with screaming brat-punk to create a genre all of her own. It’s also something that has resonated with many, her latest track, ‘School’ was released just over a month ago, but it has already clocked up over 37k streams on Spotify alone.

Her music isn’t the only thing that Bon takes complete control over. She also creates and produces her tracks and videos, as well as her merchandise – making sure that everything is true to herself.

aAh! Magazine caught up with Delilah Bon over Zoom to find out more about gaining the confidence to produce her own material, dealing with hate and stalkers, as well as filming music videos with her mum.

How did you settle on the name Delilah Bon?

“It’s so weird, you’re the first person to ask me that question. I thought people would ask me, but no one else has even asked me. When I imagined having a baby, I always give the name ‘Delilah’ to the baby. I don’t know why but it’s just that I started fantasising that I wanted to have a baby, and I was like, ‘if I have a baby, I want to call the baby Delilah.’ And then, I really liked the second name ‘Bon.’ I was like, ‘I’m going to have a baby one day and she’s gonna be called Delilah Moon Bon.’ And then, I’d write it in my diary like, ‘My baby will one day be called Delilah Moon Bon’, that’s her name.’ And then, when I did this project, I was like, ‘Oh my god I need a name.’ So, I said to my mum, ‘Would it be really stupid to call it Delilah Bon?’ And she was like, ‘What the heck is Delilah Bon?’ And I was like, ‘Well that’s the name of my fake baby.’ And then, it just stuck like, ‘Oh no, what am I going to call my kid now?’ I don’t have any names if I have a kid, so you know.”

I love that though, as I know many artists think of their art as their child. I’ve noticed with all of your music videos and everything, it’s all self-produced and self-created. Did you plan from the very beginning, to do everything this way? 

“Yeah, definitely! It’s just really freeing. It’s the first time that I’ve committed to producing my own songs. Before I’d always get someone else to produce them, even though I’ve always known that I could produce my own, it’s been a confidence thing. Now, by doing everything myself, it truly is my baby. Everything about it is me, and I love it. It’s great. I’ve enjoyed doing it.”

That’s great! How did you learn to do all of it?

“Well, not school. Nothing at school. I kind of picked it up myself, just watching Youtube tutorials for producing, which helped a little bit. But, most of it was just trial and error. With my art and everything else, it was just trial and error and YouTube tutorials. Learning by just doing it a lot.”

When you started your project, you’ve previously said it was because you realised while touring with your band Hands Off Gretel, that people were experiencing sexual harassment at your gigs and then you spoke out about it. When did you realise that this was all happening?

“Well, I was very naive to the industry since I started, when I was twelve, just making videos online. And then, the big things would happen, like I had a lot of stalkers, a lot of men who would stalk me, and I’ve always had stalkers. It always felt like an online thing, that you’d just deal with these weird men online, but then it started to happen at gigs. I’d be playing a gig, and then me and my bass player, Becky Baldwin, would be talking about things after gigs. I’d be like, ‘The other night this man said this to me, and this man told me to lose my guitar because it was distracting. It distracted him seeing a guitar in front of my outfit, that I shouldn’t play the guitar because he wants to see my outfit and it’s distracting.’ And then, it was little things here and there. I’d be like, ‘Becky [Baldwin], do you get this?’ And, she’d be like, ‘Oh my god…’ Becky [Baldwin] has so many stories as well. The more women you talk to, the more they’re like, ‘That’s nothing, listen to what happened to me.’

“So, I spoke out about it like, ‘I’m sick of just constantly being spoken to differently, like the boys in the band never experience any of this, and it just makes me sad, as it takes away my enjoyment because I’m just constantly being kissed and felt, and men trying to pick me up.’ I was like, ‘Surely normal people don’t do this to people, and surely people are going to agree with me?’ I said that and I spoke out about it, and weirdly the internet attacked me from both angles, where there were a lot of men who agreed with me and said, ‘Oh yeah, they’re not welcome at gigs, don’t worry it’s not all men, don’t worry about that. It’s just individuals.’ But then, the men online as well were just saying, ‘It’s because you dress a certain way, and you’re basically asking for it like you’re asking for that attention, and you should start dressing like a professional.’ I was like, ‘What?!’ So, yeah it all hit me at once, from being so naive to the industry, to the second that I spoke out about it. Girls were just flooding my messages like, ‘Thank you for saying something, I’ve been groped, I’ve been harassed, I don’t go to gigs anymore.’ Even saying, ‘I was at one of your gigs, and I got my drink spiked.’ And, it just broke me. Now, it is all I think about because it’s something, that not enough people are talking about, and the second that I start talking about it, I got attacked for it. So, you know, I’m on my own little mission.”

That’s so awful, but I guess that’s sadly why people are scared to speak up about it, however, I think it’s so inspiring how you’ve spoken up and how Delilah Bon is all about taking the power back. Which song of yours do you think sums it up best?

