OTwo Interviews: Delilah Bon

Image Credit: Helen Tate

Isabella Ambrosio sits down and breaks down everything Delilah Bon.

Delilah Bon. Sounds familiar, yeah? Well, if you’re a feminist on TikTok like I am, you’ve heard of her. A performance of her newest single, ‘Dead Men Don’t Rape’, has been watched over a million times on TikTok, with another performance pulling in almost 800,000 views. Her music has touched so many women. Delilah Bon validates emotions that every woman feels, but she’s angry about it. She likes to scream when she can, because she’s just so tired of being a woman. With over a quarter of a million TikTok followers, she’s a voice for every woman who has walked home alone at night, scared. I had the absolute pleasure to sit down with Delilah Bon.

Delilah Bon, real name Lauren Tate, had been the frontwoman in a band called Hands Off Gretel since her young teens, a punk band that was well into the underground genre. She was young, surrounded by older men, and she eventually had enough. She created Delilah Bon as a character to fight back against the patriarchy, voicing the anger and pain of being a woman in the 21st century. She says her music is “Brat influenced hip-hop”, but it’s also incredibly punk. Her lyrics carry a level of shock to them, they’re brutally honest and may offend people. She’s been getting some heat on TikTok, saying that her lyrics are straight up ‘misandry’, but in all reality, she’s not making baseless accusations or saying things people haven’t already said before. But she’s angry and she wants people to know about it. 

Bon’s style of music is very unique. The fusion of genres and anger reminds me of YUNGBLUD, but it’s such a heavy mix of punk and hip-hop, there’s no kind of distinguishing which genre is most present in her music. Her voice is perfectly raspy for the punk genre, but she has a hip-hop flow. She has intense guitar riffs in some songs, and bumping basslines on the next. It’s innovative. But, the lyrics remind me of spoken poetry. The way Bon shouts over the track, whether she’s rapping or screaming, is pronounced and emphasised. Her lyrics can give you chills - ‘Dead Men Don’t Rape’ being the most obvious. “They’re starting a war, creating a scene / My body is not just a playground / For men with their guns, religion and greed / They’re taking our freedom to breed now / If freedom to choose is taken away / How many more babies will die now? / How many more women will die now? Tell me, how many more people will die now?” 

Another coming from a personal favourite, ‘War on Woman’, where Bon sings, “Years ago I’d think by now I’d just be dead.” But, she also has a provocative side to her. “So boy sit down let me just remind you how it’s gonna go down / I’m not your girl, I do not appreciate you coming around / You like my style, like the way my body looking when I get down / That’s fine, it’s true but understand that I would never get with you” she sings after a verse about boys watching porn and the unrealistic standards that creates. She’s blunt and willing to shock someone by opening a song about porn. Delilah Bon wants to get people’s attention.

There were connectivity issues originally - it felt a bit reminiscent of 2020, when the pandemic first started and technology couldn’t cope. But when Delilah Bon got into the Zoom room, she greeted me with a bright smile. 

She mimics the Zoom voice, adding a bit of humour before I dive in.

“So, give me a bit of an introduction to yourself.” I sit back in my chair and let her take the floor.

“I’ve been making music for ten years. I’m in a band called Hands Off Gretel, and that was my band for eight years. And during lockdown, I decided to create Delilah Bon, which is my project now. That was inspired by the gigs that I played with Hands Off Gretel. I was playing a lot of gigs in a lot of male dominated spaces, there were no girls there. I decided during lockdown to really think about my message and what I wanted to bring to the world. I wanted to bring a safe space for girls and nonbinary people and trans people. That’s what the core of Delilah Bon is. I produce all of my own songs, I write all of my own songs, I basically do everything. And I make pop-punk-kind-of-screamy music,” she vaguely gestures when describing her music before laughing at the end of it.

“Yeah, I was giving your album a listen through this morning, and I was really surprised by the amount of genres you go through…”

“When I was younger, I used to listen to P!nk all of the time, she was my idol at school. I think she always spoke to the underdog in me, so she spoke to me when I was getting bullied at school and she made me feel confident. And that kind of pop meets rock-y music, like early 2000s P!nk was a huge influence. And then when I was a teenager, I got into Bikini Kill and all of the music I listened to was like punk rock, a lot of Bikini Kill, L7, Hole, a lot of Nirvana. I really enjoyed grunge music. And I'm kind of tied… I like Rico Nasty and Ashnikko. So I’ve kind of tied what I like currently and what I liked when I was younger with the angry, feminist music from my teen years that I think I blend altogether. Sometimes I can sing, sometimes I can scream, sometimes I can rap. And it’s the best.”

