Hearing The Strypes is like opening a time capsule from the sixties. The Irish four-piece band consisting of guitarist Josh McClorey, 17, singer Ross Farrelly, 16, drummer Evan Walsh, 16, and bassist Peter O’Hanlon, 17, weave together a retro repertoire of rhythm and blues which at first listen seems to contradict their young age.
At a time when most people their age are in the midst of exams, The Strypes’ music career has quite literally become too cool for school. “We’ve all left; we started with school this year but just got too busy with the band. Ross is still in school but he’ll be finished quite soon; he just has to do a few exams but he’ll be finished in June.”
According to guitarist Josh, school and music simply became too much to juggle. “That was the main reason we ended up leaving, it just got too busy with the band and we all just felt that you can go back and do school when you’re a bit older but it’s more difficult to do this when you’re older. So we’re just going to go for it now.”
For a band their age, they’ve already racked up an impressive list of performances, including an appearance on Jools Holland and a gig at Abbey Road alongside Paul Weller. I can’t help but feel guilty for waking up a teenage rocker early on a Saturday morning with this phone call, but Josh assures me: “We don’t really buy into it to be honest. None of us smoke or drink or any of that. We’re just not interested in it; we’d rather go to bed and have a cup of tea.”
The only reason we get mentioned in the same breath as One Direction is our age.
Josh’s voice quickens with excitement when I ask him about working with producer Chris Thomas, who’s worked with The Beatles and Sex Pistols among others. “It’s incredible. He’s such a legend…we went down to a little studio in East Sussex to a little studio called Yellowfish Studios and we did a few tracks. Everybody was really pleased with how it went. It’s incredible and we’re pretty chuffed to be working with him.”
Despite following in some very famous footsteps by working with the producer, Josh insists the band don’t feel any pressure. “We’re just our own band and you just have to focus on what you are and not bring any of all that in. As much as we love all of those bands, we’re not any of those bands. Chris is so great; he’s got no ego at all.”
Their latest single, ‘Hometown Girls’, has previously been named as Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record of the Week. “We wrote it a couple of months ago, started gigging and then it just grew into this really exciting track and we went to record it and it turned out really well, so we decided to put it out as a single.”
Tipped as the ones to watch by NME, it’s easy to think that The Strypes’ success has happened overnight. The band only really broke onto the English scene this year, but as Josh points out “we already knew each other growing up and we were all really close, we always jammed together in Evan’s bedroom.
“Then about three years ago we started gigging with Ross and then we started doing a lot of Irish shows. We were gigging for about a year and half, just all around Cavan and then we started playing gigs in Dublin. We released our three track EP in the April of last year and that got us on to Irish TV, and then that gave us more exposure and then the record labels got interested. We got invited to England to play a gig in London and then it just took off from there. But before that we had to do a good three years slogging it out in Ireland.”
So, what is it that sets The Strypes apart? “I think just the simplicity has this kind of edge to it. I’m finding a lot new music just doesn’t have an edge and it’s kind of lost and bottomless. We just find that Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rhythm ‘n’ Blues are so effective.”
Comparisons with the reality show-manufactured One Direction have been drawn, but Josh just brushes these off. “We’re the furthest thing away from all that. I think the only reason we get mentioned in the same breath as the boy bands is just because of our age. We have just as much in common with any of those as Jack White does or Leonard Cohen did.”
The Strypes are first and foremost a Blues band. “We’re big fans of carrying on the blues tradition and doing songs by the original blues greats like Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters because all the bands that we really loved like the Stones would have done that in their early days. A lot of contemporary artists like The Black Keys still do tracks by the original blues bands.”
Some of their harshest critics have dismissed The Strypes for not producing a ‘new’ sound. “We’ve got two tracks out and we don’t even have an album out, so I think people are really jumping the gun by saying that to be honest. I mean, we don’t even have an album out. How can you define a sound by one or two tracks? I think it’s best if everybody waits until the album to make up their minds about it.”
Hopefully, their new album will silence such complaints. “We have enough songs to do an entirely original album but we want to put in those blues covers because it shows who we’re influenced by and introducing kids our age to people like that.”
The band participated in Record Store Day, releasing a special one-off vinyl of their hit ‘Blue Collar Jane’, and Josh sees events like this as vital in keeping the industry alive. “It’s a lot more effort to go and listen to a record than it is to just press play on an iPod. It just makes music a bit more valuable, you know, I think those things are important for vinyl and to try and keep music important, rather than illegally downloading or streaming.”
But Josh isn’t quite ready to dismiss the likes of Spotify just yet. “There’s two sides to the whole thing, more people get to see your music and that’s fantastic and a lot more people hear about you through the internet than they would’ve years ago…Then there’s the other side to it, making music less valuable and not as precious. So a lot of those sites have really cheapened music a bit. I mean, they exist so you kind of just live with it.”