Story by Emma Kalka
Hungarian band brings lighthearted energy to Zandari Festa
The first thing one notices about Vera Jonas, frontwoman for Hungarian band Vera Jonas Experiment, is that there always seems to be a smile on her face.
Even shortly after finishing an energetic set at Zandari Festa on September 30, she is full of laughter and happy vigor, chatting about her love for dogs in the artist and press area next to Muv Hall. It’s an energy that she brings to the stage as well, often getting the audience to interact with her when she’s not dancing around herself.
“One of the aims for me in doing shows is to get people involved in some kind of way,” she says, referring to going down into the crowd during the show to shake hands with the people there. “I just had this urge that I wanted to get closer to them physically…
“I don’t believe in pushing people into doing something like singing into the microphone or doing something they are not comfortable with… that is one of the mottos of my music.”
At live shows, she says that she really just wants to bring the audience into her world, as if they are sitting in her living room or some small place rather than in a large music venue.
Vera Jonas Experiment was one of three bands from Hungary that performed at the annual showcase festival this year, and Jonas admits that she had always wanted to come to Korea, joking that she drives a Korean car, which gave her a connection to the country, albeit a slightly shaky one.
“There is something about Korea for a European that is so appealing. It’s still a very unknown part of the world for us,” she says. “I’ve always been super curious about cultures that are far from mine. I had an itch to come and see what it’s like here.”
She added that there is a sort of energy in Korea that is funny and beautiful at the same time, allowing her to connect with people from such a different culture and on the other side of the world. The band went through a bit of culture shock when they arrived in South Korea, though she insists it was of the good kind.
“It’s a good kind of vibe that [the band] are experiencing,” she says with a smile.
Vera Jonas Experiment initially started six years ago as a duo. At the time, Vera says it was just a hobby. She was living and studying music in London, still unsure if she wanted a career in music. But then the band became a trio and then they added a guitarist. “Lots of changes and things happened. It’s nice to look back and see how many different colors we’ve tried.”
On a personal level, Vera has always been attracted to the stage. She performed as a child and did theater and dance. She confesses that, at first, she wanted to be an actress, but quickly realized that was not something she could do.
“Because my personality is so strong, every time someone wanted me to be someone different, it was difficult to become someone else,” she admits, laughing.
So it was no surprise she was drawn to music, even though becoming a singer was still just a dream at the time. She went to a ton of concerts, listened to a lot of music and even studied music after graduating from university in Budapest. Even though she was singing, studying music, arranging and songwriting in London, she still wasn’t sure.
It wasn’t until she started getting several small opportunities, one after another, that she realized she could succeed.
“I really like this saying, that if you have a big wish to do something and you really go for it and do everything for it to happen, at one point, the whole world will gather around you to help make it happen. And this is exactly what happened to me,” she says.
She was writing music and recording and someone happened to hear it; suddenly a venue called and asked her to perform there. The same thing happened with finding a manager.
“So, you know, these small things kind of pushed me. It was almost like an answer. Because I wasn’t sure if this is what I should do. I didn’t know if it would work out… [but] that kind of led me on this path,” she says.
And while the band plays seamlessly together on stage, it’s obvious that Vera, with her bright smile and cheerful dancing, is the focal point. All their songs start with her ideas, lyrics and riffs, then gradually come fully together with the instrumentation of the whole band.
She writes on her own, sticking to a strict schedule of writing something every day, even if she has nothing to write about. “I think that if you are an artist, you should strive to be inspired about everything, really. And I try to live like that. Everything that happens to me should be a drop of inspiration.”
Granted some songs come easier than others. Vera readily admits that when something heartbreaking or difficult happens in her life, it is easier to write. However, after having a breakdown when she was 25, she decided that she would start working on herself and she didn’t want to become a musician that writes from sorrow and darkness.
So, she pushes herself to write no matter how she is feeling, likening it to practice. When you play guitar, she explains, there are good days when everything is nice and it’s all in tune and works fine. But then the next day, nothing works. You cannot keep time. But rather than quit, you carry on practicing. This is what makes a professional.
“Sometimes there are great things, sometimes there are shitty things,” she explains. “I think big numbers, like if you write 10 songs and one is good, there you go. I want to write 1,000 songs and I hope that I will have, I don’t know, 20 good songs.”
She added that writing music is easy – anyone can do it – but that doesn’t always mean it will be good.
“When I started writing music for my band, I realized, writing music is easy. Writing good music is f***ing hard,” she confesses, chuckling.
But writing new music is exactly what Vera Jonas Experiment is focusing on at the moment. They released their last album – their second LP and third release overall – Tiger, Now last year. Vera said they don’t know when they will release new music, but she doesn’t think they will do another album just yet – rather focus on releasing singles and music videos.
On top of that, they plan to embark on a European tour in the fall. Following that, she plans to go to Berlin in December for a residency and to work with musicians there.
As for returning to Korea, she says the band hopes to return soon.
“We would love to come back. Absolutely.”