“Hats off to your screaming abilities by the way…” I chuckle, “That was impressive. And with your music influences, who was involved in that? Was it family, friends, was it your own personal exploration and exposure to music?”

She shakes her head, “I think it was just me, honestly. I can try and search for anyone in my family that’s musical, but there isn’t anyone,” she laughs to herself, “My dad’s always played music in the house, but he would always play Led Zeppelin and male rock bands, and I think when I was younger, I discovered his collection of music. And I would listen to it and the lyrics. I enjoyed the melodies, but I didn’t enjoy the lyrics. I had to really discover my own music and discover feminism for myself, because that was never, I didn’t know anyone who was a feminist growing up. It was just me. The internet and that is what I found.” She smiles again. Her point about feminism leads me to ask the next question.

“Talk to me about ‘Dead Men Don’t Rape’.”

“Well, I was on holiday at the time. This girl messaged me and asked if I was going to speak out about Roe vs. Wade, and I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know what Roe vs. Wade was. I’m learning so much about America through people on the internet, because I didn’t know anything about America. I read about the abortion rights and the overturning of Roe vs. Wade there. And I was on the beach, and I was just trying to enjoy myself on holiday, but all I was doing was looking online, reading articles, reading stories from women who were saying that they’ve lost rights to their bodily autonomy. I knew when I got home from my holiday, I was going straight in the studio. And I’m going to write them a song, because it made me also Google around the world, all of the different abortion rights. And it opened my eyes to a lot more because it’s not just America, there’s so many places where it’s illegal. I was on the plane on the way home, and I was thinking about… well, the song’s about two things. It’s talking about women’s rights but it’s also about rape culture, and being a victim of rape and sexual abuse, because that’s also a part of the abortion discussion; when it comes down to someone who has been raped, and they’re forced to give birth. And I was on the plane and I got the line ‘Dead Men Don’t Rape’ in my head. I kept seeing a TikTok, people were doing this TikTok about Ailen Wuornos, which was that serial killer, and she said ‘Dead Men Don’t Rape’ and then… 7 Year Bitch, which was a band that I listened to a lot as a teenager, they used the line ‘Dead Men Don’t Rape’. So, I had heard the line before, but I wanted to make it my own and do something with that line because I thought it was very powerful. So, I had that in my head, and as soon as I got home, I went straight into the studio and I just screamed,” she shakes her head slightly as she recalls the experience, 

“Just screamed the song out. I wrote it and finished it in 3 days, as soon as I got home from holiday. And I was so scared to release it because obviously, it’s probably the most political song that I’ve got, and I thought people will definitely, men particularly, have a problem with the title,” she scoffs, “And they did. But, I had to stand by that phrase because I knew what it meant when I sang it. It’s been my most successful release, the amount of people that have, when I went on tour, the amount of girls screaming along to the lyrics with me and thanking me for that song. I’m so glad that I dared to release it because it was a quite scary one to put out there, but it was the best one I’ve ever done so far.”

I sigh, unfolding my hands before explaining, “I honestly had a bit of a moment making a cup of coffee this morning. I was listening to the song, and I got a minute and a half into it, and I just got this overwhelming urge to cry? And it’s one of those songs where it’s angry and upbeat, so you don’t really expect your first reaction to be like, ‘Why do I want to cry right now?’ And at the end of the track, when you include the snippet of tears, it re emphasised this whole point of pain…”

“That’s why I kept the crying in at the end, I didn’t think I was going to cry. Well, I kept crying while I was writing it because as the lyrics were coming to me, I would write the lyric, and then I’d sing the lyric, and then for me to process, it wasn’t until I listened to the song and recorded the last few screams to the song that I realised how much anger and sadness I felt when I was singing it. The end screams, just screaming, like my throat was hurting,” she widens her eyes for emphasis, “I was pushing myself so much, screaming all day,” she starts rubbing at her throat again, “It’s starting to hurt now,” she laughs, “When I finished the song, I just felt like I sang something that would really mean a lot to so many people. And a song that I wished I had had when I was younger. It was emotional. And then when I came to sing it live, it was even more emotional. Just watching people crying in the audience when I performed it… it just shows what power the song had.”

“Is it therapeutic to you?” I ask simply.

