While most of the Hungarian bands call some gigs played in front of a few people tours, Sear Bliss played without any special fuss in Athens, Thessaloniki, Arad, Bucharest and Cluj Napoca in February. In the meantime, they are writing the material for their upcoming ninth album. All these were enough to make a short interview with the band. Our questions were answered by András Nagy (vocals, bass), Zoltán Pál (trombone) and Zoltán Vigh (guitar).
You referred to the two gigs in Greece as last minute shows on your facebook site. How did these requests come? How can you prepare for a festival countries away from where you live? Not forget to mention that you only had a few days for that, and you played with a session drummer.
Zoltán Pál: The preparation for these last mintute gigs with a session drummer wasn’t difficult for me at all. I did everything as usual: I went to the hairdresser, and I attended the one and only full band rehearsal.
András: Joking aside, the concerts in Greece were a step-in opportunity. We were invited to the festival of Kawir, who are a very popular band in their region. Originally a Belgian band would have played there, but they had to cancel their show two weeks before the festival. The organizers chose us because we played in Athens last year, and the responses were really great. We were very glad for this invitation and accepted it immediately. This was a great opportunity for us: a big festival at a great venue. There was only one problem: the day after we accepted the offer it turned out that our drummer, Gyula cannot come with us. He had such obligations in his family for that weekend that could not be postponed. We spent days with brainstorming on how we could solve this problem. Since we were already announced, we had to find the perfect replacement. Oliver Ziskó, the drummer of arkhē, who played in Sear Bliss before too, would have been an obvious choice: he is a very good friend of ours, a brilliant musician, and he knows our program pretty well. Unfortunately, he had a gig that day… Finally, our guitarist came up with the idea to ask Attila Erdei, with whom he played in the band called Superbutt. He is currently the drummer of the bands called Clue and Autumn Twilight.
Fortunately, he was free and brave enough to learn our full, 75-minute-long concert program within a week. As a start the two guitarists and him had two rehearsals in Budapest, and we had a full band rehearsal the evening before the take off in Szombathely. And Attila did an awesome job. Although he had very short time, and hadn’t played such fast and intense music before, he learned all our songs perfectly. To be honest, he played the most precisely among all of us during the whole weekend. We got on well with each other fine, he has a great sense of humour and he is a very calm person. He had the patience for the 5-hour-long train journey from Athens to Thessaloniki, too. And he also knows how to operate the sampler, this was very handy too. We almost felt that cohesion what we feel when we play with Gyula.
If I’m not mistaken, you went to Greece by plane. What equipment could you take with you?
Zoltán Vigh: If you played a lot with the old school game called Tetris, you have a great advantage in packing your stuff for a flight. The amount and weight of your luggage is highly limited, especially if the organizer (for obvious reasons) doesn’t want to pay for extra luggages. You don’t really have the opportunity to take anything else besides your instruments. Only smaller effect pedals can be put in, or if you have advanced Tetris skills, you can have your multieffect board with you. On the other hand, guitar cases can be stuffed with T-shirts, or different merch stuff. Until your case doesn’t exceed the 20 kilogram limit, there is no way not to squeeze one more shirt in it. Many people would think that going to play a gig by plane is cool, but it really sucks, unless you play in Iron Maiden. All in all, we always have a lot of fun during these journeys, and the evening before the flights, too. Before our first gig in Athens we didn’t have a scale and I had to weigh the cases. I had a 20 kilogram kettlebell in my left hand, and the full packed guitar case in the other to make sure that I don’t exceed the weight limit.
PZ: I’m the lucky guy in the band in this sense. I always have my full equipment with me: it is a trombone and a wireless microphone set. If I pack my mic set carefully, it can fit perfectly in my hand luggage.
Your two Greek concerts were on consecutive days. Did you have the time and opportunity for some sightseeing?
PZ: We would have had time, but at the welcome party that took place in Isengard Pub in Athens I got so much wasted that I was pretty useless until the next afternoon. I wasn’t the only one in the band, and the rest of the guys didn’t want to go on a sightseeing tour separately. But fortunately, more or less we explored the city last year, when we visited Athens for the first time. In May we climbed up to Acropolis together and we had time for a short sightseeing, too. So because of this it would have been pointless to cry over this hangover issue.
We visited Thessaloniki for the first time, and our friend Kostas, who organized the concert showed us the most famous and interesting parts of the city. We visited the seaside and climbed up to the White Tower, which is one of the symbols of the town.
VZ: Besides these, we had the opportunity to taste all the local foods, and the Greek traffic, too. We learned that the two lines are actually three or four, and to honk the horn is a great solution for every traffic issues. If this doesn’t help, then you should use your verbal skills to let the other know you are right. As for the food, suvlaki is the best!
