Queen City Sounds Podcast S2E32: Eszter Balint

Eszter Balint, photo by Peter Yesley

Eszter Balint is a singer, songwriter, violinist and actress who released her fourth album I HATE MEMORY! on November 18, 2022 via Red Herring Records. The album is a set of songs that chart the artist’s path from communist Hungary in the 60s and 70s to New York City of the late 70s and 80s. Co-written with Stew (Stew & The Negro Problem, Passing Strange), the songs are like vignettes about the art, music, theater and film world and the community around it in which Balint was intimately involved as an active participant. But the album is more than a mere catalog of the times, it is a meditation on the nature of oppression, freedom, the possibilities inherent to situations in which rules fall by the wayside and one’s struggle with memory when you are someone who is most focused on the present rather than living and re-litigating the past. Long in the works the songs are the basis of an “anti-musical” which is planned for an ongoing series of performances at Joe’s Pub. I HATE MEMORY! is a multi-faceted, multi-layered ambitious work that has helped Balint reconnect with her teenage self with the aid of her various collaborators (for more information on those, visit her website linked below).

Balint as a youth lived with the avant-garde Squat Theatre troupe founded by her father and that’s where she first met Jean-Michel Basquiat who produced her first recordings and with whom she became involved. Balint’s career and proximity to the New York arts world led her to her cinematic debut in Jim Jarmusch’s first major film Stranger Than Paradise (1984) and to later roles in Shadows and Fog (1991), Trees Lounge (1996), The Dead Don’t Die (2019) and in season 4 of the sitcom Louie. All along the way she has performed music and recorded with Angels of Light and Swans (in particular for the sprawling 2012 album The Seer), John Zorn and Marc Ribot.

Listen to our interview with Balint on Bandcamp below and for more information on Eszter Balint please visit her website linked below and give I HATE MEMORY! a listen on Bandcamp as well linked separately beneath the interview.