Hungry Kids Of Hungary
“ The mission statement from the start was to try and write pop music,” says vocalist/guitarist Dean McGrath. “We all did that thing of pillaging our parents’ record collections and listening to the classics... Ryan’s got this massive vinyl collection, this ridiculous vinyl collection. When we were starting out, we were all chatting away about The Beatles and The Beach Boys and The Zombies and all the greats from the ‘60s,” he relates, enthused. “So that was a pretty easy access point for all of us to start mining our music tastes in search of what we were going to set out to do. I guess the whole mood around our songs stems from that – what we’re into and what we set out to do.”
Hungry Kids Of Hungary’s songwriters, McGrath and Kane Mazlin (keyboards/vocals), met after being introduced by Ryan Strathie (drums), while Ben Dalton (bass) was a mutual friend. “The first time Kane and I properly met was at the first rehearsal for the band a few years ago. In the lead-up to that, I’d been receiving a bunch of his songs via email from Ryan.” Strathie and Mazlin had previously played in another band together. When Mazlin was living in London, Strathie had asked Mazlin to send him any songs that were written overseas, and Strathie forwarded the demos on to McGrath.
“There was something about the quality of Kane’s songwriting that got me really excited... and once we were both bringing songs to the table, it just felt like something that could potentially go somewhere,” conveys McGrath. “When we got into that rehearsal space and started working on stuff, things just clicked really easily – we got on pretty famously right off the bat, and it all seems to come together really naturally with the two of us writing songs.”
McGrath, Strathie and Dalton attended high school together, but Dalton’s entrance into HKOH was a little unorthodox. “When we first started rehearsals, it was just Kane, Ryan and myself; we needed a bass player and Ben actually wasn’t even a bass player,” McGrath chuckles. “He didn’t even own a bass guitar at that stage. We knew him as a guitarist; Ryan mentioned it to him and he was really keen, so he went out first thing and borrowed a mate’s bass and brought it to rehearsals... it all clicked instantaneously.”
The band’s rise was initiated when they were announced as the Queensland winners of Triple J’s Unearthed, which led to their Gold Coast Big Day Out debut last year. “Big Day Out was a freak-out,” states McGrath. “At that stage, we’d been together for a bit longer than a year, but the initial eight months of us being in a band together we spent just rehearsing and writing songs... in the gap between starting to play shows and Big Day Out, we really hadn’t had that much experience playing live as a band, in the grand scheme of things.
“We were still really green at that stage, so fronting up at the Big Day Out and playing on a big stage in front of a big audience was a massive step-up from anything that any of us had done before. And that Triple J support at such an early stage in the band just catapulted us; it set us off on this tangent and it hasn’t really slowed down since then.”
Produced by Matt Redlich in his home studio in Brisbane, Hungry Kids Of Hungary spent the better part of six months recording their debut album, Escapades, but the song-writing journey was much longer. “We had enough songs to sort of make an album two years ago since we started shows... because we’ve got two songwriters, our song-writing output is pretty massive; we’re both constantly mulling over ideas for songs,” McGrath explains.
“So there were a few opportunities for us to put together an album, but putting out those two EPs (their 2008 self-titled effort, then 2009’s Mega Mountain) was a conscious decision, because we wanted to wait until we had the strongest and most cohesive batch of songs before we tried to form an album out of them.
“In terms of the writing of the record, we were really open to leaving the doors open for songs that hadn’t necessarily reached the band yet. Wristwatch – which was essentially the first single off the record – is the first song that we released from the record that hadn’t been heard. That song only came about half way through the recording process and it was a song that we all felt strongly about. We never really closed throughout the whole process on the idea of putting more songs in and we never really stropped writing throughout the process. We kept plugging away at ideas.”
Touring the ‘States earlier this year would not only inspire Escapades’ cover art but also new ideas for future records. “We were in LA hanging out in Santa Monica and Venice Beach in the coast area of California,” McGrath recalls. “We were wandering around and taking a bunch of photos as you do when you’re a bit of a tourist. There was something about that place that really resonated with us and the connection was made between the record and what we were seeing in front of us and all around us in places like Santa Monica and Venice Beach.
“So the photos that are used in the cover art are essentially our tourist maps from Los Angeles and there was just something that felt right between the music on the record and that setting.”
HKOH also toured the UK this year – performing at Brighton’s Great Escape Festival as well as showcase gigs in London. “We came back and had a little bit of time to get into the studio and it put us in a good place; listening back to what we had done before we left and adding new things,” McGrath relates.
“While we were over there, I actually started writing a couple of songs while we were in London, which aren’t on the record – it was a little bit too late,” he laughs, “but being in a different environment, it’s already leading to some new material.”
HUNGRY KIDS OF HUNGARY launch their new album Escapades (out now through EMI) at The Corner Hotel this Friday October 29 – tickets are sold out. They also play The National Hotel in Geelong on Thursday October 28 and Karova Lounge in Ballarat on Saturday October 30.