Stars and The Strypes:
I speak with drummer Evan Walsh from The Strypes in the midst of recording their second album ‘Little Victories’ last November
Lenny Kravitz once sang “Rock and Roll is Dead”, but in speaking with Evan Walsh, drummer of hit Irish rhythm and blues band, The Strypes, it’s clear that rock is living and breathing as powerfully as it was fifty years ago. While The Telegraph may have called them “pint-sized versions of the early Rolling Stones”, the Cavan quartet consisting of singer/harpist Ross Farrelly, guitarist/singer Josh McClorey, bassist Pete O’ Hanlon and drummer, Evan Walsh have been jamming since the beginning of their existence. And who says it matters that this existence only began in the mid to late nineties?
“We formed the band out of a childhood interest”, begins drummer Evan, who like all the band members is still in his teenage year’s. “Myself and the bass player Pete hung around with each other all our lives. Our parents knew each other and we spent our lives growing up together. We’d get together and jam since the beginning of our existence really. We formed the band as just something to do as a hobby, we were all interested in music”
While these days most teenager’s Ipod’s are plugged into the likes of whatever preppy piece of pop the music industry has to throw at them, The Strypes music influences date back from a day where Vinyl wasn’t reserved for hipsters and where Spotify couldn’t have been misinterpreted as some sort of medical condition. Evan and indeed the entire band’s knowledge and respect for early rock and roll is certainly something to be admired.
“It all began at a young age, we’d listen to whatever our parents listened to when we were young”, says the drummer. “It was when we were in our teenage years that we got into rhythm and blues music and early rock and roll. We listened to Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, punk bands and new wave bands like Dr Feelgood, The Jam and The Clash. It’s really just from our own musical interest and research with the help of our parents and their experience as well. We wanted to find out about different types of music. It’s just something that came to us naturally”
This natural admiration that the band have for early rock and roll, has been a major factor in influencing their collective sound as a group. Shunning electronic riffs and techno beats, The Strypes prefer nothing better than good old-fashioned rock n’ roll with their own modern twist.
“Our sound is basically rhythm and blues music with punk and new wave influence. It all goes back to Chuck Berry in the end, but we play it in our own style”, says Evan. “We want to play gigs in our own energetic and trashy way. We’re basically a garage band. It’s a basic, no bull-shit sort of thing which is different from what everybody else is doing at the minute”
It’s undoubtedly this difference in the band’s outlook and performance style that allowed the band to transform from merely messing around with tunes in their bedroom to shaking up the world of rock and like all good things, it began on the Late Late Show. While I suggest that the boy’s 2010 Toyshow performance launched their career, Evan is quick to brush this off.
“That was very early on. One of our friends who isn’t in the band, played with us that night. We just did that like any child auditions and goes on the Toyshow. We were just kids messing about then, to be honest”
Even though the Toyshow appearance may have been just for fun, fast forward two years later to December 2012 the band had become The Strypes and secured a record deal backed by Elton John. This eventually culminated in a period of intense nationwide touring by the band and a debut album in September 2013. The album which received rave reviews from young and old alike was described by the Guardian as a “bowel-shaking rhythm and blues explosion” and reached No. 2 and No. 5 in the Irish and UK Charts respectively. With songs such as “What a Shame” and “Blue-Collar Jane” reaching commercial and radio success, were the band happy with the album even though they compiled it at such a young age?
“You’re never going to be completely happy with how things turn out in real life, but with all the pros and cons considered, we were delighted with the album”, says Evan “We were delighted with the success of going Top 5 in the UK and number 2 in Ireland. You couldn’t ask for much more than that really. We signed the record contract and we felt we wanted to make an album and tour and have the full band experience. It was very exciting and enjoyable”
2013 really was a year to remember for the Cavan crew, not only did they receive critical and commercial acclaim for their debut album, they also supported British band, The Arctic Monkeys on their UK arena tour. While the band are known for their admiration of music from an earlier era, working with The Arctic Monkeys was an honour for The Strypes.
“Josh is a big fan of The Arctic Monkeys. He loves Alex Turner’s lyrics and we like them as a band. It was great playing with them and the tour was very enjoyable. We were treated so well. They really are pleasant to be around”
Asked whether The Arctic Monkeys are a modern music inspiration for The Strypes, Evan steers away from the band being tied down to any particular genre. “We are influenced by all sorts of music from different eras and we always decide to do something different. We’re not going down the road of carving our own niche”
In the midst of treadmill like touring and impressive album sales, did thoughts of schooling or formal education ever enter the bandmates’ minds?
“We were encouraged to leave school to be honest”, says Evan in his unmistakable Cavan accent. “It was never something any of us got any pleasure out of really. We left school at sixteen. Record company interest coincided with school leaving age which was handy and we left in September 2012 and signed a deal in December. Our parents said to us that we had an opportunity to do something different. You know even if it crashes and burns horribly they said we’d still have done something that not many people have gotten to do”
So far, The Strypes have managed to avoid the crashing and burning typical of most bands formed in their teenage years. Having played their third Electric Picnic this year, Evan explains the thrill the band get when performing
“Well I mean it was our third Electric Picnic and it was a brilliant experience. It was the biggest stage we’d played. We’ve always had a great relationship with the festival; it has a great atmosphere and lovely location”
However, while the band enjoys the enormity of the Electric Picnic main stage, their rhythm and blues sound truly comes to life when they play in more intimate venues.
“The kind of gigs we prefer are 600, maybe 800 capacity clubs. Everything gets intense and sweaty and you get that sort of primal aggression that’s at the surface of rock gigs. That’s the sort of gigs we really like when it’s closed and intense. It’s a very different feeling to Electric Picnic”
Fresh from playing one of these beloved intimate gigs in the Savoy Venue at Cork’s Jazz Weekend in October, the Strypes are set to embark on a nationwide tour of Ireland in December, kicking off in their hometown of Cavan where the lads still reside.
“We did this last year aswell and we live in Cavan, so we’re well used to it. It’s great to be playing at home, you don’t have to get on a bus, and you can play in your own backyard. We’re kicking off in Cavan and going all around- Dublin, Belfast, Galway, Derry, Sligo”
The lads are currently working on their second album. While the second album curse can be a make or break for many bands, The Strypes are following the same musical ethos that they used on Snapshot.
“We wanted the second album to be a continuation of what we’ve been doing. A typical pitfall of other bands is ‘Oh it’s our second album, we’ve to start taking ourselves seriously. It should be an expression of the soul”. We just think we should build on what we’ve done, we’ve some different influences aswell though. Uniformly we still sound like the same band, but with more grown up matter”
With bands like U2 still rocking out records after thirty years of success, it seems like The Strypes have a bright future ahead of them and likewise so has rock n’roll.