Interview: The Strypes Talk Gig Highlights, Working with Elton John and Signing with Mercury
This interview was published 29 December 2012.
Hi guys! So to start off, what are your names and roles in the group?
The line-up of the group is:
Ross Farrelly – lead vocals/harmonica
Josh McClorey – lead guitar/vocals
Pete O’Hanlon – bass guitar/harmonica
Evan Walsh – drums
How old are you?
Josh is 17, Pete and Evan are 16 and Ross is 15.
How/when did you meet?
EVAN: Although we’ve only been gigging for the past 18 months Josh, Pete and myself have known each other since we were very young. Our parents were friends and the three of us attended the same primary school. The two lads would come over to my house an awful lot as we grew up and we started jamming together from a young age. Then, about two years ago we met Ross through connections with Josh’s family and he started singing with us.
What made you decide to pursue music?
PETE: There was nothing particularly that made us start playing. We just all come from musical families and naturally gravitated towards it. It was when discovered Rhythm ‘n’ Blues a few years ago that we became obsessive and it greatly shaped the band we’ve become. We became fanatical about it – we still are. We began reading books, watching documentaries and constantly listening to 50s, 60s, and 70s blues and rock ‘n’ roll. A lot of the material can be sourced to our parents’ record collection. We initially started listening [to] the British Rhythm ‘n’ Blues bands such as Dr. Feelgood, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Animals, Nine Below Zero and The Bluesbreakers. We then started listening to the artists these guys covered and that led us back to the original bluesmen and original rock ‘n’ roll musicians: Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James, Sonny Boy Williamson, John Lee Hooker, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, the list goes on!
What kind of audience do you attract at gigs?
JOSH: Ninety percent of the gigs we play are in over-18s clubs and venues, so the majority of our following consists of 18-80 year old music fans, the kind of people that go to gigs regularly and want to enjoy themselves when they see bands.
Have you had any crazy fans yet?
ROSS: There haven’t any particularly crazy fans at gigs, although we have had people mount the stage and start dancing a few times! At the majority of the gigs the crowd mainly jump about and dance, just generally have a good time.
You’ve been receiving a lot of celebrity buzz from Elton John to Jeff Beck and Paul Weller. Honestly, who were you most excited to meet? And what do you talk about in such situations?
EVAN: It’s been fantastic meeting all these people whom we respect and admire, and it’s amazing to receive respect and praise from them. The main subject of conversation with the people we’ve met is music. They’re into the same stuff as us, so we mainly spend time talking about Chuck Berry! It would be incredibly hard to choose a favourite out of all the people we’ve met: Jeff Beck, Paul Weller, Kenney Jones, Elton John, Miles Kane, Jools Holland, Imelda May, Mick Taylor, Chris Difford, it would be far too hard to pick a favourite.
Which gig of yours did you most enjoy playing?
JOSH: There’ve been a lot of great ones. Supporting Paul Weller at Abbey Road Studios, playing Westport Festival with Jools Holland and Imelda May and the London premier of the BB King documentary “Life Of Riley” have all been standouts, but we still love playing small clubs and venues around the UK and Ireland. They’re our favourite kind of gigs. There’s nothing better than a tiny, sweaty club packed with an appreciative audience.
The Hawley Arms, Camden was a blast because we had to do two sets, as there were too many people to fit in the club!
In your opinion, what are the 3 most important records to the world of music?
PETE: Down By The Jetty by Dr. Feelgood, Five Live Yardbirds by The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones by The Rolling Stones.
I bought ‘Blue Collar Jane’ and think it’s a great single. What inspired the song?
PETE: It all came about very organically. Josh came up with a set of lyrics one day and brought them to us. We then collaborated on the music and put the backing track together. We drew a lot of influence from Dr. Feelgood. It came together very quickly and we’re really pleased with it.
What was the last concert you went to?
ROSS: The last time we saw anybody live was back in June, when we played the Westport Festival in Ireland. Jools Holland, Seasick Steve and Imelda May were on the bill so we stayed on after our set to catch them. Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra was absolutely unbelievable.
If you had to organize a festival/gig, who would you choose for the ultimate line-up?
JOSH: That’s very difficult to answer. Jeff Beck, Paul Weller, Wilko Johnson and Jimmy Page would be on the shortlist.
What do you think of the X Factor?
EVAN: We hate it. Despise it. We honestly think it’s the most ridiculous, manufactured and idiotic rubbish polluting the music business at the moment. It’s all about fame and glamour, and nobody seems to give a damn about making good music. They just churn out plastic pop from people who sign their lives away for the sake of fame.
What other interests do you have? Any guilty pleasures?
ROSS: Not really. Aside from the band our interests include books, films and (in Josh’s case) football.
Are there any current/up and coming artists you’re into?
PETE: As far as current artists go, we like The Jim Jones Revue, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, Miles Kane, The Heavy and Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra. There are also two great bands we’ve come across as we’ve gigged around Ireland: The Hot Sprockets and Raglans. Two great bands and great lads.
You’re signed onto Elton John’s management company Rocket Music Management and now onto Mercury Records. How did that come about?
JOSH: Our first contact with Rocket Management was in September. They approached us saying that Elton loved what we were doing and if we’d be interested in meeting them to discuss the possibility of signing with them. When we met them we were knocked out by their facilities and professionalism, so gladly appointed them. Evan’s dad is on the management team and comes out on the road with us. The first record company interest emerged when we released our 4-track EP Young Gifted & Blue back in April. It shot to No. 1 on the iTunes Blues Chart the day after release and the following week we were contacted by Universal Ireland. This was then followed by eight months of hard negotiating, during which time nearly every major label in the business approached with about signing. We gradually narrowed it down and, as you know, signed with Mercury three weeks ago. We’re very happy with our choice and have a great team of people working with us.
What’s the goal and what’s next for The Strypes?
EVAN: It’s difficult to tell where we’re going to go as things are changing so fast. Our main ambition is simply to be the best band we can be, and develop at our own pace. We can’t wait to get recording our debut album in the New Year, and plan to start properly touring the UK, Ireland and beyond.
Well clearly they’ve gone above and beyond since this interview, selling out international shows, playing Glastonbury and landing the support slot on the Arctic Monkeys UK tour!