“Wow, look at that!”
I exclaim as I enter Zack’s room, and there is the church at Náměstí Míru staring at me from behind the window. It looks more prominent than ever.
Zack laughs: “one of the reasons I moved to Prague is ‘cause the cost of living is great compared to New York City, where I grew up. I wouldn’t be able to afford anything like this anywhere in New York doing what I’m doing. I would have to be a lawyer or a doctor… And here, I can literally live off of busking if I have to,” he explains while his dog Cashew runs around and I scan the room.
“So, here’s where the magic happens?” I point out the recording equipment scattered all around. We’re here to talk about Zack’s YouTube Channel, Sangwich Sessions. He records Prague musicians performing their songs and shares the videos with the rest of us.
Being a musician himself, Zack Slouka understands the challenges that the Prague music community faces during the pandemic. Leveraging his filmmaking experience, Zack has created a platform where Prague musicians can play their new or old songs and leave with something to show for themselves.
- How did this idea hit him?
- Why is it all worth it?
- How can you help too while having fun?
Read on to find out.
What do Prague musicians struggle with during the pandemic?
Zack plays in a band called Wet Knees. When the pandemic started, the band found they had some resources to record an album. ”I realized quickly there is a lot of stuff involved that people usually don’t think about. For example, you have to have an online presence, you have to have an updated bio…”
Being a professional musician requires a special kind of skillset to combine the creative part of the job with the commercial one. “Most Prague musicians do only live gigs; they don’t have anything they can put online, they don’t know how to stream a show, they don’t have any examples of their work,” Zacks lists. “I know many really good Prague musicians who don’t have either the knowledge or interest in doing it. The Prague musical community is extremely weak when faced with a pandemic. So I thought – ok, what’s the best thing I can do to help the community out? Let’s record people!”
How do sandwich sessions help Prague musicians?
„There are a lot of projects that fail because people are too obsessed with everything being perfect. But it never is. When I started Sangwich Sessions, I had only one camera, and it looked really dumb. So I was like – I will see if I can do the next one better,” Zack always strives to learn and improve each new episode and has now a couple of friends helping out, including the sound mastering master, Caolan O’Neill Forde, who contributed to every Session.
“I don’t think I will ever make any money out of it, which is a shame, but it’s also not why I’m doing it. I want it to be something for the Prague music community. And when the preparation for the recordings settles down, I have great musicians coming here, and I’m having a private concert.”
“The best way it works for the community is that friends of the musicians that are on here see the recording, and they get competitive. It inspires them,” Zack elaborates, “and then I see them doing their own stuff. I guess there is this invisible force behind a lot of music. Musicians will put off stuff forever. Unless you give them a push.”
“Another thing is,” Zack observes Cashew jumping on my lap and immediately falling asleep: “that for every video I make, people get connected in new ways. When someone watches my video, they can be like – oh, the camera looks really good. I wonder who did it. I will contact them and involve them in this project I’m doing. Most people in the first season were friends of mine, but now it’s becoming more recommendation-based. So send me tips – if you got some!”
“Anything that is going on right now is just a placeholder”
“The elephant in the room probably is that the only reason I’m doing this is that the pandemic hit. I get a lot of time on my hands, and the community needs it. As a musician, it’s really hard to keep going sometimes. If you haven’t had an album or song in a while. Or if you had a big hit and then nothing for a long time, it starts messing with your head. And it’s nice to have a community. And I think the Prague one could still use some work.”
“Anything that is going on right now is just a placeholder for when the curfew is over, and people can go back doing shows, and you can have 100 people dancing at the same time; it’s a beautiful thing. Music requires people to be together physically. The energy from the audience is so important for musicians. It’s impossible to replicate.”
Support Prague musicians
“The music industry is under pressure. Pandemic keeps people apart. But music connects us. So stay in touch with people. Talk to your musician friends and offer them words of encouragement. Or maybe tell them to get a job in IT,” Zack chuckles, “just to mess with them. And when it’s safe to do so, go support your local bars and local music joints and clubs and help out as much as you can, because it’s worth it.”
Originally published February 18th at Prague Actually.
About the author
I’m Teny. I write a blog about life and people in Prague, and I can also help you formulate your unique story. Find out more on my website Prague Actually.