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We essentially do the same thing, just better – interview with makrohang

Published May, 2024
by Easterndaze

Not many bands have had as big an impact on me as Makrohang. I was in mourning for quite a while when they disappeared from the scene. Occasionally, I’d go back and listen to a couple of concert recordings from around 2015-16, and once a year, I’d check their social media, just in case I missed a comeback post. And guess what? This fall, it actually happened. Makrohang is back, and I couldn’t be happier. I asked them what happened in the past six years, how the band has changed, how their circumstances changed, and what plans they have for the future.

After six years, you guys unexpectedly returned to the Budapest music scene as a band. So, the obvious question is: what happened?

Gergő Nagy: In these six years, the three of us didn’t really talk at all. Essentially, what happened was there was this break, or hiatus, and then last year Tomi sent a message asking if we wanted to play before a Jazzbois concert, if I recall correctly. So we got together, started rehearsing, and realized we enjoyed it. I think we all really missed it, to be honest.

Tamás Czirják: So many people asked me about the band even while I was playing abroad. A new generation discovered us–people who had never been to our concerts before but found the band on Spotify, realizing it was me on the drums–and everyone kept asking what happened to us. During these 6 years, I played in many other bands, but somehow, I always felt that if I had to pick which bands I loved to play in the most, it would be Makrohang and Jazzbois. This project was a bit of a lovechild for all of us. So, I asked the others if they would like to give it another shot to see if it would work. Then after the first rehearsal, we all felt that we could just continue where we left off; we were automatically in sync again.

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Do you approach the band differently than six years ago (performing, writing, recording)? Has anything changed in the band’s concept and practices?

Marcell Gyányi: Obviously, a lot has changed, and mostly for the better. When Gergő and I started this, I was 18, basically, we were kids. Now we can make decisions more maturely, and this reflects in the basic dynamics, which is great. Musically, not much has changed. We recorded an album back in 2015, but the recording didn’t turn out the way we wanted, and we never managed to release it–actually that was one of the reasons for the break-up. But musically, in terms of songwriting, though, I think the album aged really well. Just recently, a friend told me that Makrohang’s sound, which we arrived at back then, is somehow “timeless.” Now, our goal is to take that sound, record it, mix it, and release it like we always wanted.

Gergő: I totally agree with what Marci said. A good example is the song “HEAVYWAIT”, which we released on December 1st, 2023; we wrote it nine years ago, and for the recent release, we only made one minimal change–not because we were lazy, but because we felt it was genuinely good, even after nine years. However, after a couple of  concerts in the past few months, I feel that the band’s spectrum has become much wider. It’s like the range of intensities we explore during concerts has expanded, which I don’t think was really there before. And we are much more efficient; we don’t dwell on things as much.

Tamás: What I definitely feel is that we play much more confidently now and are better at using our instruments to express our ideas and the visions behind our songs. We play with dynamics better, both in terms of the instruments and the overall musical dynamics. Everyone has become more experienced over the years. The songs were there back then, but I think we can truly play them the way we wanted now. When I listen back to that unreleased album we recorded back then, it’s nowhere near how we played them now after just two rehearsals.

Marcell: We can express ourselves better musically. We essentially do the same thing, just better. The aspiration for extremes was present back then too, but now everyone really is more extreme (laughs).

Gergő: Also, Márk Bartha created a unique visual and lighting design that follows the music, and this makes the whole concert experience more mature. I think this adds a lot to the band; when this happened at Három Holló for the first time, we felt like we leveled up, not musically, but as a “show.”

What feedback have you received from your audience since your comeback?

Tamás: After the comeback concert, I received very positive feedback from my friends. Some said they teared up multiple times, and that it was the concert of their lives. Which is pretty intense. Also, it was kind of a secret show, but somehow a lot more people found out we were playing at the Három Holló than we’d expected, and we were faced with a crowd lining up for the free gig that was twice as large as what the venue could actually accommodate. That concert was a great experience for us, too.

Marcell: Everywhere we went and played, we typically received good feedback, both in Hungary and abroad. I think it’s because the music we play has the ability to move people emotionally without becoming cheesy. I have rarely experienced something like this myself, so it means a lot to me when someone says it was the concert of their life.

