Article by Andrés Alvarado
It’s been said that math is the one universal language. Nonetheless, an argument can be made for music. Possessing a reach from Toronto to Buenos Aires, to the remote tundras of Iceland and the grasslands of the Philippines, music is love, music is life. We recently touched base – thousands of miles away – with Budapest-based horror-punk outfit The Hellfreaks and their leading lady, Shakey Sue, for a small interview. We discussed the band’s melodic fusions, rock-n-roll leading dudettes, and the gang’s rise from the dead after a brief breakup. Enjoy!
1.- Your sound is a crock-pot of fusions. We can hear rockabilly, punk, goth, metal, noise-pop. But, one thing is for sure, The Hellfreaks’ tone is anything but tamed. In your own words, describe your genre?
My shortest answer would be that we’re modern punk rock, but you pointed it out pretty well. It’s hard to put us in a classified genre and that makes us happy, as it means we reached our goal. We started almost ten years ago as a “billy and horror” influenced band, but after a short breakup in 2015 we just wanted to continue doing something true. You can hear a lot of influences from different genres. We grew up with many kinds of rock influences and that’s what makes it even possible to create something new, something that is different from the rest, something that makes it worth it.
2.- Starting over is a huge deal. Ms. Shakey Sue, what was the biggest adjustment of going from your old team to your present mates on latest LP, Astoria? Anything you particularly miss from your old crew?
Mainly to leave the boundaries we’d been surrounded with. It might sound weak this way, but it’s kind of natural that we all want to belong somewhere. Standing alone and walking into the unknown with nothing else to offer than just yourself can be scary at first sight. We came from a rockabilly scene and we wrote Hell Sweet Hell and Circus Of Shame for and dedicated to this scene. However, musically and lyrically, there was nothing that felt right anymore to continue on this path. We couldn’t create anything new, especially nothing that all of us in the band could feel as their own. That was one of the reasons we split up and then decided to team up with new freaks to continue the band. As for the latter part of the question, I don’t really miss anything. I’m happy about how things turned out and I think that everyone from the old crew found their place to be. I do not regret a second either, we collected many crazy memories and I still get sparkling eyes when I speak about these times, I loved it. But change always has a good reason, I don’t miss anything and appreciate what I have now.
3.- As a female, the world is always a tad more challenging in any industry. Has that uphill task affected you in your homeland of Hungary? Does it change as you travel around the globe?
Honestly, I don’t really like to talk about this topic, as I don’t see the point as a singer. You are right, in 95% of industries it is way harder to reach anything as a woman, especially if your goal is to be treated equally to men. Doesn’t matter which European country we’re talking about. As women we have to work harder, we have to be smarter, make harder decisions and even that is not always enough. If you work, you might be considered selfish because “why don’t you have kids.” If you decide to have a family, your dreams end up lower on your priority list. It’s a dilemma that makes it so different to be a woman. But, to be fair, I don’t see any differences as an artist. If there were more women in the music scene, there might be less stickers on the backstage mirror, but that’s all. I’m sure we could find differences if we talked about the music industry – but I have to say as an artist, I feel 100% equal to any male musicians.
4.- Talk about Astoria. Two years in, biggest regret, if any? Biggest satisfaction?
The biggest regret was a sneeze. Might sound ridiculous, but I have a slipped disc in my spine and that sneeze confined me to my bed for a full month right after we recorded the main vocals. Had that not happened, I might have recorded some more backing vocals for the songs. The biggest satisfaction was our fans’ feedback. It marked the first step in the right direction on the new path we started to walk.
5.- In a sense, Astoria was your first album (with the new crew). What was your mindset producing Astoria, as opposed to Hell Sweet Hell (first album with your old crew)?
Hell Sweet Hell was our very first album as a band, and for me as a singer. It was much more a process to be good enough to “fit in a box.” Astoria, our third album, was more to find, figure out, create, and build up a box with more than 6 sides. A place where we felt like home, where we had enough space to take a deep breath and enough storage to build up a future.
6.- 2018, what news from The Hellfreaks can fans look forward to? New music? Tours? Any dates yet?
We are working on our 4th LP. We have no release date yet, but we can say we’re working heavily on it. Until then, grab the ticket & join one of our shows.
7.- We’re sure that at any live performance from The Hellfreaks rambunctious fans will play. What’s the craziest occurrence at one of your shows?
Once a guy came to me between 2 songs to ask if I could kiss the paper he was holding in his hand. He said he would love to tattoo my kiss-print on his body. Weeks later we got an email picture of his hairy ass with the kiss-print tattooed on it. That’s pretty cool, even when I’m dead, my kiss-print might live longer on this hairy butt.
8.- Who or what are the inspirations to The Hellfreaks’ sound? If you could tour around with any artist, who would it be?
We are all kids of rock music, but all different at the same time. Each of us would give a different answer to this question. Lyrically, my inspiration is simply life, which can mean nothing and everything, whatever you prefer. Musically, I can get inspired by any kind of rock, punk, hardcore tune, or whatever band that makes me feel something. I hate clichés. I dislike all those super-good-but-totally-the-same female pop singers that I can’t separate from one other. That’s why I’m into unique female voices, like the ladies fronting bands like In This Moment, Marmozets, or Jinjer. These voices all explode with true feelings and totally grab me. Nonetheless, to stay within female power music, I’d be very much into supporting punk-rock legend Brody Dalle and her band, The Distillers.
9.- What is your favorite song to perform live? Least favorite?
There is no favorite. That’s like picking out one of your own children. However, I really enjoy playing songs from Astoria, especially “Why Do You Talk.” My least favorite song to perform is always the last song of the set – it means showtime is over.
10.- Anything you want to tell our readers? Something I maybe didn’t ask about or just anything you want people to know about.
Thank you for having us! Join our show if we’re in town! And don’t forget to follow us on our channels! See you!
For more on The Hellfreaks, be sure to visit their website, and follow them on Instagram and Facebook. Cheers!