Year Of The Dragon: Delilah Bon Interviewed

Her alt domination is only just beginning...

There are few who dare to be as direct as Delilah Bon. Her fire-breathing back catalogue is full of plenty of fun, feminine, witchy bops – ‘Chiquitita’, about uplifting women, her super-fun blood-soaked Halloween EP ‘Ready To Kill’, ‘Homework’, which is just about how much school can suck if you’re at all left of mainstream… But, despite being universal experiences and some of her more lighthearted tracks, perhaps some of her more immediately accessible ones too, these sort of songs aren’t the ones Delilah has built her career on. Instead, it’s the battle cry ‘DEAD MEN DON’T RAPE’ that rings out loudest at her shows, it’s ‘DON’T TRUST NO MAN, DON’T TRUST THE POLICE’ that girls are belting out back to her, it’s ‘CHOP DICKS’ that launched her into the punk scene of 2020. Delilah Bon is standing up for people who have been told to sit down and be quiet, and she’s doing it relentlessly, riotously, and really, really well.

Though to many of us she’s a bit of a newcomer, picking up speed on tours with the supernova that is Scene Queen, hooking nominations from the Heavy Music Awards, bursting into our lives with her dazzling energy and vibrant red-and-pink hair and altogether brightening things up, Delilah is far from new. It’s her long history on the scene that has informed much of her rage and the material she performs now, in fact. As part of punk outfit Hands Off Gretel, Lauren Tate (the woman behind Delilah Bon, who’s also released multiple solo albums under her own name previously) encountered just what the mid-10s scene would expect from a teenage girl performing heavy music. “The men at my shows were trying to kiss me and grope me. They wanted hugs. They didn’t just want me to perform, they wanted me to perform after the show. I never felt comfortable. 

“I was a young girl in a sea of men and a lot of them were creeps. And they would be so offended, like no, not all men, kind of thing – and I didn’t know about feminism or anything that them, so I just felt like I didn’t belong. When I first spoke out, I lost loads of fans, watched my followers drop, and the whole band were telling me, are you sure you want to keep speaking out? Because we were losing fans. And I’d keep standing my ground, and keep saying it’s fine, but the fear…” 

The intimidation Tate encountered from men in the scene was one thing, but the situation wasn’t relieved with a raft of support from women in the scene either, many who dealt with similar issues. “I’d speak to other women in bands about it, and they would say things like ‘at the end of the day, they might be creepy, but at least they buy merch’, or ‘yeah, but we can’t say anything or we’ll come across as bitches’, and that was the attitude. It’s just how it is, you can’t change it. And every night I’d be coming off stage and saying it’s not right, I shouldn’t be performing to these old men, where are the girls?

“I remember at one point thinking I don’t even want to do music anymore, because if this is all it’s going to be it doesn’t make me feel good. Until I did Delilah Bon.” 

Every step of Tate’s career since then has been about building a career she can feel joyful in, safe in, and proud of. Delilah Bon would never let leery men dominate her audiences, she’d stand up for the women she met who were too scared to stand up for themselves, she’d be the bared-teeth big sister for any young woman who needed her – and when she started, it was Tate who needed Bon the most. “In the beginning, Delilah was a character of the girl that I wanted to be,” Tate explains. “My confident self. When I would write Delilah songs, that was my dream me, who I want to be. But then I just became that character all the time for a bit – my mental health was fantastic for quite a long time, I had a good run of life! Feeling really confident, feeling like I was really making a difference and feeling authentic, in the right area of my life, and in control.”

Tate has crafted the perfect crew, too, after years of struggling to belong and find her community. From the choices of shows, appearances, tours, and touring members, the Delilah Bon community has grown from Tate’s labour of love, and vision for what she wants. “I’ve always loved [Scene Queen’s] music, and that was the perfect match,” Tate grins. “I’m just honoured that she’d have me, because especially between other women there’s a lot of gatekeeping where they don’t want someone too similar, but she had me open the show, and says I want people to go crazy for you, I want people to love you as much as I love you.” 

Tate is a firm believer that women should champion one another, and is committed to doing that within Delilah Bon too. Her live band, currently comprised of bassist Ruena and performer Hela, and the trio are best friends. Same goes for Tasmin, who previously DJed as part of the touring group before Tate chose to lean further into the dance and theatre element. It’s the stuff of teen girl magazine dreams: “we’re so close. When we’re on tour, sometimes we’ll just talk so much that we all lose our voice. It’s the friendship group I’ve always wanted, and it makes everything so much easier – the long journeys, doing everything, with your friends! I’ve been so lucky to find my community because right from the beginning, when I was in Hands Off Gretel, this was all I wanted.” 

They help Tate in her lower moments, too, when the weight of Delilah becomes too heavy to bear. “Sometimes I think everyone loves me, and sometimes I think everyone loves Delilah. And I feel like I’m competing with myself, and thinking I need to be how they expect me to be, I can’t be smaller than that, I can’t let anyone down or disappoint anyone. When I’m feeling confident, I can be a role model, I can be strong for people, I find it easy. But when I do it night after night, it can all just catch up with me. If I feel like I’m about to cry, I don’t want to be standing on stage and everybody see that I look small. I can’t just switch it on.” 

Behind the impassioned mantras and vicious oustpokenness – or perhaps alongside it – there’s an artist who loves fantasy and dragons, who just adores the musicians she’s now a contemporary of, who’s covered her room in pink and thinks dolls are incredible. The fun side of Delilah Bon isn’t less fun because it’s dressed up in bulletproof rap verses, and it coexists alongside her more politically-charged songs. “I’ve never really been particularly political,” Tate says. “Like, I’ve always just been looking out the window at the clouds, and using my imagination. I never really used to look at the real world much because it just scared me, and I felt overwhelmed. On the next album, there’s a lot of mischief and a lot of sarcasm, because I want to show my humour a lot more. I’m not just angry.” 

Sometimes it feels like this charismatic, fiery-haired young woman might just be shouldering a bit too much – the weight of the scene she’s left behind, the weight of every girl still feeling stuck there, every hope and joy that any fan has pinned on her incredible, playful, powerful Delilah Bon character. But with every fan, every new voice belting out a chorus or donning a t-shirt declaring DEAD MEN DON’T RAPE, Tate grows stronger and spreads her wings wider, soaring on what looks from the outside like a constant, velocity-gaining updraft. Delilah Bon’s domination is only just beginning.

Stay in touch with Delilah Bon on social media.

Words: Ims Taylor // @immmsss

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