Gergő: I think our music works completely differently when it’s live than as recordings. It’s niche music, and many people are indifferent to three guys playing guitars and drums on stage. There is a limitation in terms of instrumentation, but if someone gets past that, I believe we can touch them. Early on, we noticed that our audience encompassed a wide range of musical leanings–rockers, hip-hop fans, jazz enthusiasts–and they all appreciated our performances. It’s weird because none of us listens to stuff that’s like our own. We play with such intensity that it somehow grabs and pulls people in, which is a huge value. But we struggle with how to create material that can be consumed at home and that works in that context as well. I think few people sit down and listen to an entire album; they prefer playlists that match their mood. I do the same, but I don’t think our music really works in this context. I was at the hairdresser the other day, and he was interested in what music I play. Of course, he asked me to show him, and he was open-minded, but he said it felt like five different songs compressed into one song. Which is true; almost all our songs follow an ode-like structure, with consecutive but different sections. It works well live, but it’s not easy to absorb when listening to a recording.

How would you define your musical world? Initially, your Facebook page described it as “jazz for metalheads,” but that has been removed.

Gergő: That motto was actually cool because it worked really well, and people remember it even today. I’m not saying don’t call the band that, but we decided not to use it anymore. I wouldn’t call it jazz because we don’t improvise on stage, maybe only in short transitions. Now, when we were thinking about how to define our music briefly, “unpredictable, loud, and beautiful” came closest to what we were satisfied with. I like it because it’s lyrical and contains a lot, but I know it’s not as catchy as “jazz for metalheads.”

Marcell: We wouldn’t be able to express it in fewer words, that’s for sure. By the way, we didn’t come up with that motto; it was our former roommate, Tibi Rebák.

What’s your take on the opportunities and challenges facing you (or any similar bands) today as you return compared to six years ago?

Gergő: Back then, we were seeing these American bands who, in their 20s, already had pro studio gear in their garage that you’d only find in like five studios here in Hungary. We saw on YouTube, for example, that Badbadnotgood set up their home studio, where they could experiment with their sound 24/7. We wanted the same freedom, but we never had the money to build our own studio, so we spent a lot of money to move into a studio for a week, and it traumatized all of us a bit when it didn’t yield the results we wanted, because it just doesn’t work like that. So Tomi started experimenting with how to record us, he mic’d up the rehearsal room, played around with acoustics, and now he’s a damn good sound engineer, with musicians lining up for him to mix their stuff.

Tamás: Beyond the technical stuff, there’s also the fact that we make instrumental music, so we’re not bound by language, and that opens up possibilities. For us, the goal is to play in as many places abroad as possible. Here in Hungary, if you make niche music like us, you reach your limitations pretty quickly. It reaches those people who like this kind of music, it takes a couple of years, then you have a base, but you can’t really go much further without making compromises. So you play at bigger venues once a year, play at festivals in the summer, and maybe do a tour in a few bigger cities in the region.

Marcell: In certain aspects, it’s easier today, in others, it’s harder. It’s definitely good that instrumental music has started to flourish in the last five years, which fits well with the current playlist culture. On the other hand, there’s a lot of competition, and most promoters make their decisions based primarily on streaming numbers.

Gergő: Maybe it’s a bit easier here because if you fill a venue with niche music, the word spreads quickly. But abroad, that’s not visible, and foreign audiences are less likely to come to gigs when they don’t know you, so you have to find ways to reach your audiences abroad.

Tamás: There’s also a global trend that has made the making and releasing of music much more accessible. It’s very easy to secure your presence on Spotify, and so it’s easier to reach people. This is both good and bad because there’s a lot of trash content, and most of it is just more of the same, and such overabundance can change the way people listen to music. However, I’ve noticed that because of this, now there’s a greater demand for live and real things, like what we do, playing songs in their entirety without everything being meticulously produced and edited. The emphasis is on how the three of us play together. That was the basics of how it used to be back in the day: you liked a band because they were tight and played well together. That’s what I hope will come back again: that it’ll be way cooler to just play well together as a group, and bring out the best in each other. There’s nothing wrong with someone editing music all alone at home but it lacks collaboration, the spirit of a band.

fotó: iambarniedotcom

If I remember correctly, you were the ones who introduced me to Badbadnotgood, when you played a cover of one of their songs in 2015, and they’ve made one of the deepest impressions on me musically. Besides BBNG, what other artists or bands inspire (or have inspired) you?

