I’m a big music fan. From my first ever musical purchase (Easy Lover by Phil Collins & Phil Bailey) I have found myself totally hooked on buying, downloading, sharing, reviewing, and critiquing music. To this day I still love to utter the sweet words: ‘“have you heard the new… (insert band and song title)” when speaking to friends. I regularly post for a number of music blogs and am totally fascinated with finding new bands & genres to sink my musical teeth into. Being the muso I am, it seems only fitting for me to cast an eye on the Czech Republic’s musical offerings. Here’s a brief breakdown of seven Czech bands you should know about.
Monkey Business is a fun loving up-beat seven piece band that formed back in 1999. Since their formation, the band have released six studio albums of funky tracks for their ever-adoring fan base. The band is famous for their wild stage shows, often incorporating circus-like elements: fire breathing, knife juggling and unicycle riding can all be seen while the band perform tracks from their hefty back catalogue! Roman Holy heads up the merry band with additional lead vocals from American singer Tonya Graves. Monkey Business are good clean fun, not taking themselves too seriously but focusing on creating exciting, dance floor funk & soul, 99% of which is sung in English.
Monkey Business are also famous for their big budget videos, often shot in exotic locations, with yachts or fast cars (occasionally both) being the focus. The group has collaborated with a number of different prolific musicians, Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath) being one of the most recent to join the long list. The band is well worth seeing live; all members are accomplished musicians with both skill and character that shine through during the exciting live show!
Key words: Up-beat, funky, house-y, great live show
Major label sign-ees Mandrage produce easy on the ear, drive-time Czech soft rock which has been gathering momentum and fans since its casual formation back in 2004. The four man band is fronted by Vit Old (lead vocals & guitar). The band sings in Czech and cover a range of emo-esque subjects in a very catchy and palatable way. Their tracks have titles like Kapky proti slzam (Tear Drops), Uz me vickrat neuvidis (A Few More Times and You Won’t See me Anymore) and my favourite, Šrouby a matice (Nuts & Bolts). It will be interesting to see how the band develops and evolves under the ever-watchful wing of their major label. The band enjoys support from a dedicated fan-base and is a regular on the live show circuit, playing shows regularly around the country.
Key words: easy on ear, catchy, soft rock
Classmates František Soukup & Emil Copts spent time absent from school to produce and create music which would later be known as Nightwork. The majority of the band members are actors whose aim is to combine both music and theater. The band has enjoyed a relatively quick climb to success: their first video received over three million views on YouTube, and the band received the coveted Anděl music award in 2010 for band of the year, video of the year (Warmers – Tepláky) & album of the year!
Nightwork play a very safe brand of classic pop; funny and playful lyrics in songs such as Rastaman and Zoomba have made them a hit with the teens and mums alike. The clean living fresh-faced front man, Vojtěch Dyk, has a star-studded and colorful family tree. His father is a well-known literary historian while other ancestors have been prominent representatives in the Czech avant-garde scene, poets and publishers. Dyk receives a lot of attention from the ČR’s gay community, who have taken a shine to the young actor/musician. Dyk has openly said in interviews that he has no problem with the attention and cherishes all the support Nightwork fans give. I haven’t had the opportunity to witness the band in action on stage, but have seen Vojtěch performing his two-man stage show with En.dru, which was absolutely fantastic, a spontaneous show of vocal improvisation. Nightwork’s music might not be to everyone’s taste, but I strongly recommend doing a little research and checking out some of the band members’ side projects.
Check also: EN.DRU & Vojtěch Dyk – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_M-4SFM2XDw
Key words: Easy listening, fresh, Czech lyrics, actors & musicians collaborating together
Back in 2009, four Třinec natives (Albert Black, Michal Šupák, Johnny Cienciala, Paul Pilch) decided to gather up their instruments and create some of the catchiest, pop-filled music in the Czech Republic. Their songs (sung in English) are heartfelt and generally about looking for love, traveling long distances for love, or love lost. The band members are proficient musicians and songwriters, effortlessly creating brit-pop, sing-a-long tracks that seem to have caught the admiration of their fans and the attention of the Czech media. In my opinion, the band are a little hit and miss; they are occasionally very cheesy, but I guess that’s the state of modern pop. I have witnessed the slightly edgier side of Charlie Straight though. The lead singer’s recent appearance on Kraus’ chat saw the usually clean cut musician looking under influence of some kind toxin! Perhaps these guys are the darkside of pop in the Czech Republic? One of the most relevant and most likely to be exported from the Czech scene, lock up your daughters, the Straight boys are on the up!
