By Nicholas Jason Lopez
In 2009, alongside her guitarist, Zsuzsa Radnóti aka Shakey Sue switched from drums to lead vocals. Together, they recruited two more members and thus, The Hellfreaks were official. After they won the Program For National Contemporary Music Culture In Hungary award, they released their first music video for “Boogieman,” which has surpassed five million YouTube views.
Their debut album ‘Hell Sweet Hell’ came out in 2010, which they followed up with two years of endless touring and played shows everywhere from Alaska to Australia. Their second full-length album, ‘Circus Of Shame,’ was unveiled via Longneck Records and praised for its mix of punk rock and billy influences.
In 2014, the group split and underwent a period of “creative reinvention,” as Sue returned with a brand new lineup and toured the United States the next year, highlighted by their appearance at the Ink ‘n’ Iron Festival in Long Beach, Calif. and shed their ‘billy’ roots with their 2016 release ‘Astoria.’ The Hellfreaks unleashed music videos for “Burn The Horizon” and “I’m Away” in 2017.
Moat recently, the band put out their latest album, ‘God On The Run’ and released the music video for “Adrenalized” on Jan. 24, 2020. Their current lineup stands as Radnóti, Jozzy (Guitar, Backing Vocals), Gabi Domján (Bass, Guitar, Backing Vocals) and Béla Budai (Drums).
The Music Bugle recently had the opportunity to talk with Sue about their latest music, influences and more.
Music Bugle – What are your thoughts on the recent Coronavirus outbreak and its subsequent effect on the music industry?
Shakey Sue – Well …. I did not see that coming! I mean of course, I’ve heard the news. I always try to keep an eye on what is happening around the world and all the signs can be seen clearly that COVID-19 will knock on our own doors as well, but it felt so unreal to me. We are all used to being informed about all the tragedies that happen all around us, but we’re not used to bearing the weight of it. I don’t want to say that I wasn’t taking it seriously, but it was like … “I know, it’s happening on the other side of the world,” later, “I know, it’s happening in Italy” or “I know, it’s happening in Austria. I know, it’s coming closer and closer to Hungary.” My brain understood that something serious is coming, but just after not having left my flat for a week, I realized, “OMG, it’s happening right here, it’s real!” I really freaked out, but not because of myself. I freaked out because I’m worried about my parents, my family, everyone who is important to me. I was afraid that they aren’t taking it seriously and I guess I am still. The effect on the music industry is obvious on one side: shows, tours, festivals are cancelled. Bands are not able to record music in studios, to record music videos, to do 70 percent of what they are used to doing. Full-time musicians have to face really unexpected, hard times when it comes to the financial aspect, but there is also another side that scares me even more. The second part of the year is going to be a disaster – all bands that had to cancel their tours will postpone them for after the summer, but clubs are overbooked all the time anyway, which means that many bands who are not affected directly in these months, will be affected in that way. Also, we can’t ignore the massive economic crisis that COVID-19 brings us. In many countries, people just won’t have the possibility to go to shows, to buy merchandise, to support bands in the way they could till this point. The effect of this crisis will last much longer than it might seem at first.
Music Bugle – Could you break down the creative process of putting together ‘God On The Run’?
Shakey Sue – We changed everything compared to the past. Every step of it. First of all, we took out the time pressure part of it. We always had deadlines to follow, but this time, we started to work on it more than two years ago and we only released it when we felt that it was totally ready. The songs weren’t written in the rehearsal room anymore. They were written in a small room in front of a computer. Of course, after a certain point, our guitarist and drummer also added their ideas, but the root of all the songs came from our bass player. That means that the actual recording of the songs happened only after many-many demos. I’m pretty old-school when it comes to the lyrics. I can’t sit down and figure out what I want to write about on purpose. The ideas find me randomly, so I always write down two, three words or a line in my phone wherever I am in that moment, otherwise, the idea is gone forever. When it comes to the song, I look at my idea board, pick out one of these ideas to work on. When I start to work on the words, I need to be alone and I’m not able to write in digital form. I need to have a paper and a pen in my hand, otherwise, my brain is blocked.
Music Bugle – What would you say are the biggest differences between the band’s earliest days and now?
Shakey Sue – Absolutely everything. The full lineup of the band has changed. The guys are extremely educated, talented, passionate musicians. I’ve also invested a lot of time and energy to train my voice and get better, but the most important thing is that none of us care about what genre we should be. We mix the elements of rock music, but we haven’t once had the conversation of which genre shelf any of our songs should fit on. 10 years ago, we were afraid to be too different, afraid of not getting accepted. Now, all we really care about is to be the best version we can be. We don’t want to belong to a “clan” anymore, we want to be it!