Tamás: We all listen to different music; there’s little overlap like with BBNG. I lean towards hip-hop and jazz. I’d mention Yussef Dayes, whom I really like, and Kamaal Williams. There was a Brazilian trio, Azymuth, they were a huge inspiration for me. But we play different music from these artists.

Marcell: I recently went to a Swans concert, which I really liked, and for me, they’re the epitome of loud guitar music. I also listen to jazz, Alabaster DePlume was my top pick this year, and among the classics, Pharoah Sanders. Interestingly, the last time I was reminded of Makrohang was while listening to a Sybyr album.

Gergő: I don’t really listen to similar acts, like instrumental trios, and I’ve never specifically listened to rock, post-rock, or metal. What we play comes more from our instruments. If we had met, for example, with a keyboardist, things might have turned out completely differently. But maybe these instruments are the best for conveying high energy. There’s something elemental about being able to touch the strings, the drumhead with your hands, feeling the vibration, being more involved in creating the sound. My direct inspirations mostly come from electronic music. One example is the song “Boring Angel” by Oneohtrix Point Never, which has a continuous arpeggio. I tried to imitate it on the guitar, and that’s how “Dear Flowered Lips” was born, which I think is one of our best songs in terms of composition and sound. When we started rehearsing again last summer, we played it last, ’cause we felt we weren’t ready for it. Then, after rehearsing for like 3 months, we finally got around to playing it, and it felt like we’ve never stopped playing it at all. It was a pretty good feeling. Emotional.

Marcell: I’d add that despite being niche music, our playlists are heavily influenced by mainstream pop. If a new Dua Lipa song comes out, I’ll listen to it. I’m curious. I also really like Ice Spice. I know Gergő listens to a lot of hyperpop, and I like that too.

Gergő: Actually, with me, it was the other way around: when I was like 15 or 16, I listened to a lot of jazz, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and I tried to play them on the guitar. Usually, it happens the other way around; you start with pop and rock music, and as you get older, you play jazz. But for me, it wasn’t about pop music at all. Now, I can appreciate it for placing emphasis on things being exactly how they should be, like with a piece of architecture or engineering.

You’ve released two singles near the end of 2023 (DIS on October 27th; HEAVYWAIT on December 22nd) on Morotva Records, and if I’m correct, there’s another track coming in the first months of 2024. What else are you working on? Are the fans finally getting the first Makrohang album?

Marcell: I can only say that I love albums, and our audience is capable, I think, of listening to an entire album. So, at some point, we’d like to make a full-length album, but I can’t say when. We haven’t found the true studio sound for Makrohang yet; the previous two songs were recorded in different studios, and they were mixed by different people. So, there might be a few more rounds before we say it’s good enough for a whole album.

Tamás: Right now, we’re playing the songs we recorded before, and we’re adding new ones. DIS was a demo from way back, and it was only about 50% finished. HEAVYWAIT was also written a long time ago. We’d like to make an album later, but in the meantime, we’re working on these singles, some of which will probably be on the album, whenever it gets made. Our primary goal now is to release as much material as possible, because there is almost only old stuff on our Spotify page which we are not even playing anymore, and hadn’t even been playing when we stopped the band in 2017. It’s obviously bad if someone discovers us now, checks on Spotify, and doesn’t get what’s currently up with us. Also, we’re planning to hit the festivals this summer and organize bigger, more visually spectacular gigs like the one we had at Turbina in January.

Gergő: We want to showcase our live set in more places, but only in conditions where Márk’s visuals can come along, and we also have our own sound setup so that people really hear our music the way we’ve envisioned it.

Text by: Kovacs Borbala

Republished from MMN Mag.

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