“Yeah, I think so. When I’m on tour, I speak to so many people, and it’s heavy. There’s a lot of trauma, traumatic stories that people share with me because they feel understood by me, and I think at this point, I should probably be going to therapy,” she puts bluntly, “And I don’t have therapy because I say ‘my music’s my therapy’, but yeah, it’s a lot to kind of constantly live… I always think of everyone’s experiences, like if a girl spoke to me that night and told me a sexual assault story, I’ll get on stage and I’ll be singing that song and I’ll be thinking of that individual girl. I scream it for different people every night. And it’s a lot for me to have to deal with, as good as it is to be that for somebody.” I nod in understanding, taking in her words before I speak,

she’s not making baseless accusations or saying things people haven’t already said before. But she’s angry and she wants people to know about it

“I think it’s extremely important. When I went to therapy, my therapist said to me ‘you should be a social worker’, but the biggest thing is that you can’t take people’s problems home with you.”

“Yeah, mhm,” she nods along enthusiastically, smiling slightly.

“And well, I’m going to be very Gen-Z right now, and say I’m gathering that you’re an empath, you’re naturally going to be more intune to that and it’s important that you’re speaking about, acknowledging that you are human, and you may need help in a similar way that others need help.”

“I take it all in, everything, I’m a little sponge,” she chuckles and rolls her eyes. I laugh along with her, “I’ll say it to my mom, and I know it’s bad, and it’s a lot on one person, but then also, I can also use that and make more music out of it. I can channel all of those stories. I’ve signed up for it…” She shrugs.

I change up gears, not wanting to overstep a line, “Would you say your music has shock value? I noticed it a little.”

“Yeah, I think so, I think I’ve always been quite an attention seeking child,” she laughs, “Throughout my whole life. I like getting reactions out of people. I knew that’s what I was going to be doing with this when I started Delilah Bon’s music, when I started doing this music, I always knew I wanted to include the shock value and the first time my dad heard my album, the line that I sing about vibrators, I just thought, ‘oh, my dad,’” she laughs and covers her face, “But it’s just so fun because I’ve always been quite safe with my music. Now with this, I want the reaction out of people, I quite enjoy being mischievous in my music.”

“So, would you say Delilah Bon is more of a character?”

“Yes, it is who I am, but I can just exaggerate myself a lot when I’m on stage, doing this music. When I’m in the studio, it’s like I really become the character of Delilah Bon in certain songs, but some songs are very personal, whereas other songs I become this other character that I’ve created.”

“I noticed on TikTok that you use a lot of Eminem backtracks which I found very interesting, because of the juxtaposition. Is there a connection between the way you use shock value and the backtracks, or is it just an instrumental to you?”

She smiles, “Well, uh, when I first started learning to rap, I was looking for backing tracks to use, to practise over, to try different vocals out on. I love Cardi B’s backing tracks, they’re something great, I love working on them. I’ve done quite a lot of them, but I haven’t released those. Eminem’s as well, like when I was younger, I remember finding Eminem’s music and my dad told me I wasn’t allowed to listen to it. I used to think ‘well, why can’t I listen to it?’”

“So, I had that in my head, and as soon as I got home, I went straight into the studio and I just screamed”

“That’s the worst thing you can tell a child,” she breaks out laughing again, “That was the CD I wasn’t allowed to listen to, so then when I did listen to it, and I listened to songs like ‘FACK’, that song is just so bad, so mischievously bad. When I was younger, I didn’t hear the misogyny of the lyrics, I didn’t hear the sexism as much as now. I listen now and I don’t know how I feel about it anymore. I still really like Eminem’s music and I think the lyrics, eh… I mean, it is part of his character, but I don’t know.” She looks really tentative.

We talk for ages afterwards, ranging from the importance of calling out powerful figures who spew misogyny and how that can create a conflict of interest with artists, what it was like for her in Hands Off Gretel, playing shows as a young teenager to older men, the feeling of defeat in activism when you feel like your voice can only do so much, the lack of political guidance worldwide… We really talked about everything. And by the end, I was so interested in what else she has to offer that I asked about upcoming projects.

“I’m starting now to fully commit to finishing my second album. I would go into the studio between tours; and even while I was on tour, and I would go into the studio sometimes… but now I have the dedicated time and I’m starting to focus on the album and embrace all the crazy and weird things my voice can do.”

We then talked about vocal inspirations and her own capabilities, before I asked about a tour, 

“There’s nothing planned yet. But, I definitely want to. I have to come to Ireland, I mean come on,” she acts as if it’s not an option to not have a stop here with a big grin on her face. She talks about other places she’s dying to go.

And I know, wherever she goes, she will make an impact. A damn big impact.