If you’re tired of feeling blue, choose Scarlet! – Interview with Dani Fekete-Szűcs
Scarlet has been a colourful part of Hungary’s Celtic punk scene for two years now. With more than 40 concerts behind them, this six-piece dives into the club season with unstoppable force this year too, with a desire to tour abroad as well. Their EP, released in January, quickly found a strong following, so that might play a part in this too. I sat down with the band’s charming frontman Dani Fekete-Szűcs to talk about the assessment of last year, plans for this year and Midnight Avenue. The young man told me about the band’s activities with such passion and joy that it truly echoed his on-stage Scarlet spirit.
How was your previous year? How would you evaluate 2014 for Scarlet? Are you satisfied?
Absolutely! Our goal last year was to find our audience, since we’re not the only band playing this type of music here. We tried to show what we really represent in Celtic punk. Being on tour with Paddy and The Rats and performing at Sziget Festival for the second time was really great for our development as a band. We were constantly writing songs too, so this experience definitely made a mark in that area too.
What are you the most proud of? Would you do anything differently?
I’m proud of it all! 🙂 Last year was just a massive march forward: the recording and wild success of our song Phoenix, more and more gigs in the country, invitations to festivals, and our first pro studio experience. All of this helps us to take ourselves more seriously. It makes us realise what we are capable of as a team and as individuals, and that the road we’ve travelled so far is just right. It’s an awesome feeling to have a solid fanbase in Budapest, and to be greeted with an open mind in the country too. Now that I think about it, the only thing that I’d do differently is to reach cities in the country sooner, because this type of music finds its audience everywhere. We’re also very open-minded about those who listen to us online via Deezer, iTunes or Spotify and download our tunes from these applications.
You just released your new EP Midnight Avenue. How is it, and how does it differ from the previous one?
Back in the day, we released a four-track ‘Demo’, which we recorded in a DIY style, cheaper than cheap. That was perfect for presenting what kind of band we are musically. It had songs with pirates, pubs and Irish themes, and we wanted to keep this mixture on our recently released ‘Midnight Avenue’ too. We recorded five of our own songs at Paddy’s and tacked on Phoenix as well (recorded last spring). Working in the studio was a very fun experience and we gained a lot of insight into the process. For instance, we could try what the sonic possibilities of a given song are and which of these fits the song best. In terms of melodies, we experimented with some banjo, cello and piano, besides our usual violin and flute. We wanted to put a release together that captures the melodies and lyrics of Scarlet in the best way, and I think we succeeded. We managed to be a bit more foul-mouthed this time in the lyrics department, and we also tried using more than just three (or four) chords in one song, which is pretty standard in this kind of folky music. That’s how our song Drunken Scallywag came into being, for example.
What is the writing process like? Where do you get inspiration from?
I’m the one who writes most of the songs. During band practice, everyone tries to improve the material and make it more colourful by adding their own ideas. As for inspiration, it can come from a great number of places. The base of our style can be traced back to bands such as Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly and Paddy and The Rats. While creating the melodies of our own songs, however, the calmer tunes of the Lumineers can influence us just as much as the roaring style of Eluveitie. I don’t overthink the contents of the lyrics too much. There’s always something I can write about, it only has to fit this type of music. I don’t try to write ‘wannabe-Irish’ stuff but it’s not a problem if that’s what the given song needs. We aim to make fast songs you can party to, and judging from the feedback we’ve managed to do alright so far.
Do you have any unreleased songs up your sleeve? If yes, when can we hear those?
We have plenty, so you can expect an album within a year or two. The crowd already knows the tracks of ‘Midnight Avenue’ quite well, so we can have even more awesome gigs. The next release is slowly forming in our minds too. When the time comes to head down to the studio again, we’ll sit down and choose 10-15 of the most likeable and most ‘Scarlety’ tunes.
Do you have anything planned for Saint Patrick’s Day? Will you take part in Paddy’s ‘prowl’? (note: ‘Szent Patrik Portya’, a night of Irish pub music)
Sounds good indeed, but we’ll pass on it this time. We’ll have gigs together with them later this year, but on Saint Patrick’s Day we’ll perform at the annual parade and have a concert at Instant. This will be a free gig on March 22, not to mention that the very best of Hungary’s Irish acoustic and rock bands will participate that night, so we can call it a kind of all-star mini-festival. In short, highly recommended!
The spring club season and summer festival season are fast approaching. What are your plans for this year?
We have a few plans that are concrete, and some that are underway. We’ll only announce these later. As a matter of fact, we have some gigs planned abroad! One thing’s for sure though: our Midnight Avenue EP-showcase tour is starting to get off the ground and our spring schedule is packed (much to our delight). We’ll continue this tour in autumn, visiting cities we didn’t have a chance to in spring. We’re always getting messages from the country requesting gigs here and there. Our audience comes first, so be on the lookout for any announcements!
On the other hand, we’ll be releasing our EP on CD too, because a lot of people are telling us that they’d like to buy it and support the band. The next step would obviously be some killer T-shirts. This demand is a great accolade for us, especially considering that this is the first ‘serious’ band of all our members. Every bit of feedback reassures us that we’re not just playing music and doing gigs for ourselves, but actually for a lot of people who appreciate what we do. This is a huge motivator. That’s why we’re planning way ahead. Not to mention that, besides touring in spring and autumn, we’ll make all the music videos we promised. I think that by the time all the videos are released, an album won’t be far behind either.