Key words: Cool kids, Brit-pop sound, radio friendly
Check also: Charlie Straight – School Beauty Queen (Official) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iGpTxiDMCA&feature=relmfu or Charlie Straight – Show Jana Krause 6. 4. 2012 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvqzZ0cLnEQ
Formed in 1988, Tata Bojs are considered by many to be the forefathers of Czech pop. The fun-loving four-piece band are currently signed to the well established and respected Supraphon Music record label, making them label mates with the likes of Karel Gott, Václav Neckář & 48 Fish. The band has evolved over the years, shaping their sound into a kind of semi-electronic, synth filled pop.
The band has come a long way from their schoolmate roots, their first-ever concert being the obligatory school assembly performance. 2004 saw the release of their most successful album entitled Nanoalbum. The conceptual album, which tells a weird and wonderful story, earned the band a third place prize in the Minister of Culture’s award. In 2011, the band released their 8th studio album, Symbol of Eight, where the group gets all introspective. Tata Bojs claims to never repeat themselves (musically) or be repeated. For the band to still be united and relevant, I guess their work now speaks for itself.
Key Words: Long time contributors to the Czech scene, schoolmates, changing sound
MIDI LIDI is a Czech electronic outfit playing a range of glitch and synth-pop. The band is famous for incorporating interesting and occasionally thought provoking visuals and projections during their live shows. Midi Lidi consists of Peter Marek (vocals, electronics, keyboards), Prokop Holoubek (vocals, drums, keyboards, clarinet, guitar) and Markéta Lisá (vocals, electronics, keyboards, saxophone) with occasional extra collaborators. The band has a big following among Prague’s hipster scene. Since their 2006 formation, the electro band have created original music for films and documentaries and carried out two tours. Their 2007 album Waiting for the Robot was nominated for the Anděl award. Since then, the band has released 3 further albums which were all received well by critics and fans alike. I would recommend seeing MIDI LIDI live; the three-piece’s sense of humour and obvious musical talent really shines through on stage.
Key Words: Electronic, fun, visuals, experimental
Please the Trees
A band whose members hail from the four corners of the Czech Republic, Please the Trees play a unique brand of atmospheric wall-of-sound-like modern folk. The band has said that their musical influences are far-reaching and eclectic. Names like Mogwai, Neil Young, and Ron Elliot have all been named as inspirations for the band. Lead singer Vaclav Havel III (not to be confused with the late ex-President Vaclav Havel) is very vocal about his positive, rural up-bringing and the effect it has had on his adult life as a musician.
In 2007 the band released their debut album Lion Prayer (via Absent Hour Records) with the closely-followed Inlakesh released in Spring 2010 (also on Absent Hour Records). The band have toured America, playing shows in New York City, Philadelphia, DC, Chicago, Minneapolis and at even performing at Austin’s South By Southwest festival. The band has a serious sound with haunting (English) lyrics. Good quality music with well shot and directed videos. I suggest checking them out!
Key Words: Atmospheric, modern folk
It goes without saying that there are a number of excellent bands or musicians that I have not covered in this article. The Czech scene is full of talented musicians and creatives that are worth coverage (regardless of their genre). Notable mentions that fall into this category: Freezer, the 21 year old grime & electro producer who recently released his Black Box album on the Prague based Hypo 808 label. Complete with hard hitting bass lines with European collaborations and a worldwide appeal. Secondly, Bruno Ferrari. The wild, sex-obsessed, flamboyant performer, playing a combination of garage rock and disco. A truly show-stopping performer using burlesque dancers, animals and outlandish costumes for his stage show. A must see!
Which Czech musicians or bands do you listen to?