Interview: The Strypes
Words by Lauren Ziegler - Published on June 6, 2014
By Cameron Nicholls
Teenage Irish rock band The Strypes sound as if they are from a different era. Recalling the 1960’s and 1970’s blues and rock boom, the four-piece band are making waves around the world – receiving praise from the likes of Elton John, and even appearing on the David Letterman show. I spoke to drummer Evan Walsh about their experiences so far and what lies ahead before they arrive in Australia in late July for Splendour in the Grass.
Hi Evan, how are you going?
Yeah good thanks. It’s about half nine here, just making breakfast.
Whereabouts are you at the moment?
At home in Ireland. We got back from a gig in London but we’re back home for a few days before we go off again.
When did you start playing music, and were your families musical at all?
Yeah, we’re all from musical families. Myself and Josh, the guitarist, knew each other pretty much since we were born. All our families were friends beforehand, we ended up spending a lot of time together. We were in each other’s houses and went to the same primary school and everything. We just naturally ended up together – became great friends from a young age. Our families were all very musical, they played in bands over the years when they were younger, some more successful than others. They all played live at one point. So music was always around in the house. As young as 8 or 9, we thought we should form a band. We were in a bedroom just jamming, trying to learn a few songs. It was myself, Josh and Pete and two other friends. We kept playing until the other two lost interest, and then we met Ross. Again, we vaguely knew Ross, Josh’s dad actually played in a band with his mum. We knew he had quite a good voice, and he started jamming with us from then. That’s when we started to try and get our repertoire together and play some proper gigs. We started to get heavily influenced by anything rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and punk. Stuff like The Animals, the Stones, even new wave punk bands like Eddie and the Hot Rods, Johnny Thunders and stuff like that. Early rock ‘n roll people as well, like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley. This whole world just opened up to us, we started exploring music that either our parents had or was already in the house. And we’d use these as a sort of starting point for something new. So that’s when we started to get a proper record together and start proper gigs.
Have you had a lot of support from your parents?
Yeah, we all have great support from our families at home. My dad actually comes on the road and drives the van. From the very beginning, when we wanted to play, he found us places to play and drove us around. So when we were signed and turned professional, he continued on the road with us. But everyone at home, we’ve got great support, we’ve got great relationships with our families, we’re all delighted to come home after we’ve been gigging. We’ve nothing but support.
What’s the reception been like from your debut album so far?
The whole thing couldn’t have gone better. It was just the thing we were interested in doing, we’re not really interested in all the other unnecessary bullshit that goes with being in a band. All that we care about is getting the album out and doing the gigs. Like I said, really couldn’t have gone better.
What was it like, playing on David Letterman?
It was a really good experience. It was a bit touch and go at the beginning actually, because a few days beforehand at a gig in Toronto, I quite badly hurt my hand. So we weren’t sure if we were even going to be able to do it or not. We cancelled a few gigs so I could rest my hand, so it turned out I could do it and it was fine. We were really pleased with his reaction.
TV shows look a lot more interesting and glamorous than they really are. I mean, we were only in the building for about two hours. And we didn’t even meet David Letterman – only at the end [of the song]. So when you’re doing these sorts of programs, it’s very ‘in house’ – you just do the show, and then you get into a taxi. They film the episodes back to back so when you’re doing it, it’s a bit of a mad rush. You don’t really have time to think, ‘well here we are on David Letterman.’ You don’t really think that at the time, you just kind of get on with it – just do it right and do it well. But then when we watched it back, and had a talk about it, and a think about it, we thought it was a great achievement.
Are you surprised about just how much attention you’ve been receiving – considering you’ve received praise from the likes of Elton John?
We didn’t expect anything to come of the band, really. We had zero ambition at the time. We thought we’d just keep writing and gigging until we got spotted – we never even thought we would. It was just what we liked doing, a bit of fun. We were just doing it as friends, as a sort of social thing. But the fact that we did get attention and turned professional, that’s an added bonus. Doing something you enjoy for a living is a fortunate position to be in. It’s never a bad thing to be getting some encouraging words.
You’re coming to Australia soon, are you excited to be touring here, and especially for Splendour in the Grass?
Yeah it’ll be great. It’ll be great to go and see what the place is like. It’s hard to really properly gauge what a place will be like until you’ve been there. So it’ll be an interesting thing. And there’ll be a lot of Irish people in the gigs, the vast majority of the Irish disparate ended up in Australia, and we all have relatives there.
Have you done many festivals before?
Not really, no. I think our first festival is this weekend, I’m not entirely sure. We’re just doing some English festivals in the summer and some Irish ones as well, and the Australian dates. We’ll be going from Australia to Japan before we head home. So it’ll be a busy enough summer.
How do you go about creating the music – do the lyrics inspire the music and composition, or do you write the music and the lyrics come after?
It’s very different every time, I suppose. Josh is the main writer, so he’ll come up with a set of words or a basic song, just him on his own with the guitar. Then we’d get together and come up with an arrangement around the set of lyrics and the basic song. But it’s very different every time. There are a couple of songs on the album, like Mystery Man, I was just at home messing around on the guitar, and I came up with this riff. We were practising that day, so when we met up I showed it to Josh on the guitar and we just jammed it and put words over it. So sometimes it works like that, sometimes it’s different. Some songs start very differently from the way they end up.
Considering the style of music you play, do you find you appeal more to the older generation?
Not really, I feel we appeal to people of all ages. When we do gigs in England, the majority of the audience is kids our age to those in their mid twenties. The type of music it is, you know, rhythm and blues, it essentially can appeal to everybody. It has that dance factor to it, where you can sort of jump up and down to it. And I don’t think people really care whether its music from the ’50s, ’60s or ’70s, or whether it’s music from 5 years ago – if they like it, they like it. That’s our attitude to music really. The least important aspect of a song is the year it was released.
I saw in an interview that you wanted to get the albums out quick to “get it over with” – what would you move onto after music?
I think when we said that we were really just taking the piss, just joking about it. It’s hard to say, it’s a very unpredictable thing, being in a band. The experience we’ve had with the music industry is that it has an extremely short-term memory. The goal posts keep shifting so often – even in terms of the band. One minute we’re making the album next week, then we’re making it next year – I don’t mean that literally. Pretty much in every aspect of being in a band, you’re constantly teetering on the edge of all plans being totally changed at the last minute. So it’s really hard to say what were going to do, we might have to cross that bridge when we come to it.
If you could describe your music to someone who had never heard it before in six words or less, what would they be?
Pretty loud, pretty fast guitar music, rhythm and blues, rock and rock, and that’s about it.
The Strypes will be heading down under for Splendour in the Grass and two side shows:
Tues July 22- Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
Wed July 23 – Newtown Social Club, Sydney