Jack Greeney interviews The Strypes before their show at the Neighbourhood Festival
It may be AM hours but the Strypes are already off their coach preparing for their set at Manchester’s Neighbourhood Festival. Lead guitarist Josh McClorey leads me upstairs backstage at the Ritz and we’re chatting about the buzz an inner-city festival brings to a place like Manchester. “No need for wellies either,” he adds. We join the others, singer Ross Farrelly, bassist Pete O’Hanlon, and drummer Evan Walsh in the dressing room. The boys had just arrived from playing Glasgow — “always fucking crazy” — and despite the considerable coach journey, all come across exceptionally accommodating and friendly.
There are scarcely signs of grogginess; although young (jealousy-inducingly so) The Strypes are seasoned tourers. “It’s nice to be on the cycle again. And we remembered our last show at the Ritz as being a particularly good one.”
The band are on the road touring Spitting Image, the third album of their short career. It’s another record of exactly what we’ve come to expect from The Strypes: fast paced Indie rock with an underlying blues the band describe as “unconscious”. After all, a shared interest in the genre was what got them together in the first place. “Blues is naturally ingrained into us, I think. As well as being the only fucking scale I know how to play.”
This album feels important. The weight of pressure and expectation from the previous album lifted, this time the recording freedom was the most they’d ever had. Producer Ethan Jones “let the songs breathe” and let the boys stay independent. “We’ve been lucky, they let us have it.” Spitting Image, they say, is the closest one of their albums has ever sounded to live performance: “unhinged.”
Speaking of live action, I ask how they handle the relentless schedule they’ve had and still have to come. The answer seems to be the necessity of it, to “push yourself through.”
Next: back to the US (“a dream”) and Japan, where they recorded their live album, soon after. First though, they’re here in Manchester as one of the biggest names on the festival ticket; their show is expected to draw one of the largest crowds of the day. They’re seeing Declan McKenna while they’re here, Man and the Echo, and David Keenan, who they toured with before. “The Subways have a cool logo too.”
An often probed area of any Strypes interview is their beginnings. One minor Irish radio hit recorded around school hours lead to a “flurry of buzz and hype”; one week playing in London and the band from Cavan signed a record deal. They truly exploded onto the scene by late 2012, everyone from Dave Grohl to Sir Elton counting themselves fans soon after. They played Jools Holland, Castlefield Bowl, toured with Arctic Monkeys, even got themselves on Letterman in the US. But as we talk it’s clear there’s far more to this band than just pace out the blocks: they’ve got the legs to run the distance too. “It’s all about the gigs” says Josh, “and the testament to it is today.”
This is a band who feel at home on a stage. They only got together to have fun playing live music originally anyway. Things have come a long way since though; now there’s far finer details considered. We get talking about image: “It should be one of the most important things, every aspect about a band should tie in. There hasn’t been a musical movement that’s come without an image.”
Still, there’s far more to it than just the serious stuff. For all that’s been written of their maturity at young ages, I ask them the least mature thing they’ve ever done. Pete says covering everyone’s beds with cheese.
Later at the festival, the band put on a hell of a show. The crowd are fully involved in every direction. Josh’s guitar solos roll out effortlessly. Ross’s voice is strong and Evan’s drumming tight. Pete throws off his bass and leaps into the crowd as the show comes to a close. They were right: they are living for the live performance. And as a result, a live performance from The Strypes is certainly one to behold.