Punk's not dead, and one group well and truly keeping the flame alive is none other than the raucous and rollicking quartet The Hellfreaks from Budapest in Hungary.
Throwing down pure punk rock-meets-psychobilly fire with their anxiety-inducing beats and explosive vocals from frontwoman Shakey Sue, The Hellfreaks have over the years developed their style, blending the sneering sass of Gwen Stefani in No Doubt days with simplistic (but effective) instrumentation - plus the occasional injection of pop and folk.
After a break-up and lineup reinvention, The Hellfreaks' most recent release, 'Astoria' in 2016, draws the group closer to the modern punk rock standards, but still with an undeniable fresh twist. And before they embark on their latest chapter, The Soundcheck caught up with The Hellfreaks to chat influences, crazy cat ladies and playing a cancelled festival slot to a room full of naked men. Interview below.
BAND NAME: The Hellfreaks
LOCATION: Budapest, Hungary
BAND MEMBERS: Shakey Sue - vocals Jozzy - guitar Gabi Domján - bass Béla Budai - drums
HOW DID THE HELLFREAKS START? We’re no newcomers, so we have a pretty long story behind us, with many ups and a few downs. We didn’t start this band together, so we’re more like puzzle pieces, who found each other later on. The only former band member of The Hellfreaks is our singer Sue. In 2014 the original band split up for a while. But it seemed that Sue’s destiny did not agree with that decision, as one of her biggest dreams just arrived via email right when she’d started to accept the situation: an invitation to play in the USA, to the Ink’n Iron Festival in Long Beach California. At that time she decided to stitch up the wounds from the past and restart the band with a new direction and new band members. This was the moment when the new generation Hellfreaks was born and also how it came to our current line up.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR INFLUENCES? We’re all very different but quite the same at the same time.We all love loud rock music, so it was not a question that we would do and create what we love. But we wouldn’t say that our music is based on musical influences. Of course you can hear our roots in it, like the love of The Offspring or the Distillers, but every one of us has different musical influences: Sue came from the underground rock scene, while Gabi picked his bass first time in his childhood, because he wanted to be like Flea from RHCP - the mix of it makes us unique. But it’s not just that: we are an Eastern European band. Without going into political details - when we talk about fear, about the necessity of change, about all those thoughts behind - not like any Western European band, what we talk about is real. Our country is living by far not its best days. We don’t have to go back in our history and we don’t have to look for fictional problems when writing the lyrics for a song.
DESCRIBE THE HELLFREAKS IN THREE WORDS: Modern Punk Rock
WHAT'S THE MOST MEMORABLE GIG YOU'VE PLAYED SO FAR AND WHY? Uff, hard to pick out one of them … The first thing that pops up in our minds, was a punk Festival called Force Attack in Northern Germany. The organizer of the event literally disappeared with all the income in the middle of the festival, so there were many bands and thousands of punks left without any kind of authority. Yeha! :D We knew that we wouldn’t get the payment for it, but we decided to do the show anyway. The crowd was amazing, but so incredibly drunk. In the middle of the show, one of the punks came up with the genius idea to enjoy the concert naked - and many others followed him. In the end we played in front of so many naked guys (yes, just guys :D) as none of us expected. Try to stay serious while this happens, good luck!
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE THE HELLFREAKS SONG? This is impossible to answer, they are all our children. Of course the newer ones, from our last album Astoria, are always closer to us. Not just because it’s the symbol of our comeback, but as a band you always walk along a road with a clear direction in your mind. So it’s natural that you feel the newer ones closer to you, as they are definitely more like you are at the moment. But on the other hand - the old songs are just where we came from. They are our roots, and even though we have also changed musically pretty much, it is where all the magic began, so they will be forever special as well.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON RIGHT NOW? ANY NEW THINGS ON THE HORIZON? We are finalizing our 4th album. Of course each album is important, but this one is more than special.: Our first album was our first steps. Our second one was still in our infancy, our third one was written with the new members, but we had to deal with killing time pressure. Now it’s the first time we’re working on each track till we’re 100% satisfied. We also have some very interesting co-operations and changes on board that we’re not allowed to talk about yet.
IF YOU WEREN'T PLAYING MUSIC, WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU BE DOING? SUE: I don’t know what I would do, but for sure I would do something instead. We’re still not at the point where we can make a living of it, so it might surprise you, but yes I have a job besides this … but I’m a kind of dreamer, I need something that is not part of the “grey life”, something that makes me want to fight for it. I have always been living a life of 2 people. Once my big dream was sport. After my spine operation I had to change the direction, recalculate my life and I ended up in music. If this happened again, I would have no idea what to do - but I would need to find something not to lose my mind.
IF YOU WERE STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE OTHER BAND, WHO WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WHY? SUE: All of us would answer something else here, but I would love to be stranded with Marilyn Manson on an island. I really like his kind of sick art but I’m way more curious about who the man behind the mask really is. I think he has to be very intelligent with a huge portion of humor, but I’m also open for surprises!
PINEAPPLE ON A PIZZA, YES OR NO? SUE: I’m not really into pizza, but I’m even less into dry food. So yes, let’s have pineapple on it!
CATS OR DOGS? SUE: I think I’m pretty much the young version of the crazy cat lady of The Simpsons. I share my flat with 4 cats and I’m crazy in love with them. They are my little family, pure love. But I never understood how someone can like one, but not the other. I never had a dog, but just because I have always lived in big cities and I don’t think that this could be the right place for a dog - especially with my lifestyle. The point is: I love them all. Just take a deep look in a cat’s or dog’s eye - you can see how clear their soul is, irresistible.
WOULD THE HELLFREAKS SURVIVE A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE? SUE: I’ve seen all episodes of The Walking Dead, so I guess I’m pretty well prepared for this event.
AND FINALLY, WHAT'S THE GREATEST SONG OF ALL TIME AND WHY? SUE: Another impossible-to-answer question. But I won’t let it unanswered, so I’ll pick Sweet Things by The Pretty Reckless. I’m very much into female fronted rock music, even more if I can find something special and unique in their voice. And Taylor Momsen definitely has it. (I’m very bored with all those perfect pop singer voices). This song contains everything I love. A symbol of love and hate at the same time.
'I'M AWAY' (THE HELLFREAKS)
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BY TIANA SPETER