Having been hooked on The Hellfreaks and their horror punk/psychobilly bred sound way there was certain sadness when the band split up four years ago. Thankfully it was a short lived demise but their return brought an evolution in sound and new excitement and intrigue towards the quartet. We had the pleasure of catching up with the band recently so they can tell us more about times past and present, and all things Hellfreaks.
Hi all and thanks for taking time out to talk with us.
Hell there, thank you for having us!
Can you first introduce the band and give us some background to how it all started and how you all came together?
We are The Hellfreaks, a 4-piece punk-rock band from Hungary, Budapest, which is quite in the middle of nowhere in the international rock world. But somehow, with a bit of luck and hell lot of work we managed to play way more shows over the border, than in Hungary. Since the foundation in 2009 we have played over 200 gigs across Europe and also made it over the big pond and toured in the US.
In 2014 the original band split up for a while. But it looked like Sue’s (our singer) destiny did not agree with that decision, as one of her biggest dreams just arrived via email right when she started to accept the situation: an invitation to play in the USA. At that time she decided to stitch up the wounds from the past and to restart the band with a new direction and new band members. This is how the new generation Hellfreaks, the one you have right here, were born. Our bass player, Gabi, and our guitar player, Tomi, had known each other before they joined the band, but in the end it was the band itself which brought all of us together.
Have you been involved in other bands before? If so has that had any impact on what you are doing now?
All of us played in different bands before, and all of these bands have been very different – but also, all of them have been rock bands. So we’re all true to our roots and just do what we love at the same time. However, none of us had ever had a band like The Hellfreaks, as this 4-piece-group never played together before. It’s a combination you couldn’t duplicate.
What inspired the band name?
To be honest, the birth of the band name did not happen yesterday. Sue was more or less a kid when she formed the band. The only thing she can clearly remember is that she came up with the idea when she was working at one of her very first working places, at a rockabilly bar, where she didn’t even earn 2$ / hour, so far from home that it was almost impossible to get back late at night. So the birthplace of the band was quite a hopeless place and compared to that we’re very happy about how far it went!
Was there any specific idea behind the forming of the band and also in what you wanted it and your sound to offer?
Our founding band member, Sue, literally grew up with this band. She never expected to tour regularly across Europe, to have a video clip with over 4 million views or to have this as her main life-project for the last 10 years. It all started in an old, dirty, wet cellar as a rehearsal room without even having a window – so we guess a band couldn’t get started more underground. There wasn’t even a goal, we didn’t even have proper equipment; it started just as a hobby thing without any plan.
That might be the reason why this band has changed so much from the start in absolutely every aspect. Our musical style has changed a lot – from a horror-punk billy influenced band, we turned into a punk-rock band, our sound developed a lot, we even changed the upright bass to a normal bass, had many line-up changes …so it has become something more, from starting without a plan to having plans and a goal.
But anyway we think that “change” in general is a good thing, nothing to be afraid of, because only change can bring development: and we’re just not the kind of people who can stand still, we love to work hard on our skills, we love to see how we’re able to make one step after the other, even when it comes by way more effort than most of you could imagine.
Do the same things still drive the band when it was fresh-faced or have they evolved over time?
We grew up, we have changed and our goals have changed with us. Especially as we collected our little “rewards” step by step over the years: touring first abroad, touring regularly, playing with some bigger bands, touring over the big pond, recording album, getting signed by labels etc. So it’s a natural process, that our goals have changed, otherwise nothing would push us forward.
But it’s important, that the main point – the fun and exciting process of writing songs, the feeling of getting on stage and playing for those who came there only to see you… that is the best thing ever! All that never changed, and all that make it worthy. Fun and happiness is the core of passion, and nothing could ever change that.
Since your early days, how would you say your sound has evolved?
We would compare our sound at the beginning to a stinky, forever-alone, home sitting, but totally lovely daydreaming teenager who with the years turned into a no-risk-no-fun adventurous world traveller who is a bit better-dressed. Our sound has changed so much! In the early years we were so much focused on playing billy influenced music, belonging to that genre and that subculture, which we loved by the way. But after a while it was not satisfying anymore. The limits of the genre totally killed our creativity, it was more or less impossible to do something new, because that genre was more about being stuck with those musical roots and in the past. Which has its own magic as well – but as an artist, it wasn’t “giving” anymore, it was more a ‘taking” thing.
So in 2014, after a short break and reorganisation of the line-up we just decided to do whatever we want, which turned out to be more punk rock than expected, but it was like taking a huge breath after being way too long under the water. Luckily it turned out that our fan base was still with us, and became even bigger after we decided to walk our own path. And as we are already working on our new album, we can promise, that this road we started to walk has still not come to an end.
How much of that step towards more punk nurtured adventure was just organic and how much the band deliberately trying new things?