“Well, I’m trying to think of what I’ve already released now. I always really liked ‘Chop Dicks’ and singing that song. I don’t really go out much. I live in my own little bubble, so when I do go out, I’m so aware of seeing people and how girls are treated if I go to the clubs. I’m clubbing with my friends, and I’m so aware of their safety a lot of the time, and I look around at guys, and I worry about girls walking home alone, and hearing stories about what’s happened. When I wrote ‘Chop Dicks’, the lyrics about having your keys in your hand, ready to chop dicks, like that is the reality for so many people. It is the reality where you are thinking, ‘Oh, do I have a weapon on me, do I have pepper spray, just in case?’ Every time I talk about it, someone will say, ‘Yes, but what about men, they have to go through it.’ It’s become the norm that girls will very casually say like, ‘Oh you know, just be prepared for what might happen’, because it does happen quite a lot. I think I really like the lyrics for that song, but I like the lyrics for the song, ‘Where My Girls At?’ too. Those are about similar things.”

I really admire how your personal experiences come through in the tracks, did you have any reservations before releasing them?

“Yeah, well, when I wrote them, I didn’t write them for releasing them. I wrote them thinking that they would just be mine. Maybe I was kidding myself a bit, but I just wrote these songs that were a totally different style and listened to them in my earphones, and they were for me. A reminder to myself that I’m strong, and I’ve got this, and I know what I’m on about. When it came to other people listening, I did panic a little bit, but then I thought, you know what, life is so short I’m just going to do it. I can’t hold this back. Too many people need to hear lyrics like this, and if I get hate for it, which I have, whatever. I’ll take the hate for what it’ll do for girls, it’s worth it.”

How do you deal with the hate, has it got easier the longer you’ve been in the industry?

“It gets easier to deal with online because you can block people, but then it makes me very nervous to go on tour. I was on a live stream, and I was talking to my fans about how that felt. If someone wanted to attack me, they’d know where I am all the time. They can just see my tour schedule and be like, ‘Oh I can go to a gig.’ And that scares me because I don’t have any security at gigs. Like a lot of the time you play, there’s no one there who’s going to protect you. That scares me, but I think with people online, I quickly block them, and I know that most of the time online people don’t go to gigs. They hide in their little troll cave anyways.”

You’ve described your music as if “Cardi B fronted Slipknot”. How do you find managing these two personas and putting them together into your music?

“I feel like with this project, I blended all of the different versions of me inside. Some days I want to get up and maybe dress-wearing all of my pink outfits and do glittery eyes. And then sometimes I just want to be like, really goth and just the traditional tomboy look like I want to look really gritty and grungy. There are two parts of me all the time, I grew up wanting to be a pop singer, which is crazy to one part of me because I’m like, ‘What?!’ One part of me wants to scream and be scary and be angry, and another part of me really loves rap and pop. I just blended them and it’s just been freeing as hell because no part of me’s hiding anymore.”

Have your inspirations changed over time or have they largely stayed the same?

“They’ve kind of stayed the same, I think. I find that with artists nowadays it’s quite hard to find ones that I like. I think that no one will connect with me as much as P!nk did when I was aged twelve to fifteen. During this time, P!nk was just my voice, she was just everything and she got me through school, made me believe in myself, and I’ve never needed anyone that much ever again. After that, she’d done her job, and I moved on. I made my own music. There’s music I like, and there’s no one quite like her really. For this project, I basically shut everyone out, and it was all in my head. I didn’t really see anyone else’s music and think that I wanted to sound like that. It’s a good feeling as with Hands Off Gretel, a lot of the time I get compared to Courtney Love. I do like Courtney Love, and she was an influence, but at a point, I don’t want to be the next Courtney Love. I want to do something of my own. I think with Delilah, I’ve been able to do something that I don’t think many people are doing.”

How have you found going from having a band to your own solo project?

“It was kind of natural because before I had a band, I was solo, and I did music on my own. I think in a way, I’ve kind of gone full circle as I always end up doing this, and I’ve reconnected with older me. What really struck me during lockdown, is that I watched a lot of videos of myself when I was younger. I used to do little vlogs and I just watched myself and realised there are parts of myself that I’ve forgotten. When you start a band, you start a persona and I’d lost some elements of who I am. I think those elements are the person who likes to dance and sing. I think that in becoming this screaming, angry woman, I’ve forgotten a bit of old me. Yeah, I found it quite natural to go from this screaming, grunge character to me because I feel that rather than going forward, it’s more like I’ve gone backward and back to who I was before.”

Do you reckon you would’ve started this project if it hadn’t been for Covid?

“If there was no COVID, I don’t think I would’ve done it. I don’t think I would’ve had time because we had a tour, which would’ve lasted pretty much until December from March, like lots and lots of dates. I wouldn’t have had the time, and then I would’ve felt guilty for doing this in the background. I would’ve felt like I just needed to focus on Hands Off Gretel. But then, by doing this, it’s given me this new persona, and now I just can’t imagine not doing it. It just feels so right to do this.”

