August 31, 2000 - Volume VIII, Issue 35

Defector rockin' in the free world

By John Hayes

The Skinny Bohemians could be Hungary's only truly international rock group. The band is led by the enigmatic Zoltán Szemes who found himself living in Canada at the age of six.

His family escaped the Communist regime in 1974. "People were still escaping in the 1970s," he told me. "We first arrived in Sweden where I would make money by selling bubble gum to the kids at school before moving to Canada to join family members who had left back in 1956."

Moving again at the age of 18, he found himself in London. His teenage years were spent trawling the London rock scene and hanging out with the stars at the original Marquee Club on Wardour Street.

The Skinny Bohemians formed in London in 1990 and suffered several false starts. They lost members of the band to everyone including crusty rockers New Model Army. After several years the line-up was finally stabilized and is now exclusively Hungarian.

The Skinnies currently split their time between the UK and Hungary on a 50/50 basis. Szemes told me they feel they have to be in London to be near the music industry but it makes financial sense to write, rehearse and record in Budapest.

It is probably also a relief for the band's bass guitarist, Lepke, to return to Hungary and be able to communicate using more than the five words of English he knows: Shoes, boots, spoon, fork and flag.

"It's beautiful," Zoltán told me. "He has five words of almost completely useless English but he communicates by drawing the most beautiful pictures. He is a very creative soul and it brings people close to him." Musically speaking, the band take influences from rockers from the '60s and '70s, including Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Iggy Pop but have fused the tunes with hints of The Cult, Smashing Pumpkins and Szemes's personal favorite, Placebo.

The result of this mix of old and new is a highly approachable and radio-friendly form of music, although with an edge dirty enough to repel your mother.

You can visit the band's web site at www.skinnybohemians.com

The Skinnies’ fat sound

By John Hayes

A visit to the Skinny Bohemians’ regular hangout and watering hole, the City Bar on Almássy tér, will testify to the band’s Bohemian status, but I would never describe them as skinny.

I am of course referring to their music and not their girth.

The Skinnies specialize in fat guitar riffs, stadium pleasing vocal anthems and gritty yet stylish production.

Their latest single Me & God testifies to this and is a fine example of the talents of one of Hungary’s best but largely undiscovered bands.

Despite their obvious talents for writing catchy and almost instantly memorable tunes, The Skinny Bohemians are far from self-indulgent and are not afraid to take a stab at themselves.

In the opening lines of this single, vocalist Zoltán Szemes whispers the line, "I used to be good looking and now I’m not, it’s just a joke between me and God," before launching into their trademark funk laced rock-n-roll riot.

It’s nice to see such honesty in a music scene crippled with bad taste and a general lack of talent.

In a just and fair world, The Skinny Bohemians would have already been snapped up by a major record company and be playing to a much wider audience.

As it is they are already an office favorite here at The Budapest Sun and with a sound as fat as the Skinnies, they cannot remain a secret for that much longer.

Me & God by The Skinny Bohemians

Price: Ft1,299

Available by mail at band website


Distributed by Universal

November 8, 2001 - Volume IX, Issue 45