The Strypes - Interview

20 October 2015

An Interview with The Strypes at Übel & Gafärlich in Hamburg

An Interview with The Strypes at Übel & Gafärlich in Hamburg

The Strypes released their second album 'Little Victories' in August this year. Applauded by the likes of Paul Weller, Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey and appearing at Glastonbury, SXSW, Rock am Ring to name but a few, the guys have an amassed an impressive resume in a relatively short period. They have been on tour since early 2015 and we managed to catch up with them in Hamburg for the their final date in Germany.

Contactmusic: How has it been performing in Germany?
Peter O'Hanlon: Berlin was great, crazy, the night before in Cologne was fantastic as well. Hamburg was our last concert in Germany then we move on to Amsterdam, Brussels then France. It's been great.

CM: How do you find Europeans? Is there a difference in comparison to UK or Irish audiences?
PO: Yeah, I think there definitely is. I mean the crowds in Germany we have played to, they seem more there for the music, they're more attentive. I think they kind of appreciate the music more. They're great though, we haven't played Europe enough I don't think. The last time we were in Europe was at this venue last year.  We're glad to be back.

CM: You all come from musical backgrounds of varying degrees and Rhythm & Blues has obviously been a very big influence on your music. I don't mean this in a negative way, but who do you blame for that?
Evan Walsh: I suppose it was really when we were growing up, the lads would come over to my house,  that's where we practised. We just got into the music that was around us. Our parents were into loads of different kinds of music and from that we just gravitated towards guitar bands in general, from that we came across Rhythm & Blues. Which is a really good genre to cut your teeth on, if you're just starting out you can jam along to it and it will improve your playing skills. It was also quite unique because no other bands were doing the type of Rhythm & Blues that we were doing. So it was just a natural development from our interest in guitar music.

Josh McClorey: Evan kinda got into The Yardbirds and because we were always hanging out together it would be like 'Have you heard this track?' or 'Have you heard that track?'. I think that's probably how the Rhythm & Blues thing kicked off. It was the first thing we felt comfortable with and we played really well when we'd done covers and stuff. It sort of then progressed onto The Who, The Animals and a lot of other 60s groups. I think it all stemmed from us having a lot of similarities with The Yardbirds, the guitar, the harmonica and just really liking all those simple tunes, kind of one-chord blues tunes that were also really exciting and that's what worked live for us.

CM: Do you feel that, musically, you are still on that Rhythm & Blues journey?
EW: It's remained as a basis for us in the way that it's probably the basis of most forms of music, but I think our music has expanded quite considerably. Our second album 'Little Victories' is quite diverse, there's quite heavy blues rock riffs and more kind of ballad like tracks. One of the tracks, 'Cruel Brunette', is quite a 70s Power Pop kinda thing. It's certainly a more diverse album than the first one, which is a natural progression. As you grow you get into different bands and it can have an effect on your own music.

JM: I suppose much of the development happened through the writing. When we were writing for the new album, I started with something very basic, maybe with lyrics and a melody or a drum loop. There wasn't a plan behind the sound of them though, they kinda took on a form of their own until I had maybe 5 or 6 basic songs that had a very similar vibe. I took them to the guys and they evolved into rock tunes, I think 'Queen of the Half Crown' and maybe 'Get Into It' have more of a Zeppelin kind of vibe to them.

CM: 2013 was probably the year you had most media attention when you exploded onto the scene. Since then, you've been involved with people like Paul Weller, Wilko Johnston, Roger Daltrey, and you've played Glastonbury and various other festivals. As a band or individuals, have you had time to sit back and take stock of your achievements?
JM: It's very real if you know what I mean. When you list everything off it sort of sounds like it's all part of one thing which, I suppose in many ways, it is. I mean Glastonbury was a gig, it was a f**king great gig, but it was another gig. All the stuff we have have done has been awesome, but you don't look at them and go, 'I've done all these things!' You're just trying do the best you can then move on to the next thing, but at the same time making the most of the experience.

CM: How has 2015 been for you guys? Are you ready for a rest yet?
EW: It's flown by, it's maybe the fastest year we have had professionally.We finished the album in January in London then had a bit of time off back home in Cavan. Literally, from March it's been full on. We've done Ireland, the UK, we did Argentina and Brazil for the first time. We've been back in Japan, we're doing Europe just now then back to Japan next month. So it's really been a full on year.

