Teenage rock sensations The Strypes played themselves into the history books at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena when they became the first band to perform to a new revamped capacity crowd of 13,600 people, writes Graham Walker.
That’s the biggest audience ever.
Granted, they were the support for the city’s own headline superstars Arctic Monkeys.
But The Strypes were technically first on stage to claim the honour last November.
It topped a momentous year for the Irish four piece indie guitar heroes after debut record Snapshot reached number four in the UK charts.
They also toured far and wide including numerous sold-out head line shows, huge festival slots including Reading and Leeds and Glastonbury, and played some of Europe’s biggest arena’s supporting Arctic Monkeys.
Now they are about to embark on their first UK headline tour - 10 dates at some of the UK’s most prestigious venues. finishing off back in Sheffield, this time at the Leadmill on February 22.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch The Strypes talking about their album and playing highlights.
Bullish rock’n’roll and old school rhythm and blues, their style is authentic, swaggering music - even more incredible given that the band Ross Farrelly, Josh McClorey, Pete O’Hanlon and Evan Walsh are all aged 16 to 18 years.
Lead singer Ross, who was just 15 when the album was released, joined drummer Evan for a Q&A to tell us how it feels to be a group of young lads on the verge of following in the superstar footsteps of their inspirational heroes such as Dr. Feelgood, The Yardbirds and the Rolling Stones.
Q: It must be such a thrill to be playing New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles for the first time. What do you think America will make of your music?
Ross Farrelly (RF): We’ve never even been there, so we’re really excited. Of course, a lot of our musical heroes are from North America, so it’s great to go there - but I have no idea
Evan Walsh (EW): America’s where everything comes from really. Films, music, whatever. It’s such a huge cultural presence in everyone’s lives. We’re just really looking forward to seeing how it goes - the New York date is sold out already, which is pretty amazing really.
Q: Evan, it’s said that your Dad’s record collection, full of The Stones, Yardbirds, and Dr Feelgood, is responsible for The Strypes’ sound. Is that right?
EW: That’s one way of explaining it! We grew up around guitar music of all different kinds really, and it was always on, whether that be in the house or on the car stereo. We all naturally gravitated towards music because our parents had all played in bands beforehand, roadied for bands, or been involved in performing arts of some kind. Josh [McClorey, guitarist]’s father was the roadie for the band my father was in, so we have connections like that going way back.
Q: How did that evolve into being in a band?
EW: We just picked out what we liked from what was being played around us and started playing it. As we got into our teens, well, everyone gets into music that defines their teenage experience don’t they? So we were into blues, garage rock, punk, early rock’n’roll... bands like Dr Feelgood or early Rolling Stones, original blues like Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry. And then there was punk: Johnny Thunders’ stuff, The Ramones, The Undertones...
Q: Not many teenagers get so proficient so quickly, do they?
EW: Well, I’ve been drumming since I was about three! It probably couldn’t be described as drumming at the time but it turned into that when I got older. Pete and Josh have been playing guitars since they were four and five as well. So there is actually quite a lot of experience there. It was something we took for granted that we were going to do.
RF: And a lot of it is practice. For the first year of the band we practiced every day for about eight hours. And when you’re gigging constantly your stagecraft improves. All I can say is that we might be young but we’ve been playing music a lot.
Q: It seems you really captured the vibrancy of the live show on record.
RF: We’ve basically been gigging every day, so playing live has been really important to our sound. In the end the album was basically recorded live too, so that it was as close to that experience as possible.
Q: Snapshot was released in September. What do you think of it now, four months on?
RF: We haven’t even listened to it since. We honestly don’t sit on a tour bus and decide to put it on. What is weird is when you’re in a shop and you hear some of the songs come on. And you just think, “well, that sounds... proper”! To us it doesn’t sound like anybody else’s records at the moment.
Q: You’re right: The Strypes don’t sound much like the music we’re used to hearing from teenagers these days.
RF: No-one’s really doing this revived rock’n’roll, punky bluesy thing that we are. Everyone seems to have forgotten it even existed, which is strange because the music is just so good. I guess everything goes around in phases. There was a blues boom in 1960s England of course, and then it went on to rock and punk... and then for me it went awful!
EW: Rock’n’roll is not in the mainstream anymore, and that is a fact.
Q: So what attracts you to play that music in a band in 2014, rather than just listen to it? Guitar bands aren’t exactly in vogue at the moment, after all..
RF: It’s the simplicity. You can’t help but tap your foot to it. I actually think that everybody likes it really, they just don’t know they do!
EW: A lot of people when they first come into contact with us assume that our love of this music is some kind of business strategy from a record label. That some cold, calculating mogul has set up this gimmick. They just can’t comprehend that in a small town in Ireland four friends decided to play music together and it just took off.
