Hello, Hello – interview with Péter Egri
The guys of Mystery Gang seem to be restless these days. Before the band’s rehearsal and amidst signing copies of the new album, we had a chance to talk with frontman Péter Egri about the band’s first record sung in Hungarian, TV programme A Dal and the approaching festival season.
Your new album Helló, Helló was released this week. How do you see this record in the context of your previous works?
Péter Egri: I think I can safely say that this album is our best yet, not only from the last couple years, but looking at our whole history as well. In terms of music, lyrical themes, arrangement and song structures it’s really there. The last “child” is always the most cherished one for musicians, and we’re no exception either. However, this new record is so fantastic that it even surpasses the love our previous album received. The material contains 17 songs, out of which the first 15 are sung in Hungarian and the last two are in English. There’s a live track on it, as well as a song made in collaboration with singer and actress Bori Péterfy. It isn’t strictly a rockabilly record. We tried to squeeze in all of our favorite genres from the ‘50s and ‘60s – let’s label it as, say, vintage pop. I think we managed to demonstrate these exciting styles quite well.
English or Hungarian?
Péter Egri: Our English album is in the works as we speak, so they kind of run side by side. Last time we had a gig in Hungary with Hungarian songs, and only two days later we were onstage abroad, with our English setlist. These two trends will continue, supplementing each other. You could say I’m always burning at a hundred-thousand degrees, so what interests me finds its way into my music. For a long period of time I had only written in English. So about a year or two ago it was a totally new experience for me to start thinking in Hungarian, while I had never really listened to Hungarian music. There aren’t really any people who write lyrics in Hungarian that I can appreciate or look up to – maybe Pál Herrer, Zsüti and all that. My lyrics are mostly based on the urban lyricism of the early 1900s, for example those writing for the literary journal Nyugat… those are the people who influenced me the most.
You also collaborated with Bori Péterfy on your album. How did this come about? Why did you choose her in particular?
Péter Egri: Bori asked the same thing! Well, we had a concert together about a year ago, and it seemed pretty self-apparent after that. That was the first time I saw Bori. She went on stage in a leopard-print getup, lips painted red, twenty-centimeter high heels, and her persona just inspired me somehow. So I asked the guys what if Bori sang a song on the record, and both Laci and Singer were all “cool, cool.” We were really sympathetic for each other. I showed her what kind of song it would be and she took a liking to it instantly. We had already played it together live numerous times before heading in to the studio. Another interesting bit about the track Nézz rám, megbabonázlak is that we both sing on it, only Bori does it in H minor, whereas I do it in D minor.
Will you make a music video for the new album?
Péter Egri: Yes, but it’s still a secret which song it is. I can say one thing though: it won’t be for Játssz még jazzgitár, the track we played on [Eurovision related TV programme] A Dal. We already have some ideas how to go about it. Incidentally, we’ll also have a music video for an English song that will be the precursor of our English-language album.
Now that Eurovision was mentioned – how did the idea of entering the contest came to you?
Péter Egri: I saw the TV commercials in autumn, and I immediately thought of Bobby Solo singing Una Lacrima Sul Viso. They used to play the Hungarian piano version in every confectionery. Or I could also mention Cliff Richard. When these singers won the Eurovision Song Contest back in the ‘60s, they were regarded as really big artists in their home countries. Later I watched the performances of last year and the year before, and it seemed to me, as a musician, that the whole thing was getting more serious musically. Then we entered the contest and they voted us in – much to our surprise. We didn’t think too much of the whole thing. It was like if we get in, we get in, if not, then not. And then when we got through to the semi-final, we drew a huge red heart in our calendar for Saturday, with the big letters “AUDIENCE.” It was because of our audience that we managed to go that far.
What are your plans for the festival season this year? Any domestic or foreign gigs?
Péter Egri: Both domestic and foreign ones. We like free small-scale urban events but, naturally, we’ll also be present at the big festivals aimed at youngsters. We would have gone to Italy but the chance of some special Hungarian concerts arose, so much so that we had to cancel three Italian gigs. That’s a first for us!