Interview: Charlotte 'Charlie One' Fairman
Ohm Square's singer discusses the band's long-awaited comeback and their new, downtempo sound
The Prague group recently released their third album, Love Classics, and they'll be officially launching the record with a show at Divadlo Archa on that date - a comeback concert of sorts.
It's been six years since Scion, Ohm Square's previous album, and the band has returned with a new sound, swapping the drum 'n' bass of debut Ohmophonica and its follow-up for something more song-based and downtempo.
The new sound is "still electronic instruments, but also live drums throughout the album, sometimes mixed with synthetic drums, and also a lot of electric guitars."
Fairman, an energetic and instantly likeable interviewee, admits to being nervous about how fans will react to the new sound. "It is a bit nerve-wracking," she says. "You just don't know how people are going to receive you, especially because the music is quite radically different."
But why the six-year wait?
"I was practicing my dance moves and it just wasn't happening, especially with the boys," she says. "I just wasn't happy with it."
She pauses and laughs.
"Do you want a real answer?"
"It just wasn't the right time, straight after our second album," she explains. "We just needed a break from each other. To be able to work well with each other again, we just needed some time out. It wasn't the right time for Ohm Square, that was all."
'The right time'
A series of side projects followed for Fairman, including contributions to two soundtracks written by band mate Jan "Jan 2" Čechtický, for the films Eliška má ráda divočinu and Anděl exit.
As well as musical projects, Fairman has also branched out into acting, landing a role as a female air force officer in the World War II drama Tmavomodrý svět (Dark Blue World), popping up on a TV commercial for Zlatopramen beer, and appearing in various short films.
Eventually, however, "it really was the right time" for Ohm Square. "We were actually looking forward to working with each other and I think we've got a much better working relationship now than we ever had."
Though the recording of Love Classics began four years ago, it was only in the last year, says Fairman, that intensive work really began - an approach that, though it isn't at all noticeable, leaves the singer with some reservations about the finished product.
"There's four of us, and we have three studios, so there's no kind of hanging-out, spontaneous stuff," Fairman explains. "We had to give ourselves a deadline, because we could never finish the bloody thing, and I think we weren’t quite ready for our deadline."
A "last-minute panic" resulted in some vocals being recorded just a week before the album was mixed.
"We've learned a lot from this album, I tell you," she says, with a laugh. "The hard way! The album was cool, but given another chance we would have done it a little bit differently. Maybe the CD doesn't quite reflect how we can actually perform the songs."
Fairman is optimistic, though, that the band's upcoming live shows will give her a chance to iron out these imperfections: "I'm hoping that when people hear our gigs, they're going to be sold a little bit more on the stuff."
The Archa show, together with a series of summer festival appearances, also gives Ohm Square a chance to show a wider audience what they're capable of live.
The band has been criticized in the past for only rarely playing their hometown.
"We basically didn't play very much in Prague, even in the old days when we were supporting the other albums," Fairman says. "We kind of regret that a bit, actually - so that's why we really want to make up for it now, and do the live thing."
An unexpected phone call
Despite the ups and downs, Ohm Square has been a constant part of Fairman's life for the best part of a decade, dating back to an unexpected phone call when the singer still lived in London.
Ohm Square's founder members, Jan "Jan 2" Čechtický, Dušan "Dušan Only One" Lipert, and Jan "Jan 5" Kleník, had first been alerted to Charlie One by her work with Wubble-U. Fairman sang on Petal, a dance track that, though it remained relatively unknown in the UK, was a surprisingly big hit across the Czech Republic.
Fairman, in fact, had already sung with another Prague act, recording two tracks with The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa's Jan Muchow, in the years before Kateřina Winterová became EOST's main vocalist.
It was still a surprise, though, when Ohm Square approached her. "They phoned me up one day and said we've just started a new band," she recalls. "They were trying to think of somebody interesting to sing, and I was the only person that sprung to mind, apparently.
"I obviously didn't think twice at the time. It was only when I was actually sitting on the plane for the first time that the thought came in my head - 'oh no, what if I can't do it?' - because I was singing a little bit then but I wasn't a professional singer, in and out of studios all the time."
"But of course, I came here and we made two super tunes [Pillow and Coloured Post], which are on our first album, and we just gelled, we got on really well. So we decided to work together."
Fairman commuted between London and Prague until fate stepped in. "Finally, the house that I was renting got put up for sale." While her housemates lined up moves to London suburbs like Peckham and Greenwich, Fairman opted to move to Prague permanently.
Though being a "skint artist" in Prague is frustrating, Fairman says she's in no hurry to return to the UK.
"What would I do there, exactly?," she asks. "On the one hand, I wonder if I'd stayed there, would I be on the road to success now, and actually comfortable, and have broken through as a singer?
"But the other side of me, of course, wonders if I'd be working away in some investment company, as I used to, or signing on and not really getting much done?
"I wonder if I could make a go of being who I really am over there."
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