Hungary is a powerhouse of untapped talent, yet it continues to make it into international news headlines for the wrong reasons. Even though the country is currently under the shadow of its political and economic climate, it is seeing a growth-spurt in its alternative artistic life in Budapest's urban undergrowth. Like the "ruin pubs" that revitalised the crumbling VII District with recycled spaces and boutique bars, the country is experiencing an artistic revival ready to take on the world.
There are many artists in the country's capital and cultural hub that dare to dream beyond Hungary's borders, who are looking to break out as the artistic ambassadors of the small Central-Eastern European country. One such example is The Carbonfools, one of Hungary's biggest bands, who are are set to hit the UK in the upcoming week on a mini-European tour.
The Budapest-based group has managed to garner a loyal fan base in their home country with a unique style that's best described as an eclectic mix of electro-rock fusion, carrying elements of indie, funk and darkwave. While they have a huge following inside Hungary, abroad they have been relatively under the radar to date, but that's all set to change soon.
The band has been playing together for over 13 years, since DJ Titusz founded The Carbonfools back in 2000, and like many good bands, The Carbonfools has seen a flux of members, Spinal Tap style, but without any spontaneously combusting drummers. Their first album "Poisoned Goulash" achieved critical acclaim, and since they have released a total of four albums with plans to release a fifth at the end of the year.
Photo credit and copyrighted: András Hajdu
Already known on the Eastern and Central European festival circuit, The Carbonfools have enjoyed top billing at Budapest's famous Sziget Festival, Balaton Sounds and Volt, as well as the Serbian festivals Exit and Trenchtown.
I had the chance to sit down and chat with the band about their plans before they head off to the UK next week, about what it means to be a Hungarian artist trying to make it in the competitive music world.
"Now we've established the band in Hungary, the next logical step is to look internationally," says Kelo, who is not only the drummer in the band, but is also the manager and the producer of their record label 1G.
"We're looking to break out of the Hungarian market and into the international one," he continues, "We're putting a lot of work and energy into it and we're going to see what happens. If we manage to make it in the world market, then that's great, if not, we'll always have a good Hungarian career."
Even though The Carbonfools have managed to build up a solid fan-base over the past few years, by playing in concerts and parties all over Hungary, they've linked up with an Anglo-Hungarian creative platform, the Brody House Group, in Budapest for the added push.
The Brody House might come up in the search engines as a boutique hotel and as a private members club, but they also focus on a number of projects supporting up and coming artists, from painters to musicians, acting as a "hype-company" that helps to get its artists recognised. Coupled with Kelo's 1G record label, they're keen to get Hungarian talent out there in the international music scene.
Things haven't been easy for Hungarian artists, since the government set down a new precedent that Hungarian bands singing in English should be considered as "foreign", meaning they're entitled to less promotion on Hungarian radio station, a motion The Carbonfools actively oppose.
Kelo plans to involve more Hungarian bands that sing in English with his record label via their collaboration with the Brody House.
"The first step is to establish The Carbonfools," he adds, "But once we've got the The Carbonfools' engine running, then we hope we can link other bands up as cogs in the machine. Really give Hungarian artists international exposure."
The band will hop on their "love bus" this week and head off to London and Edinburgh for gigs and promo work between the 11-17 of February, with stop offs in Berlin and Amsterdam en route.
"It's not the first time we've played in the UK," Kelo tells me, "We toured with Dreadzone and opened for them in London and Birmingham, which was great. They also came over to Hungary and played with us here too. It was a good collaboration. We're looking forward to playing in Britain again next week."
The Carbonfools have a unique sound that should get them noticed on their trip to the UK. Their mix of electronic beats arising from DJ Titusz's tracks, combined with the added energetic input from the musicians that complete the band with a smooth yet raw sound, all topped with a dash of quirky Hungarian sense of humour.
At a time when many talented Hungarians are abandoning their home country with promises of fame and success abroad, The Carbonfools may have an international outlook, but Hungary remains their home.
"You don't get to choose your home," Kelo concludes, "We want to tour abroad, and we even have plans for a big European tour this coming autumn, but at the end of the day, Hungary is our home and that's the one we have and love."
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