Kafkadesk spoke with Krisztián Buzás of the Hungarian award-winning electronica and chillwave duo Belau who will play at Sziget Fesitval’s Europe Stage this summer. In this exclusive interview, he tells us the story of how he and bandmate Péter Kedves turned this school boys’ dream into an award-winning project performing internationally.
Hi Chris! Thanks for taking the time to answer our few questions. So… “Belau”, where does this that come from?
It’s a story that goes way back, when we were kids with Peter, we loved geography and explored the world map all the time… I remember once we found a small country, called Palau, which really caught our attention. Later on, we found out that the aboriginal people there call their country Belau and we immediately felt that this was the ideal name for playing our so-called tropical themed, journey-centered chillwave music.
What can you tell us about Belau’s new song “Essence” featuring Sophie Barker?
So… Essence, our latest single, features Sophie Barker, who you may know from the greatest Zero 7 LP, Simple Things. An inspirational record for us back in the day, it was an honour to collaborate with Sophie our own music. It was important emotionally, of course, but also commercially… *laughs*… Anyways, we met with her in London in December and it turned out that we were great together… the song came together naturally and quick…
How important was it for you associate yourselves with international artists, such as Sophie?
For those who don’t know it, Belau is a project, which has only worked with talented female artists throughout the years. On our first record, there were only Hungarian singers, and on the second one we are working on now there will be only foreign singers from around the world… except from Böbe, our live vocalist, who’s Hungarian…
Let’s go back a few years… can you take us briefly through your genesis of how Belau came into being? How did you two meet?
Actually it goes way back into the early years of our lives, when we were kids. We met when were 10 and went to the same school. We were friends, but we were into different musical genres first. Peter liked indie, while I was more into metal (I still am!). Later on Peter came up with the idea that he wanted a new project with serious background and tours. He was the boss and I was the associate, although we did everything together… the music part and business part… The rest is history. The debut single brought us great success and recognition, and then the first LP won a few awards and became a secret favourite to a lot of people, and now we want to upgrade the band to the next level with the new album…
The music video for “Island of Promise” won the Hungarian Video Music Award’s Special Prize in 2015, you released your first album in 2016, you played at Sziget… what, for you, has been a defining moment in Belau’s young career?
There were several. From the early daysof the band, I think the success of the first album, where we won the greatest Hungarian Music Awards in the electronic music category is something that we could be proud of. Then when we had the chance to play in front of more than 10.000 people… and I think one of the latest is when we supported Mike Shinoda form Linkin Park. Also playing in so many countries and meeting such different people is a feeling that makes hard work definitely worth it…
Your music is full of optimism, you say you aim to capture the vibe of a different geographical regions around the world… what would you say are your main influences?
We have goals on different levels, I have to admit that. One is that you mention, but the main thing is to bring the people to a different state of mind, where they can realise their true selves and find peace within. That is the main goal, to inspire for something better.
You’re playing again at Sziget Festival this is year… How does it feel to play there? Any particular anecdote?
This is the third time for us playing at Sziget and, as a visitor, I think I have been there at least 10 times, maybe more. First, when I was into Korn, when I was 14. That was a long time ago. I have several decent and several terrible memories from Sziget, this is what makes it special. I’ve been to couple of festivals, but Sziget is unique. If you are young and want to experience something new, go for it!
The festival has been increasingly criticised for being less and less for Hungarian bands? I believe bands who sing in Hungarian are not allowed to play there anymore. Is that correct? As Hungarian musicians, how does this make you feel?
That is true. It was a slow and well-thought through new direction. A very few Hungarian bands are playing at Sziget now and 90% of them are using English in their lyrics. I think, according to the profit-orientated thinking, this is an acceptable direction, although the original mission when they founded the festival wassomething that was very far from this… The good thing about it, though, is that nearly all the “bigger” bands singing Hungarian lyrics are able to perform on VOLT, Strand, while all the other major ones, the ones who are obviously targeting the international market, are able to play at Sziget. It hurts in one way, sure, but it’s also understandable. For the underground artists the situation is way more difficult. Also, I have to admit that we are thinking about ourselves this way, because we are doing everything full DIY.
How has the electronic music scene in Budapest and Hungary evolved in the past five years? Is it still hard for Hungarian bands/musicians to find gigs abroad? How are Hungarian musicians received in neighbouring countries?
All the genres are evolving…. slowly, but continuously. The international booking the Hungarian bands is a completely new area of the music business and there are a very few bands, who are able to tour continuously abroad. Peter and I are trying to bring in a new method for this and Belau is at the front line. I think no other Hungarian bands has played that many foreign shows in that amount of countries… 23. The V4 countries are a little bit more open minded for each other, but the whole Central and Eastern European scene is way more recipient, which feels nice, when we are touring in Poland or Slovenia…
So what’s next for Belau? You say you are planning a second album for the near future?
That’s it! The main goal is album number two. The songs are getting together slowly and we have a pretty accurate visionary about how we want to continue this journey. I think it will be the bigger brother of The Odyssey… fixing all the weaknesses of that and bringing it to a new level.
Can’t wait! Thanks, and keep spreading good vibes through the (sound) waves!
While waiting for Sziget Festival, don’t forget to check out Belau’s music on Spotify and on their website and Facebook page. In the meantime, here’s their new single, Essence, featuring Sophie Barker…