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Hungry Kids of Hungary

Brisbane boys Hungry Kids of Hungary are literally days away from the release of their debut album, Escapades. They’re also about to embark on a mega national tour.

Lead vocalist Dean McGrath had a little chat to FasterLouder, talking about Brisbane, producer Matt Redlich, and why they chose the following introduction: We’re not hungry or Hungarian – we are a band, we’re Australian and quite full from dinner, thank you…

Ok so it’s certainly a slightly shitty, cliché question to begin with…but where did the name Hungry Kids of Hungary originate…
I’ve been answering this question a lot! It was actually when we got started as a band, we spent about 8 or 9 months just writing and rehearsing without booking any shows…we wanted to be at least reasonably good before we started, so that first lot of months we didn’t give much thought to what we’d call out band. A friend of ours suggested the name but above all it was the best of a bad bunch! We figured it was the most memorable.

Do you recall the worst names suggested?
I think of all the names we had to choose from not one of them was a serious suggestion…someone suggested, in fact I think it may have been me (!), ‘Neck Hole’ but we figured that had too many hard-core leanings…

What’s Brisbane like as a setting for making music?
Brisbane’s cool. I mean the four of us have all grown up there and so it’s well and truly home for us. Compared to Sydney or Melbourne it’s a small place and there’s a community there. Everyone knows each other. It’s a nice environment to work within. There’s a bit of camaraderie up there.

What artist, band or genre of music has been of particular influence to you?
We all grew up listening to our parent’s record collections…so there’s a lot of that 60s pop sound ingrained in what we do. Bands like The Beach Boys and The Zombies is the stuff that we all grew up with and we all love…but we listen to a wide range of music, and dribs and drabs of things sneak there way in there.

How are you anticipating the release of your debut album, Escapades?
It’s exciting…it’s been a pretty long process. We started the first recording sessions back in January and finished it about July. It just feels like the culmination of a lot of time and a lot of hard work.

And tell me about working with Matt Redlich on the new album? What was his role?
We knew Matt before, he’s a Brisbane based producer and engineer, and we knew him on more of a personal basis as a friend of ours. And he recorded the second EP that we released…we had a few options for recording, but in the end it just felt like the right decision to work out of home in Brisbane and to do it with Matt.

He works out of the downstairs bit of his house and there’s a pool out the back, which is great when you’re recording in summer, because we started in January, and it’s blistering hot in Brisbane. We’d record for two hours then have a swim and keep recorded…it was great! I think that sort of environment its conducive for us to do good work. We just feel really comfortable; it’s the way we operate. You’re not on the clock like you are in a major studio, you don’t feel like you have to hurry…we just went in and recorded when we could. It was a really nice process.

Will you continue to work organically like this?
Look it’s definitely a way of working that suits us but I’m really interested in the idea of getting outside the comfort zone. Getting inspiration from something that’s a little bit foreign…I know it sounds ridiculous but we’re already talking about the second album and Kane and I have requested that we get a couple of weeks away and go travel somewhere and try and draw some inspiration from that…but it really interests me, not doing everything strictly in this way.

Any ideas about where you might go?
We were overseas earlier in the year – and this raises all sorts of questions about how healthy our bank balance is – but we were hanging out in L.A…and we just thought it would be really cool to come over and write an album here…we were hanging out in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles and there was just something about that whole environment that really resonated with us. Actually the cover shots for the album are essentially tourist snaps we took in California.

And you mentioned you and Kane are the lyricists? What do you draw on for content or inspiration?
Anything and everything! Kane’s a real storyteller…I’m just going to speak for him now! But he’s really influenced by very specific happenings in his life, and his songs are quite personal…mine are probably a little bit more roundabout…I defy anyone to really decipher a lot of my songs because they barely make sense. There’s something behind all of them.

What’s your favourite song on the new album and why?
My personal favourite is a song called Eat Your Heart Out. It’s just the song on the record of where I went in to writing the song with a really clear picture of what I wanted it to sound like…and it came out exactly like I dreamed it would which was really rewarding for me as a songwriter.

How have you been received by international audiences having toured some of the US and UK earlier this year?
They were lovely. We did a lot of showcase style shows, essentially trying to …but playing in front of audiences you have no concept or idea of what you do is…well when it goes well its an affirmation that you’re doing OK, but if they don’t know who you are they’ll just walk out…they’ve got no allegiance to you, and lose nothing by telling you so. It was then amazing to go over and get such a great response.

You won best alternative group and Song of The Year at the 2010 Q Song Awards, and have received a fair bit of attention from being winners of the Triple J Unearthed initiative in 2008…how strongly do these awards resonate within the group? Is industry acknowledgment important for you?
It’s nice when that sort of stuff happens, they’re always a pleasant surprise, but we’re certainly not consumed by it. It’s been great for us to get that kind of support and acknowledgment.

So as ambassadors or representatives for young and innovative Australian music, and what are you’re opinions on Australia’s musical potential? What does the future hold for artists like you?
That overseas trip that we also included a little group of Australian bands doing the same shows. Bands like Philadelphia Grand Jury, Art vs. Science and Bluejuice…and to be totally honest the Australian bands that were there absolutely killed most of the American and UK acts that we saw. I think that it’s a really exciting time for Australian bands. You know, I think it’s the most exciting time since I was a teenager watching Recovery, and now you’ll go to a festival and be so excited about the local acts. It’s an exciting time. I was talking to an Australian ex-pat in London, and he shared that view and he just said that all the stuff coming out of Australia was amazing, and it hasn’t been like that for years.

I’ve read that you were ‘probably going to release some solo material at some point…’ is this true and what should listeners expect?
It something that I’ve been mulling over for a while. The workload with the band at the moment is intense; I mean we’ve been doing so much it hasn’t really slowed down for the last couple of years. But I’d definitely be interested in exploring a facet of song writing. I’ve actually got a few people I’ve been talking to at home about putting together another band. So it’s a long way on at the moment, because we’ve got so much going on, but the wheels are in motion. And as for what to expect I’ve got no idea, but it should be fairly removed from what we do in Hungry Kids.

So what is your favourite festival or location to play at?
I’m actually really excited about Pyramid! I mean it’s a pretty idyllic location for a festival. I think it’ll be amazing! But we did Falls Festival over New Years last year and that was such a great thing to be a part of. Festivals in general are a huge lot of fun for those involved; it’s not like a regular show. A lot of it’s catching up with bands you’ve met on the road and don’t get to see all the time.

And what’s next for Hungry Kids of Hungary?
As soon as we’ve run the gauntlet with this record because we have a massive your coming up we’ve got to see how it goes but I’m totally keen to get back overseas. Once we’ve done everything we need to do over here it’ll be really exciting to go back over again and see how round two goes!

Hungry Kids of Hungary hit the road with Big Sacry to launch the album with a national tour kicking off on Thursday 30 September

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