[MUSIC: Interview] Hungry Kids Of Hungary
Gigging to friends, girlfriends and family members in Brisbane’s dingy beginner-venues seems like a world away for now-established four-piece Hungry Kids Of Hungary – but after quite a while off the scene, they’re happy to rebuild things nice and slowly. 2010’s debut album Escapades saw the band play heady festivals and high capacity venues, even getting some spins on commercial radio for their single ‘Scattered Diamonds’. But the night before I speak with frontman Dean McGrath, his band kicked off their current tour in their hometown of Brisbane by squeezing into The Zoo – one of the smaller venues in the city. “It’s funny this time around,” he says. “We started with those tiny gigs, playing to no one around Brisbane, and then with the last album everything just kept getting bigger and bigger. Now, coming back after a year away, in a lot of ways it’s a bit like going back to the start. We played The Zoo – that’s the first time we’ve played a venue that size in a while.”
Judging by the brutality of his hangover, the show was a success. “I’m in recovery mode,” he admits with a shaky voice. “The show was great, but it’s the worst day to be feeling like this, ‘cause it’s boiling hot. Everything is a real struggle.” Laughing off the notion that the band has had a break, McGrath recaps their last 12 months. “We’ve had a whole lot going on, but people here in Australia probably don’t realise it,” he explains. “We’d been huddled away making the new record and that’s all done now. We spent a fair bit of time overseas playing shows and festivals, so we by no means stopped working for a year. But when people aren’t hearing from you or seeing you, they seem to think you’ve dropped off the face of the earth a bit.
“Because of the attention span of listeners, it feels to us like we’ve got a lot of work to do to get back up there,” he continues. “But we’ve been fortunate with this single, ‘Sharp Shooter’ – the response has been really good so far. We really want people to listen to this album, we’re really proud of it.”
The album, You’re A Shadow, is ready for release, but will sit in suspension until around March next year. There are plans to release a few singles between now and then but, as McGrath says, “the machine” has decided March is the time for release. “It’s all strategic, ya know?” he says, laughing a little. “I think if the album had been made a couple of years ago, we just would’ve put it out.” A big factor in the decision to hold it off is what the band are hoping to achieve internationally next year. “Our hopes for this record are that we can release it here at home and tour the heck out of it, and then immediately follow-up overseas. The first album was released in 2010 here, but was only released overseas this year, so we’re backtracking a little bit. We were making the record and then trekking off overseas playing all of the old songs!
“It’s also apparently difficult to release a record towards the end of the year,” he continues. “It’s all of this record label suit stuff that you have to factor in, that I constantly have to have explained to me. The guys in the band are fairly passive, and if it was up to us we would’ve just put it out. We’ve got the first single out and there’s gonna be another one really soon, so we can gradually roll out a few songs before we dump the whole thing on people.”
Recorded at Alberts Studios with Wayne Connolly (Youth Group, The Vines, Silverchair), HKOH were shocked with the effortlessness of the process. “It was too easy in a way,” McGrath says. “For the first record, we were in and out of the studio over a six month period, going in and messing around with things. But this time around it was three sessions down in Sydney, and I think the total time was about a month. We were forced to limit ourselves and get it done right, quickly, without dwelling on things too much. We wanted to sound more organic and real, so there’s a lot of live takes of all of us in the room recording. We respond well to that environment.
“We’re very finicky people in a lot of ways but we were fortunate because we found the right studio and the right producer,” he continues. “We don’t like studios that are too big and clinical. We’ve done some work before and felt daunted by almost too much of a sense of professionalism, thinking, ‘Oh God, we’re in this studio with all this fancy gear and we’re paying through the nose – we’d better get this right!’ At Alberts it was a small room, we could all sit closely together, and the studio came part and parcel with the producer. Both of those things worked so perfectly in the end.”
What: ‘Sharp Shooter’ is out now through Stop Start/EMI
With: Gung Ho
Where: The Standard
When: Thursday November 1