Music Bugle – What are your future plans?
Shakey Sue – We just released our new album on German Sunny Bastard Records, so of course, whatever comes this year, it can’t be as important for us as the release itself was. We’ve already started to work on new songs. We’ll see if this is anything that we’re able to share by the end of the year, but the number one priority for us right now is to get ‘God On The Run’ heard by as many people as possible, but actually, it’s the first time ever, that we’re already working on new songs. This might not be known by non-musicians, but when a band is finishing the recordings for an album, it generally takes around five to seven months ’till the record is released and shared with the world, so every time a song is new for the fans – it’s already old for the band. We finished the recordings in summer 2019, but even then, we usually always take a longer break ’till we need to start writing again. After all of our previous albums, it’s taken at least one year or even more ’till we started to write again, not because we were too busy and not because of a band decision, it just didn’t come naturally. Also, we never wanted to repeat ourselves, so we needed some time to collect some new ideas to be able to create something new, but this time, we’re full of ideas for new songs. We’re full of new input and we clearly know what we want to do now. ‘God On The Run’ opened a musical path for us to walk on and it’s the best feeling that the songwriting phase for the new record is not a phase. It’s what we are right now.
Music Bugle – What is your personal favorite music video?
Shakey Sue – It is hard to pick one. When it comes to the songs, we’re writing them together, but when it comes to the music videos, all the core ideas came from my mind, so there is a lot of work from my side ’till the music videos get into shape. That’s why I have a special relationship with all the music videos. Maybe the one that caused me the least headache, that was shot in just one day and that I love from the first second ’till the end is “Witches Heal,” but to be honest, I could mention here “Red Sky” or “Men In Grey,” as they are all something that we’re very proud of!
Music Bugle – What do you feel people should know about the band?
Shakey Sue – Actually, this is a really good question! My first impulse would be to share how much we have sacrificed to keep this band up and how hard we work to deliver the best version of ourselves, but there is something way more important – the feedback of the fans. If I wouldn’t be in a band, I wouldn’t know that either, but basically, all that really counts as a band are the fans. If they come to a show, if they write a comment to us, if they send a message, if they make their voices heard – it really means the world to us to know that they are there! It’s the fuel that keeps the engine running. So, if you just have a minute left, never forget to tell your favorite bands what they mean to you, because you have the power to make their day and even more! Especially in times like this of crisis, the power of the fans might be stronger than ever.
Music Bugle – Who are some of your musical influences?
Shakey Sue – There are no direct influences, but of course, we all had and still have influences that we try to use as inspiration. We try to find the sweet spot of our common musical tastes. 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. I 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. Personally, I’m very much into music with tough girls at the front! Stuff like The Distillers, Marmozets, Jinjer, The Pretty Reckless, etc.. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of you heard these influences in my vocals.
Music Bugle – To you, which is your most meaningful song or set of lyrics?
Shakey Sue – All the lyrics are meaningful to me because all of them are a little piece of myself. I share my own thoughts, fears, good and bad times, personal stories – feelings that people might relate to. The answer for this question will always change with the time, but right now, I think I’m most proud of our song “Tabby.” Goes like this – “You end up goddamn boring/If you’re still ignoring/What happened to the kid in you/You think it would be crazy/But it is just damn lazy/Take a risk, do something true! /Do you hear me? Hey, listen good!/Quiet words can get misunderstood/Do you hear me? Hey, you have stripes too!/Cat or tiger, who are you?/I can’t swallow the part/That might break your heart/But you’re learning too slow/Your head hangs too low/Let me hold your chin up for good/Joker or King/The braver will win/But big men will try to prove/That cards can’t get laid out by someone like you/Follow me down on my knees/I hope you like it more than me/No pressure, no diamond/No no, don’t enjoy the silence/Make them talk about your choice/Why do you feed dreams/That are never involving you?/How will your movie end/If you are always just a preview?/The only thought that you should fear/“Fuck my life! Why am I still here?”
Music Bugle – Favorite moment onstage?
Shakey Sue – When I see in the audience’s eyes caught in the moment.
Music Bugle – What inspired your band name?
Shakey Sue – The band name isn’t young. I was more or less a kid when I formed the band. The only thing I can clearly remember is that I came up with the idea for the name when I was working at one of my very first jobs – a rockabilly bar where I didn’t even earn $2 an 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, so compared to then, we’re very happy with how far it’s come!