It comes with a lot of work, but it is also a natural process, that we hate to repeat ourselves. We like change, we like to work hard to get better, we like to see things developing, and we definitely don’t like to run the same rounds again and again. It’s a good thing when you know that you are able to push your limits, it makes you feel alive and strong.
Presumably across the band there is a wide range of inspirations; are there any in particular which have impacted not only on the band’s music but your personal approach and ideas to creating and playing music?
There are no influences on purpose, so of course we all had and still have influences but we try to use them as inspiration and try to find the sweet spot of our common musical taste. If we had to list what kind of music we listened to during the writing and recording process of our last album, you would get a list from A to Z. We think that is one of the key features that makes us able to create something unique in the end. We don’t want to walk along a well-trodden path, we don’t like being someone else – which is only possible if your creating process is not lead by someone else.
Is there a particular process to the band’s songwriting?
All of our albums had a totally different writing process. Just to have a few words about our last release Astoria: Absolutely everything was different and new. New people, looking for a new sound. So there is nothing we could compare to the past. Besides that, these songs were more like written outside the rehearsal room: we made many many demos at home and some of the lyrics were not even written in the same country as in which we wrote the music! At that time, Sue was moving back from Berlin to Budapest, but she had to go back to Berlin for some weeks in the middle of the writing process. For example, the lyrics of our song Why Do You Talk was written while she was working.
Where do you, more often than not, draw the inspirations to the lyrical side of your songs?
Sue writes all the lyrics of the songs, and it’s hard to summarize what they are about. At the very beginning, the lyrics were more tale-like, not selling her sorrows, more like kind of entertaining ones. But as time passed, Sue grew up and realized that she was heard by way more people than she had expected, so she decided it was better to be brave than to be nothing: so right now she is really going naked in her lyrics – you find and read a lot about her thoughts and feelings in and between the lines.
Are you a band which goes into the studio with songs pretty much in their final state or prefer to develop them as you record?
We don’t want to kill the magic of music for the outsider, but the truth is, that recording an album is an extremely expensive process. It always takes us a longer time till we have the necessary financial background to start recording, and we have to spend every cent of it wisely, to make sure to bring out the best of it.
It would be a dream for us to have the possibility to work in a professional studio from ground zero. But right now recording-wise we need to have a 100% finished plan and concept before we even step into a studio.
Tell us about the live side to the band, presumably the favourite aspect of the band?
We are a very honest, loud power package on stage … this kind of music is just made to be spread by huge boxes, so it’s just where it naturally belongs.
It is not easy for any new band to make an impact regionally let alone nationally and beyond. How have you found and achieved it?
And again we might destroy some illusions, but the only thing we truly believe in is hard work. And that’s all that any new band can do to get wherever they want – to work your a** off and – it’s the worst cliché ever, but it’s just so right – not to give up. There is an endless number of people out there who are telling you to do it, but just don’t listen to them, go on and stay on your ground.
There are sooo many great musicians and singers out there – the only way to be better than the rest is to work more and to believe that one day it will be worth it.
How has the internet and social media impacted on the band to date? Do you see it as something destined to become a negative from a positive as the band grows and hopefully gets increasing success or is it more that bands struggling with it are lacking the knowledge and desire to keep it working to their advantage?
We have seen both. Personally we have grown out of the MySpace times. Our first concert invitation from abroad came via a MySpace message: so we were there when MySpace was the-place-to-be for a band, we were there when Facebook became the big thing, and we will be there and prepare for the next step as well.
For us personally, it’s a wave that we like to ride, but only because our singer is working as an online marketer as well, and she is really much into all these devices. So we accepted and also learned a lot about the platforms we can have as a band. But we see many many other bands who are struggling, because they are not into social media, they have no sense of marketing, and if they don’t find help from the outside, they are getting lost pretty quick.
But it definitely has its problematic side – if you want to be a musician, it’s not enough anymore to be a musician. In one person, you have to be your own CEO, your own sales department, your marketing department, your web designer, your graphic department, and of course, while you are all of that in one person, you still have the struggle not to lose your artist in yourself – and the artist is exactly the opposite of all of that I have listed before and that makes it quite hard.
Once again a big thanks for sharing time with us; anything you would like to add or reveal for the readers?
Thank you so much, hope to see you at one of our upcoming shows!
Upcoming Live Dates:
31.03 – Austria, Vienna at Local Bar
05.05 – Hungary, Székesfehér at Nyolcas Műhely
01.06 – Romania, Timisoara at Revolution Fest
13.07 – Serbia, Exit Festival
03.10 – München, Glockenbachwerkstatt
04.10 – Germany, Ludwigsburg at Rocknrollbar
05.10 – Switzerland, Meyrin at Undertown
06.10 – Italy, Treviso at Nasty Boys
01.11 – Germany, Hannover at SubKultur
02.11 – Germany, Erfurt at Ilvers Musikbar
03.11 – Germany, Berlin at Wild At Heart
16.11 – Hungary, Budapest at Robot
Pete RingMaster 19/03/2018
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