The Strypes shot to fame last year with their debut album of bullish rock’n’roll and old-school rhythm and blues, Snapshot.
Reaching the top five in September with such authentic, swaggering music was even more incredible given that no-one in the band is over 18 – and lead singer Ross Farrelly was just 15 when it was released. As they look to consolidate on an incredible 12 months, they go out on their biggest UK tour to date in February. In the meantime, Farrelly and drummer Evan Walsh tell us why they can’t wait for their tour to America later this month, the land where rhythm and blues began...
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: 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 what it’s going to be like. I’ve only ever seen it on movies and television!
Evan: 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.
So Evan, it’s often said that your Dad’s record collection, full of The Stones, Yardbirds, and Dr Feelgood, is responsible for The Strypes’ sound. Is that right?
Evan: 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.
So how did that evolve into being in a band?
Evan: 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.
However, not many teenagers get so proficient so quickly, do they?
Evan: 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.
Ross: 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.
It seems you really captured the vibrancy of the live show on record.
Ross: 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.
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...
Ross: 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!
Evan: 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.
And actually, rock’n’roll is the archetypal music for teenagers, isn’t it?
Ross: 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.
The Strypes play at Leeds Metropolitan University on February 17.