NA: I was asked to do a one-hour DJ set at Isengard Pub at the welcome party, which was really an honour. So I made a nice and decent set of my favourites including e.g. Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate and Darkthrone. Probably my bandmates enjoyed my set the most.
The worst part of such long journeys is waiting. Black metal musicians are often considered as humourless and grim persons. How do you kill the time?
PZ: We sniff some glue.
VZ: You are right. We always are very grim, sitting with sour faces staring steadily ahead. We do not joke or do anything humour related. Those who do have to pay.
And what about the three concerts in Romania? Do you have „usual” venues you played before, or was it a jump into the unknown? What can you tell about the local clubs, compared to the Hungarian ones?
PZ: Arad was absolutely unknown for us, but we have already played in Bucharest and Cluj Napoca before. The main difference between those clubs and the clubs we have in Hungary that the Romanian backstages were equipped with fridges packed with beers and mineral water for the bands. This is not so common here.
NA: Quantic in Bucharest is one of the most well-equipped venues we have ever played at. Its size is like Barba Negra’s in Budapest, but next to it there is a Barba Negra Track-like open air venue as well. We had a nice big stage with a led wall behind us, and professional technical staff. And they had the periodic table of metal in the restaurant and pub part of the building. At the moment we saw it, we knew we are at the right place. Fortunately, the concert itself proved this preconception. I can only tell the best about Flying Circus in Cluj and Club Flex in Arad too. These were smaller venues, but the staff was friendly and professional at all the clubs, we had ideal circumstances everywhere.
If a younger band asked your advice what to pack for an at least five-day-long journey, what would you suggest?
VZ: You definitely should pack your musical instruments. But if I take the well-equipped Quantic as an example, I’m not so sure that you’d need those.
NA: You shouldn’t leave your backdrop at home. Of course, we did so in both cases. When we went to Greece, we didn’t have enough place for that, when we went to Romania we were is such a hurry that it was left in a corner at our rehearsal room. In such cases the solution is a picture or an animation you can project on a led wall – fortunately our guitarist, Attila made us one.
PZ: Many years ago when we went on a German-Dutch tour we agreed to bring only the most necessary things with us. This was the reason why one of the guitarists (let’s call him Csaba) didn’t have a toothbrush. As it turned out during the some-day-long trip, he should have brought one. Besides this a „certain” member of the band likes to entertain the others with different kinds of music. These compliations were named throughout the years Boogiewoogie tape, CD and now USB stick.
And what are the most unnecessary stuff?
PZ: E.g. a submersible pump. I always have one with me, but it always has been pretty useless. And for some reason Attila always has a swimming trunk with him. He hopes that there is a swimming pool at some of the hotels we stay, but he is always disappointed at the end of the day.
And how do you deal with the situation when you have to be together for a long time? What are you doing while you spend days together in the van?
VZ: We are listening to the disco hits of the 80s and the 90s. And we lift the window very often to let some fresh air in.
NA: It’s a tradition in our band that on our way back home we write poems about our adventures. The creative process is that somebody comes up with a first line, and someone other has to make the best possible rhyming second line. PZ is the biggest poet in the band, he has a brilliant vocabulary to make the best rhymes with the correct number of syllables. He does perfect job in writing these poems, it’s impossible to compete with him in this. This guarantees that the atmosphere is great on the way back home, too. And this eases the tension as well, for example when „someone” loses the key of the car and you have to wait 5 hours at the Bratislava airport.
In the meantime you are working on the material for the new album. What can you tell us about it? Will there be any difference compared to Letters from the Edge?
PZ: As far as the trombone tunes are concerned, the boring parts will be even more boring, and the out of tune parts will be even more out of tune.
NA: Around four or five songs are entirely complete. But besides these we have a lots of riffs and unfinished songs, so we are not in a creative crisis at all. The music changed as we personally changed throughout the years, and I hope this can be called a development. This will probably be the first Sear Bliss record that will be written and recorded by the same line-up as its predecessor, so there will be a certain continuity as well. But honestly, it is not our task to judge this. As I listen to the new songs, there are some that can be related to some songs on the Letters album, and those who liked that record will probably like these songs, too. On the other hand, generally speaking we expanded our musical spectrum a bit in each direction further. There will be elements that might be surprising for the first listening, but this is not new in case of our band. If everything goes according to our plans, we will go on a song writing camp this spring again, which is very useful in terms of the songwriting process. We take each and every ideas and concepts into consideration, and we put the songs into their final form. This method of songwriting really works for us. Hopefully, we’ll start recording the new songs before the summer gigs.
Photos by Anca Coleașă