CM: It's likely you will break the 70 gigs mark by the end of the year, which has to put you up there with some of the hardest touring bands in the business at the moment, right?
PO: When you're touring, it's really hard to tell what else is going on or who's doing what. It can be difficult to keep up to date with the outside world. I like to think we're a hard working band, I don't know if we're the hardest though.

EW: We kind of accepted that kind of workload is expected of touring bands. Once you've signed up you really have to give yourself, mind, body and soul to it. You have to be available to do anything that comes along.

CM: How you managed to find time to put together the material for 'Little Victories'?
PO: I think it was July last year we started writing it. Even if we got home for a couple of days, it gave us time to work on it. I think half the songs were written in about a week, just because I was in that zone. Because we were still touring I think by the time we got to the studio we kinda built the songs up in there. I think when it hits and you get a notion of which direction the songs are going, getting them together can go pretty quickly.

CM: Was there a target date for the second album? Were you under pressure to get it out?
PO: No not really. In May we'd done some demos then went back in September to do some more work. To be fair, the record company were great about it. They wanted 12 really strong tracks, so they gave us plenty of breathing space. I mean, we wanted to get it out as soon as possible but there was no pressure.

CM: How was the experience recording the second album in comparison to the first?
EW: The first album was done in Sussex with Chris Thomas. That was really cool to get Chris who came out of retirement to do it with us, but there was no question we could go back and do another one. Our tour manager and Bradley and Charlie's who'd done 'Little Victories' with us, shared an office, we spent a couple of days working with them to try it out and hit it off straight away. Being in London was a different experience as well.

CM: Your age, the resemblance to The Stones, being the Anti-Boy band are things that are often reported on. How do you see yourselves as a band?
EW: To be honest, if you think about it, for a bunch of lads aged 18-20 it's a pretty normal concept. It may be that bands at the level of touring or are as busy as we are may be generally older but it's not the first time in history this has happened. We're not unique. I watched a documentary about the Sex Pistols the other week. A brilliant band and if you look at them, they were all really young guys, you know.

PO: To be honest, we've been doing it so long we don't even see the age thing. We just do what we love doing.

JM: When we started as a band it was seen as quite cool that we were young and playing the music we played, but I think it kind of worked against us in terms of credibility.

PO: Yeah, when we first came to the UK there was a bit of a Hoo Ha over it and it definitely didn't help. Also, how do you live up to being told that all these famous musicians think you're great? It's impossible. Combined with the youth thing we were all over the press which generated a bit of resentment in as much as 'Who are these youngsters and why are they getting so much attention?' It didn't do us any favours. At the end of the day, we think the music stands up for itself.

CM: How far along the road do you feel you are in respect to being an established band?
PO: I think everyone else knows you're established before you do and it depends on what you class as established. Is it for the amount of gigs you play or the albums you release?

EW: I think we've probably found an audience in some countries. In Ireland, for example, I think we have completely found our audience. The second album went to number 1 there, but despite that it'll still be a kind of underground thing. I mean, it has its crowd but there's not really anywhere we can't go without fear of being stopped in the street. In the case of Europe, I think we are very much building an audience. America is a whole different ball game altogether. I think it'll be a long time before we can say we're established there.

CM: Do you ever see yourselves as role models or inspirational characters?
JM: Perhaps instrument wise, maybe a bit to younger people. We do get people at gigs who come up and say it's great that we play guitar or drums or whatever and that they started a band because they saw us, which is always great. Definitely not in a 'This is how you should live your life' kind of way though!

CM: Is it possible for you to pick a moment that you think defines The Strypes?
PO: Probably about 2 weeks ago, we'd done a gig in Dublin at the Academy. The pure adrenaline from the crowd being 100% on your side, they were all up for it and knew the whole album inside out. It felt like quite a defining moment. I genuinely think I had an out of body experience. They were roaring their heads off to every song. At the end, I'd done a bit of crowd-surfing and a lad stole my shoe and sock, it was brilliant. There were people coming to us and saying how much the album meant to them and how great the gig was. The time since the second album came out has been a bit of a defining period actually. I remember doing a signing at HMV in Dublin when someone said to me how much the second album meant to them, to hear something like that about something you created is amazing.

JM: Yeah, when you're on stage and people are singing along, that always get me. You're thinking to yourself, 'Jesus, that was something I wrote in my room'.  It's a weird feeling but it's great.

CM: Are you in a position to tell us what's going on next year?
PO: We're pretty much booked up until April, a bit of time off then hopefully it'll be into the festival season. We can't release the exact details yet until everything is finalised. It's going to be another busy year though.

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