In this week’s Music Express our guest is Jan Žampa the talented singer/guitarist for Eddie Stoilow – an unusual Czech band founded in 2004. The group has grown increasingly popular, especially following the long, much-awaited release of just their first album just last year. Humorously called The Best of Eddie Stoilow, the album brought hits such as Hey You, Floating, and the catchy Realize and Compromise.
“It was really funny: there are three original members from a former six and formerly it was a funky band. I had come back from Malta, where I had studied and our bass player came back from America and I was invited to join them as a guest for a beatbox show. I had never sung before. I never used to sing apart from some singing around the campfire with my friends. So I did some beatbox blah blah blah but then I began to sing and they couldn’t get me off the stage. You know how it goes! And then their singer got fired so it worked out.”
One of your bandmates commented that they were happy that they had gotten a hard-working and reliable singer afterwards… but I misunderstood you… you were studying where?
Ah, Malta, ok. And your specialization was completely different?! You weren’t studying singing?
“No, no, no. It was an international bachelor’s degree - just regular subjects. I never sang before…”
“I just played some guitar and my father is a musician so I suppose some of it must be in our genes. But yeah, yeah, yeah, I never sang before. I’m happy I do now!”
Hey You was the first hit of The Best of; could you tell me a bit about the mood of that song, what you were going for there?
“Well, it’s just kind of a hidden story about my ex-girlfriend’s mom who had a problem with alcohol and it was a struggle and all that. And the lyrics are mostly me telling her off and to trying to help put her back on her feet again.”
Eddie Stoilow is one of several Czech bands that sing primarily in English: what was behind the decision there?
“Because I… I dunno if just to myself I feel weird when I sing in Czech. I mean… respect Czech! (laughs) I am CZECH! But since I studied and lived along time in Malta I am pretty comfortable with English and it’s much more of a musical language… why not? Czech sounds weird – to ME it does. I can have a really good track and I try Czech and it’s just killed. You just don’t hear the music.”
But you do have some songs in Czech…
“We had one as a test. But since it seems to be working in English, I think we should stick with that.”
“I have a real weird way of… well, I don’t write lyrics. I don’t write lyrics, it’s weird. I do a song and then I just freestyle it right on. And if it doesn’t work, than I know that I have to delete the track. It’s just freestyle and I just learn what I sang afterwards. It’s strange. But one day when it stops working I don’t know what I will do!”
So freestyle means improvisation – you come up with something during the process and only commit it to memory afterwards?
“Yeah, yeah, yeah and they turn into harmonies straight away.”
Your sound has been described as pop rock… to me it seems you mix up a lot of different styles: some funky elements, keyboards, but also guitar. What would you say is the foundation for Eddie Stoilow as a group?
“I don’t know; since we have no idea and because we don’t know how to answer this question, we just made up our own genre and called it New Pop (laughs). It’s really a mixture of influences, we would not be satisfied doing just House beats or just rock songs, so it’s a mish mash and that’s what’s fun.”
It should be mentioned that frontman Jan Žampa and his bandmates in Eddie Stoilow have been playing a lot of concerts since the release of their album, including summer festivals. I asked him to describe some of the stranger things they’d experienced in the past at different venues.
“The weather, I mean the weather can suck, when the rain turns against you and you don’t even have time to cover anything or turn it off. That happened a few times. I dunno, apart from our drummer falling off the stage…”
“That happened! We thought he was just taking a break and I turned around and there was nobody!”
How did it happen? He slipped?!
“There wasn’t enough space behind him on the stage and he just kept sliding with every hit until he got to the edge. And then it was just quiet (laughs). It was only guitar, bass and vocals without drums. And he was lying on his back laughing his ass off instead of coming back up! So that was fun.
“Another thing that happened was a copycat move I did, jumping into the crowd with the wireless mic. To get back was really hard because the stage was really high, so I had to go around. And there was this big ‘gorilla guy’ standing there, a bouncer. And I said ‘C’mon, I wanna get back in’ and he said ‘Oh yeah… I heard that 300 times today!’ So I said, ‘Look, I have a mic.’ And he said ‘I got two at home’. He was really serious about his work and he wouldn’t let me through for like ten minutes and the guys had to play this loop waiting for me to return. It was very stressful!”
“He is. He really is. He is a close family friend and he is a guru! He is an experienced personality in general… in show business, in life, and he’s a really good friend and really fun.”
What does he do? Does he come to shows?
“He comes to shows but we have to control him because when you give him a guitar he says ‘Ok, I’ll only play for two minutes’. But last time it was like half-an-hour! Although he doesn’t know how to play! He ACTS like he plays and it’s great! But after half an hour you see through it!”
What can you say, Eddie Stoilow know how to have a good time; they’re a great band to see live and The Best of is well-worth checking out. Before we go, one last question – where ever did they come up with the name Eddie Stoilow? Jan Žampa again:
“What I like about the name is that is very unusual compared to other ones. But we’re making it harder on ourselves: it is harder for others to remember the name. It actually is, supposed to be from stories that I heard… a Bulgarian, no, Romanian astronaut who ‘never got to the moon’ because of politics. Apart from that, I like how the name appears graphically, Eddie with the double “d” and you can have a lot of fun with the graphic design. So, a Romanian astronaut!”
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