Q: And actually, rock’n’roll is the archetypal music for teenagers, isn’t it?
RF: That’s the whole point of it, yeah. It’s about the exciting rush of the music. A lot of people ask us why we’re playing this music from way before our time. But it is relevant to teenagers from any decade. Rock’n’roll was created for teenagers.
EW: This is the point we’ve made a number of times. Go through any phase of rock’n’roll - grunge in the 1990s, punk in the 1970s, even the first flush of rock’n’roll in the 1950s, it was a young person’s movement - both in terms of the people in the bands and the people picking up on it. We actually think it’s really bizarre that people our age aren’t in touch with what it’s about.
Q: At first you were a covers band. What was the turning point?
RF: The originals came very slowly. It wasn’t a quick thing. Josh was basically writing a song every two weeks, some of them we didn’t use, some we did. And gradually we got together the tracks you hear on the album. We still like doing covers actually...
EW: Being a covers band was really important in hindsight. As a band, the songs you pick to cover are a really important part of forming the band’s identity. It’s a statement of intent, isn’t it? There are four covers on the album and that was deliberate: Dr Feelgood and the New York Dolls stuck covers on their albums too as a signpost to what the band was about.
Q: The penultimate track on the record, Heart Of The City, is a Nick Lowe cover. Why did that one get chosen?
EW: That song is one I’ve known for years because my family are big fans of his. We put the live version on in the van a lot when we’re gigging and it’s just a fantastic rock’n’roll performance. So when you enjoy listening to something so much, you think as a band that it must be just as enjoyable to play, and it was. It’s towards the end of the album, and it’s the last song in our set too - just a great last pogo-ing, fists in the air moment.
Q: And what song of yours do you like the best on Snapshot?
RF: The song that sums up the band is Mystery Man, I think, but my personal favourite is What The People Don’t See. It’s the catchiest one and it’s a really fun song to play, I love the rhythm of it.
Q: Other than releasing the record, what were the other highlights of 2013?
RF: Well, we were doing a gig in Canvey Island which as everyone knows is where Dr Feelgood are from. And Wilko Johnson and John B Sparks from the band came down. We got chatting with Sparko and he asked if we’d like to play a song with him. And we were, like, “er, yeah!” Wilko said he’d like to play too, and we did Roxette and She Does It Right. It didn’t really feel that strange until you looked over and there was Wilko playing guitar with Pete beside him. Actually, when you think back, it’s more weird than it seemed at the time. Down By The Jetty by Dr Feelgood is the record that influenced me the most - I love the simplicity and rawness - it just makes you feel good. Hence the name, I guess!
EW: Yeah, that was a fantastic, unexpected experience. To play with someone who you really admire was really amazing. Definitely one of the highlights of last year, and it was great to see what Canvey Island was really like after watching Julien Temple’s film about Dr Feelgood, Oil City Confidential. You think it’s been mythologised on that film, but it is a pretty weird place when you’re there, disconcerting.
Q: It’s not just Wilko Johnson - Paul Weller and Elton John have both backed you too. What does that feel like?
RF: It’s amazing because it’s people we admire. I mean, The Jam were great and we really like Elton John’s early blues career. When they’re saying, “you’re good enough”, that’s when you think you might be. It’s the best compliment you can get.
EW: I have to say it was odd at first. But the more people you meet in the industry, the more you realise that they’re pretty normal - the cult of celebrity doesn’t really apply to them. Weller is a really good example: just a lovely man and great craic to be around. And if you had no idea who he was or what he had done you’d still think that.
Q: Does support from pop’s elder statesmen mean you run the risk of having a lot of older fans rather than those of your own age?
RF: Well, we do get a lot of 15-18 year-olds going mental up the front, so it’s actually a broad range of people who seem to like us. The older ones are up the back!
Q: So how will 2014 pan out do you think?
RF: I have no idea. You can’t tell what is going to happen. You have to live day by day and making sure you’re still enjoying what you’re doing.
Tickets for The Strypes at Sheffield Leadmill, over-14s only, are £12, booking fee may apply. Buy in person, call 0114 221 2828 or visit leadmill.co.uk.
* For a free download of The Strypes song Monkey, plus latest news, videos, concert dates, store and more visit their official web site at thestrypes.com. Follow them on Twitter @the_strypes and like their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheStrypes.
UK Tour Dates February 2014:
11/2 Cambridge Junction
12/2 Brighton Concorde 2
13/2 London Shepherd’s Bush Empire
15/2 Bristol Bierkeller
16/2 Birmingham Institute Library
17/2 Leeds Metropolitan University
18/2 Glasgow Garage
20/2 Liverpool East Village Arts Centre
21/2 Manchester Academy 2
22/2 Sheffield Leadmill