Your debut album is due to be released in the spring. What can we expect from it?

“Well, it’s so hard to pick a favourite because I just put all of my favourites in it. There’s no filler in the album, it tells the story throughout, just a lot of themes about what I was saying before. Just a lot of girl power in the album, and there are different flavours that I haven’t shown yet. There’s a song, in particular, that’s really sexy. I have a sexy song. I really like that one. And then, I have one slower song and more upbeat tracks. It’s a good collection of everything. I love all of the songs so much, and I can’t wait to get it out. Like, people say to me, ‘I’m sick of just rotating the same six songs you need to release the album!’ I’m like, ‘I know!'”

You’ve collaborated on a previous track with Boy Danger, what would your dream collaboration be if you could pick anybody?

“I really like Rico Nasty, I also really like Ashnikko. Maybe, I would go with Princess Nokia right now. I really like her. She’s really cool. Maybe, I’d do something with her or something completely random with someone in metal. Maybe, I’d get a metal singer on something.”

What are your next goals following this album? 

“See, I’ve been trying to plan this over the last few days and asking myself where I’m going with it, but I’ve written forty songs that are almost finished, and my plan is to just build lots of imagery. Like, my biggest thing is visuals. I’m planning music videos that are going to be very hard to do, like just creating a character and really experimenting with the style. And people ask if I’m going to do a tour and I really want to, but I don’t know yet. I’m not sure.”

What goes into the process behind your music videos?

“Firstly, the hardest part is planning them and getting the locations, that’s always the hardest, especially because of Covid, oh my god. It’s impossible because nothing’s open, and I can’t use extras, and I want to, but I can’t. Yeah, I think the hardest bit is just getting my ideas down and making them realistic because my ideas never are, and I always start with crazy big ideas and like with ‘School’. I wanted to hire a school, like an empty school, and I wanted to hire a canteen area. I had all of this planned, but it didn’t quite work. So yeah, just trying to make things work on a small budget. My mum films them all. It’s just me and my mum trying to create things in my head, and sometimes it’s hard.”

That’s really cool how you collaborate together, which has been your favourite video to film so far?

“I really enjoyed ‘School’ because I was dressing up as so many different people, in particular, when I was dressed as the teacher I had to shout. I was like to my mum, ‘It doesn’t matter what I shout when I’m pointing my finger at the camera and shouting. It doesn’t matter what I say, I just have to shout’. And then, my mum was telling me things to say, like ‘Yeah you should say that, as teachers used to say that to you at school’. So it was things like, ‘You’ll never make it, Lauren.’ And I enjoyed doing that because when I was at school, I had a rough time, and it felt like my mum was there with me the whole time because I’d be coming home from school crying, like always in detention and always in trouble. I’d cry to my mum, and that’s why doing the ‘School’ music video with her was so special, because when it did happen at school, I went to my mum. So yeah, it was really nice and really special. I don’t know if that’ll ever change, it might do, but I’ll always treasure that with my mum.” 

What advice would you give for anyone potentially going through the same things you did?

“I would say that I’m so grateful for the time I spent on my own because I see people that were at school with me and would grow up in a group, and were popular. They grew up with all of their friends around them, and once they left school, it’s like they have no experience being alone. They’ve no idea what it’s like to be on a course or a job where they don’t know anyone. But, it’s the kids that have grown up with themselves and alone, feeling pushed out, that know how to cope in the world a lot better. I’m grateful that I had so much time spent on my own because the second I left school, I knew who I was. I had to grow up and be bullied, whereas a lot of the other people just grew up in groups. They find when they get older, and without their friends, that they have no idea who they are. I feel that’s a lot sadder than being alone from a younger age.”

In a nutshell, what is the main message of Delilah Bon?

“Everything I do is just to empower people, I guess that’s just it. When people listen to Delilah Bon, my music has a message. First of all, I want to make you feel good. I want to be able to say things that are true and truths that are hard to sing about and be able to talk about subjects that are hard to tackle. But, at the same time, I want people to listen to it and make them feel good and strong. Yeah, always be able to dance to the trauma, like I don’t want it to just be angry. I want it to be sassy and have sarcasm and just make people feel strong I guess.”

What’s one Delilah Bon track that everyone should listen to?

“I would say listen to ‘School’ because it’s the new one and then just listen to all of them.”

What’s your desert island album?

“I’d say Live Through This by Hole.”

Finally, is there anything which no one has asked you but you wish that they had?

“Probably, when I was younger, and I had interviews, I used to always fantasise that the interviewer would ask me about school. So, I could talk about the teachers at school. That was when I was younger. Now, I think I’ve said it all.”

You can stream ‘School’ on all major streaming services, and look out for Delilah Bon’s forthcoming debut album, due to be released in Spring 2021.

Keep up with Delilah Bon:

Spotify | Youtube | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Website

About the author / 

Camilla Whitfield

Fourth Year BA English with Overseas Study | Music Editor | Manchester & Leipzig | Music & Gig Enthusiast

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