For those who have yet to experience Hungary’s Subscribe, now is the perfect time to read our review of the band’s 2011 release, Bookmarks. The six-piece band of mixed metal are a for music fans with attention deficit disorder. Each track is like an album unto itself. There’s simply no way to get bored listening to Subscribe.
The Budapest based sextet was formed back in 1999 by vocalist Mate Tilk, bassist Miklos Anga-Kis, drummer, Attila Rekasi and guitarists Tamas Reich and Attila Horvath. Vocalist Bálint Csongor joined a year later, and the group is helped out on piano and keyboards by the band’s permanent honorary guest member, Zoltan Csery. Both Csonger and Tilk use a mix of clean and harsh vocals, to truly expand the groups sound.
This week I connected with the band’s most outspoken member, vocalist Bálint Csongor to talk about the history of the band, Bookmarks, and his pick of the most essential albums:
I want to talk about Subscribe and the latest album, Bookmarks, but first tell us a little bit about you. How were you drawn into music? Was there an album or concert or some moment of epiphany where you just knew that’s what you wanted to do?
Actually there was. Queen was my first determining musical experience. It was around the age of 12. The complexity, the playfulness and the emotional roller-coaster in their early works just amazed me. That was the time I knew I have to be a musician. My second important influence reached me a bit later. It was seeing the first self-titled Rage Against the Machine VHS in 1997. Emotions were also determining in this encounter.
As a singer and songwriter, where do you draw your inspiration from?
I think the most powerful inspirations on my works are changes. Things, people and events surrounding me, that change me. It can be love or the loss of a beloved one. It can be an addiction or just simply the fact of growing older and realizing how ignorant and weak we are. Changing of my environment is also very inspiring.
By way of introduction tell us one unique or interesting thing about each member of the band including yourself.
I think the most important and unique thing about all of us is that we have been best friends since high school where we decided to make a rock band but almost none of us could play any instruments that time! 🙂 The positions were almost selected by a draw! There were no member changes at all except our keyboard player Zoli who joined us 5 years ago and till than he had never listened to any rock music! But at his first gig he went crazy from the energy of the show so he wanted to join us immediately. Atish our lead guitarist is the sound engineer of the band. He recorded, mixed, and produced our last two albums and our live recordings. Mike our bass payer is the manager of the band, which makes things much easier for us. He has a very successful booking agency by the way. (www.mmmbooking.hu) Tamás is the guy on the rhythm guitar. For him skateboarding is almost as important as playing music :). He directed and cut all of our live footage and behind the scene movies. Attila our drummer is a full-time drum teacher and a part-time party animal. Our other singer Mate is the only guy who is a good citizen and has a “real” job. He works for IBM as a troubleshooting engineer on weekdays and a professional troublemaker on weekends. And I’m the one who tries to put down in words and sing the life of these six amazing people.
When Subscribe first came together what was the musical vision?
At that time we were really into music like the Deftones or Korn for instance. It was around 1998. So we tried to make a move on that path with more or less success.
When trying to describe the band’s unique sound the best thing I’ve come up with so far is “chaotic sonic euphoria”. You really have to listen to it to understand it, but when asked, how do you describe Subscribe?
I usually say that we are a modern rock band with progressive elements. And if someone doesn’t know what does modern rock or progressive mean than I say we are like Metallica. 🙂 And when they don’t know Metallica it’s no use explaining at all.
Subscribe’s music encapsulates and touches on so many musical elements, when you guys write songs, how does the process in the band work?
Atish, our guitarist, Mike, our bass player and me are the songwriters. I do the job at home with my guitar, keyboards and my laptop. Atish does the same. Most of the time I write and record the whole song and then show it to the others. Then they put some ideas into it and drop out some parts that they don’t like and we start jamming the song together until we reach the desired format and sound. Mike usually writes grooves and riffs, rather than a whole song, so we’re completing each other.
Are there one or two members that handle the lyrical content or do several of you get involved.
Usually I do all the lyrics. And then I show it to Máté, our other singer so we can discuss it. If someone from the band has a story or an idea, I listen to it, then phrase the lyrics.
With two vocalists, how do you decide who will handle which parts?
We try to focus on polyphonic vocals and most of our lyrics are representing two different aspects of a person, a story or even a fantasy. It can be handled very spectacularly with two different voices, two different characters. We both try out the same melodies out and pick the one who fits the part better.
Every song has a story. Can you share a couple of the more interesting stories behind a couple of the tracks on Bookmarks?
The title of the album is Bookmarks because each song belongs to a member of the band. Most of the song are dealing with the issue of loss. Some of ours lost a long-lasting and important relationship, some of us lost love. And some of us lost their relatives. Miles away for instance is about the suicide of one ours’ mother and the silent collapse of our friend after that. It was an unbelievably hard time for us. There’s “Gay Rodeo” for instance which is about myself. It’s like singing to a mirror. I’m trying to pay off my self-destructive and sometimes selfish part of mine, which is not that easy since most of the time this part of me is still joyful and inspires me. So I’m facing myself in this song. The album starts with the continuation and the end part of our 3 song long trilogy called “Anxiety found shape in contradictions”. We started this story on our previous EP called Contradictions. It’s about one of us fighting with his conscience but it is represented by a metaphor which is a medieval knight story.
It’s been a year since you released Bookmarks. Are you already working on the follow-up, or is that still a ways down the road?
For the last 10 years we spent every spring and fall tour season on the road plus played all summer festivals around. So this spring we decided not to play any shows till the summer season and spend as many time as we can in our rehearsal room just for fun. Spend some time together, jam something free if we feel like, but if not, that’s o.k., too. First of all we are best friends and only than comes the band and it’s something you can feel in our music. So when business is about to take charge we have to take it easy to be able to save these values. We gonna hit the road again in May and hopefully we can show some of the new material from these free jam sessions till that time.
Give us your list of 5 essentials albums everyone should own.
A Night at the Opera from Queen, Aenima from Tool, Relationship of Command from At the Drive-In, Evil Empire from Rage Against the Machine and Calculating Infinity from The Dillinger Escape Plan.
If you could spend an evening with someone, past or present, alive or dead. Who would it be and why?
That would be Boris Vian, one of my favorite writers. He was an avant-garde French writer, jazz musician with a very special humor and style. He was a big influence on my lyrics.
In your opinion what’s wrong with the world today?
That Barack Obama is no Bob Marley, Benjamin Netanjahu is no Matisyahu, and Angela Merkel is no Janis Joplin.
Thanks for taking the time to enlighten our readers.
You are always welcome!