Hailing from Budapest, Hungary, Evil Men Have No Songs is the project of Árpád Szarvas. Since 2010, Szarvas has written and recorded alone under this moniker, though he expands the group’s lineup to four players for live shows—one of which entailed them serving as openers for No Age. Throughout the project’s existence, Evil Men Have No Songs has mined the past to mold a sound that identifies ’60s garage rock and psych-pop as its original progenitors, but filters those influences through the lens of ’80s college rock, shoegaze, and contemporary indie. It seems no mistake that Szarvas readily identifies the Jesus & Mary Chain as a primary influence. Like the Jesus & Mary Chain, Szarvas seems to be able to crank out sleepily infectious melodies over and over, but prefers to coat them in a fuzzy bit of distortion or deliver them in a laconic drawl. His music quotes ’60s pop, but remains more bleary-eyed, too stoned to go full bubble-gum.
Where Evil Men Have No Songs departs from influences like the Jesus & Mary Chain and the Velvet Underground, however, is in Szarvas’ unwillingness to ever let a mood of darkness totally overtake the music and push it into more unnerving or dissonant spaces. Any bit of distortion functions as a rough but warm bed for lighter guitar parts and gentle vocal melodies to coast upon. These are still summer songs through and through, but as if you were walking down the beach watching a thunderstorm approaching from out at sea.
That tension plays out in the band’s name itself. Evil Men Have No Songs is a quote from Nietzsche, which for many people would seem a surefire calling card that you’re in for some heavy stuff. But just as Nietzsche was slyer and jokier than you might remember, so too does naming your band Evil Men Have No Songs ring a bit tongue-in-cheek. It’s unique, but a mouthful, which seems to deliberately fly in the face of the fact that Szarvas’ music is so economical, and the fact that, well, he does have songs.
So far, the band has only played around Budapest, but with their blissed-out and adept take on some of the in-vogue music of the past currently favored by America’s grab-bag indie scene, Evil Men Have No Songs could likely meet success here. Evil Men Have No Songs recently released their fourth EP, Where We Come From, which emphasizes Szarvas’ love of ’60s pop with the indelible “Daily Girl” and meditative title track. My personal favorite track by Evil Men Have No Songs might still be one from their 2012 EP Always Somewhere Else, though. It’s called “Summerdown,” and has a Byrds-like intro that quickly cascades into some thick, but welcoming, distortion. Check them out below: