Coming back from a trip to England in 2005 – where he spent the summer absorbing new music and learning English – Czech Republic-native Albert Cerny knew that he wanted to make music. Adopting a faux British accent and looking to classic Britpop bands for inspiration, he began writing songs and eventually showed them to his drum teacher, Pavel Pilch, who saw the potential in Cerny’s melodic pop instincts. With the addition of keyboardist Michal Supak and bassist Jan Cienciala, Charlie Straight was born. Melding classic indie pop rhythms to anthemic rock harmonies, the band wanders through lush soundscapes, populated by complex instrumentation and earnest heart-on-sleeve sentiment – though not overt sentimentality. And while the band doesn’t venture too far left sonically, their layered bouts of indie pop romanticism and crystalline melodies prove that you don’t have to have a kitchen-sink approach to music to be innovative and creatively viable in a crowded musical marketplace.
Recently, Cerny sat down with Beats Per Minute to discuss some of the records which have played a large role in his own musical development – not to mention the influence they’ve had on his contributions to Charlie Straight. Detailing his own formative musical experiences as seen through his exposure to records such as Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan and Original Pirate Material by The Streets, Cerny gives us a quick glimpse into the fascinating ways in which our musical preferences shape our attitudes and motivations. He also talks a bit about albums by Bon Iver and Coldplay, which play into the earnest nature of Charlie Straight’s pop aesthetic. Check out his full list below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.
There was a time in my life when I recklessly fell in love with someone I barely knew. That was the time when I discovered Bon Iver, when I was learning for my final exams at university. That was the time when I left my first love behind and looked ahead. “So it’s storming on the lake, little waves our bodies break,” I think I must have heard the song “Calgary” by Bon Iver about a thousand times. It soundtracks what I was going through and in a way what I am dealing with now. Justin Vernon is releasing a new album with Volcano Choir these days: http://volcanochoir.com/.
Before I even started coming to London on a regular basis, I’d been fascinated by the city thanks to this album. I like the modesty in production and the witty verses like “I’m 46th generation Roman.” The story of Turn The Page told so well and musically it just keeps growing and growing. I wonder what Mike Skinner would say if he was reading this. I follow him on http://mikeskinner.so/ scrolling over stacks of hi-res grainy photos from tours around the world. Philosophically, we must have something in common and I really wish I could meet him for a beer one day. When I heard the line “I came to this world with nothing and I’ll leave with nothing but love. Everything else is just borrowed,” it just clicked.
Is it a cliché to say Dylan is a genius? This is my favourite album along with Time Out Of Mind. I am sure I’m going to listen to it many more times before I die and it’ll still have the capacity for discovery. I learnt to play “A Simple Twist of Fate” on the guitar and it felt like talking to a long-gone lover or a friend. Edmund I. Watts was an American poet from Chapel Hill residing in Prague. We called him “the oldest roadie in history”. He often came on tour with Charlie Straight and we had these late-night conversations about the meaning of life. I made this video when he died (watch). Edmund was my personal Dylan.
At the age of sixteen, I spent the summer in Ramsgate in Kent. Funnily enough, I stayed on Albert Road. I could see the sea from my bedroom, the sea and tons of hovering seagulls. At that time, I discovered Coldplay. I would always go to this café with a silver jukebox and put “In My Place” on repeat stuffing my mouth with blueberry muffins. Strangely, there was a guitar standing in the room when I arrived – this was when I wrote my first songs (and yeah, most of them were about seagulls).
If the only MGMT song you know happens to be “Kids,” please take a listen to “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters” and it’ll blow you away. I wish I was as eloquent in my writing as Jon Hilcock is when he gets excited about a band on his podcast (http://allbacknofront.com/). Oh, I nearly forgot, we met Andrew VanWyngarden in a Reykjavík pub when recording “I Sleep Alone” with Marketa Irglova. “Are you in band?” “Maybe.” “Are you in my favourite band?” “Probably yes,” he said.
Charlie Straight’s debut single, “Coco” is out now.