Czech pop group Charlie Straight heads to London on eve of Olympics

Charlie Straight

The Czech music group Charlie Straight is in London set to perform at the Czech House cultural centre on the eve of the start of the Olympic Games.

Charlie Straight
They’re from a small town called Třinec, right in the north-east of the Czech Republic. Founded in 2006, the Czech early twenty-somethings indy pop or Britpop group consists of Albert Černý on vocals and guitar, Michal Šupák on keyboard and vocals, Johnny Ciencala on bass guitar and drummer Pavel Pilch. The major twist is they perform in English – a deliberate decision not only reflecting their love of Britpop groups like Radiohead, but also a commercial decision, enabling them to perform across Europe and the globe.

Charlie Straight have released two albums so far: 2009’s “She's a Good Swimmer” and 2012’s “Someone With a Slow Heartbeat”. They’ve also won the MTV Europe Music Award for Best Czech & Slovak Act for two years in a row and are raising eyebrows with their modern take on that retro 1990s Britpop sound.

Two members of the band - Albert Černý and Johnny Ciencala joined me in the studio just before heading off to London to play at Czech House, a 2,500 space facility promoting the Czech Republic during the Olympics. I began by asking Albert Černý to tell me a little about the history of the group:

“When we first started playing with this band, it was in 2006. We were basically a school band – a bunch of school mates. And we realized that we were listening to very similar music. From Britain and America – basically from outside, not Czech bands, but groups like Radiohead, Coldplay and Oasis as well.”

Johnny Ciencala, Albert Černý
And Jan, you were also interested in Britpop, and that was something that fused you together – a mutual interest in this kind of music?

“Yeah, that’s what we used to listen to mostly, but nowadays, I think that we listen to much more music than we used to. Not only Britpop, but music from many different countries, it doesn’t matter.”

And the style of your music is consciously retro, Albert. Is that correct?

“When you say Britpop, what does that mean? I think that Britpop existed back in the 1990s. So in that sense, we’re retro I guess. I think the main thing is that we play music that we feel like playing and that we believe in. If somebody wants to call it ‘Britpop’, then I am OK with that. If you want to call it ‘Beautiful Roses’, then I’m alright with that too. You know, maybe I’d prefer the name ‘Indy pop’.

Jan: “Nowadays, the main success for me of the band is that we are able to play anywhere in the Czech Republic and the people will come. When I remember five years ago when we were starting, we played many gigs for like three people or even less, you know...”

Albert: “Especially my father, he was always there watching us and sometimes Johnny’s father too. Sometimes my mum would show up. And these days it’s like my mum’s not really there all the time.”

And she’s not required to pad out the audience numbers anymore…

Charlie Straight
“You know, now there are groups of people, fans, that show up at almost every gig, which is incredible – the fact that there are some really hardcore fans.”

Tell us Jan some of your songs that you are most proud of or enjoy.

“From the last album, I would probably say ‘Coco’.”

Albert: “On Friday we are playing at the Czech Olympic House at 4pm and on Saturday you can see us at the same place at 6pm.”