People of Prague
One of the unspoken rules of being an expat is that you have to support – or at least know – the Eurovision band representing your now-home country.
If somehow you’ve not heard of the Eurovision Song Contest (that would be you, non-Europeans), you definitely know some of the success stories. From Celine Dion, ABBA and Julio Iglesias to Domenico Mudugno’s song “Nel blu dipinto di blu,” or “Volare,” talented artists have found fame through the what’s compared to the Olympics of song performances.
Over sixty years old, the competition annually features singers and songwriters from across Europe (and Australia). The competitors go through many rounds to finally reach the televised semi-finals. Some countries have an open vote for the public to decide who will represent them, while others elect a panel or jury to do the choosing. Instead of the focus remaining on the artist, the competition is more about the song and the message it shares since artists submit and perform only that one song.
Only a participant since 2007, the Czech Republic does not have a long history in the competition, succeeding in qualifying only two out of seven times. Last year saw the country’s best success and first time in the top ten with Mikolas Josef’s song, “Lie to Me.” This year, we welcome the band Lake Malawi and their song “Friend of a Friend” to represent the Czech Republic in Tel Aviv.
Elected partially by a public vote and partially by an international jury of previous Eurovision competitors, “Friend of a Friend” is about – you guessed it – friendship. The song explores how you can reach out to friends and then friends of friends and so on, potentially connecting with anyone in the world. It also touches on the importance of friendships that get left behind.
“It’s about people you tend to forget who may have introduced you to the love of your life or may have said something that changed your life,” says Černý. “You may not be in touch with them directly now, but they were pretty important for you at a certain time in the past. So speaking of ‘she’s only a friend of a friend,’ except for it being just an excuse, it’s also a way of saying thanks to all my friends of friends I no longer see anymore.”
Just six years old, the indie-pop band Lake Malawi consists of lead singer and guitarist Albert Černý, Jeroným Šubrt on bass, and Antonín Hrabal on drums. Černý wrote “Friend of a Friend” with Jan Steinsdorfer and Mikolaj Trybulec at the Songwriting.cz camp, his first experience co-writing a song.
“I hate the idea of songs being manufactured like in a factory,” says Černý. “To me all songwriting is a very personal thing, a journey to my heart – and it will always stay the same. What I hadn’t realized though, is that you can invite other people to join you on that journey. That’s what happened here.”
Černý was so inspired by the song, his girlfriend suggested they enter Eurovision.
“I kept playing the demo in the car over and over again and my girlfriend said to me: ‘This song is special. When was the last time you were that excited about something?’ says Černý. “And she was right. So we applied…”
Lake Malawi, whose name was inspired by the Bon Iver song, “Calgary,” is an indie-pop band with “80s influences, nice melodies and a frontman who grew up listening to Peter Gabriel and Sting.”
Černý is also known for his first band, Charlie Straight, for which he won an MTV award and six Angel and Czech Nightingale Awards, both similar to the American Grammys. Forming the band when he was only fifteen after hearing ‘The Scientist’ by Coldplay, Černý knew what he wanted to do from a young age.
For the band, Eurovision is an opportunity for their music to be heard all over the world, hopefully leading to a wider fanbase and future tours.
“The ultimate wish is to soundtrack people’s lives,” says Černý. “That’s when your music gets bigger than you – when it doesn’t matter what you put on Instagram, ’cause someone just proposed to their girlfriend listening to your voice and it makes so much sense to them in their lives, it’s not in your hands anymore and that’s beautiful.”
On top of the massive international audience that awaits them, the band is looking forward to appreciating Israeli food and culture in Tel Aviv, where the competition is being held this year.
“I don’t know what to expect from the competition itself, competing in music is a strange idea,” says Černý. “Some people like a certain style and vocal expression, some don’t. I like genuine artists like Bon Iver, James Blake or Phoebe Bridgers, but I also love some Ariana Grande tunes or Kendrick Lamar… I look forward to meeting new people at Eurovision and broadening my horizons and getting rid of old prejudices – opening my mind and seeing new possibilities in music and my dreams in music.”
Besides shooting for a Eurovision victory, Lake Malawi has plans to release a new music video for “Friend of a Friend” and a new single sometime in the near future.
“Music is a way of living,” says Černý. “To me, it’s like breathing.”
Watch Lake Malawi perform in the semi-finals starting on May 14th at eurovision.tv and check out the band at lakemalawimusic.com and on Instagram at @lakemalawimusic.