We are fairly used to hearing about a young band being proclaimed as the next big thing in music. Even the most optimistic of music fans these days have started to become jaded by the continuously churning music hype machine. We have been burnt, let down and disappointed before, so it’s no surprise that cynicism has now become the default reaction to any new band which sounds like they’re too good to be true. 2013 has already seen those devious cogs turning. A group made up of members with an average age of fifteen, playing classic R’n’B and rock n’ roll with style to match? We can imagine the eyes rolling.
Said band is called The Strypes, a classic quartet hailing from Co.Cavan. They’re an act so retro it looks like they’ve been plucked straight from a 1960s mod hangout and are almost exclusively photographed in black and white. Music icons have been queuing round the block to see them live and get snapped with a band they seem to think have the potential to be mega-stars. In typical tongue-in-cheek fashion Noel Gallagher described them as “One Direction in mod suits”, but what is the reality?
I was able to see for myself when I caught them live in Manchester at Academy 3. Playing an after show gig for the NME Awards Tour, (feating the likes of Django Django, Miles Kane and Peace) it no was surprise to see a packed out room featuring a mix of old school mods and chirpy hipster indie types. Manchester is a city which joyfully embraces the alternative but there was a deep sense of intrigue on top of the levels of expectation – every punter with their fingers crossed that they were at a gig to boast about attending in years to come. But why such fascination from a group of fans who pride themselves on not being impressed easily?
First off there is the age factor. Yes, we all know music is timeless and age doesn’t matter but any signed band who are fifteen/sixteen will lead to a raised eyebrow or two. (We’ve seen the same type of buzz locally for fantastic singer-songwriter Soak) They haven’t been picked up by Universal as a roll of the dice either, they were given a five album deal by the global heavyweights! A fair sign of the potential for something very special.
As you can tell a manufactured pop group is not what we have here, but how does a band who haven’t completed their GCSEs sound like Doctor Feelgood? Most of us would be lucky to be out of our Metallica phase at this point in our lives, yet these lads are a full functioning band who sound eerily like early Rolling Stones! It’s astonishing stuff. With covers of Bo Diddley’s “You Can’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover” and T-Bone Walker’s “Call It Stormy Monday” currently in their repertoire their sound would be promising for any new band.
As godfathers of modern music comparing any group to The Beatles does seem a bit pointless, however this time those comparisons are spot on. They have a certain aura when the come on stage. The slick vintage finery does feel a bit like a cynical industry decision but it all helps to create the entire package. What else are they gonna wear? We were all trying to look like our favourite musicians at that age anyway so there is no harm in them looking the part on stage.
No doubt playing in any signed band this young would give you confidence – but these boys have a swagger like they’ve played to twenty thousand people for the past eighteen months! Within twenty seconds of their first song you’ve gotten the answer to the question which you came to find out. Quite simply, The Strypes are the real deal. They are everything you’ve heard and then some. If I see a better new band in the next five years then I will count myself a lucky man.
The quality of their playing ability is almost baffling. I’ve talked about tight bands before, but you have to be a genuinely gifted performer to play instruments like they do at this age. At one point the all swap instruments in a move which seemed to be there to just show that they can do it! But don’t just take my word for it, you need to see it to believe it. This is one of the must see live shows of year.
Each member of the band contribute to the collective in their own way as they effortlessly flow from one song to another. Evan Walsh is cool, clam and collected behind the kit. Playing with a jazz style he keeps the rhythm going like an old pro. Joining him in the rhythm section is Peter O’Hanlon on bass. He plays with such passion, rocking up and down the stage like a man possessed. His fingers moving up and down the neck of his bass like he was born to play these songs. The one with the shades is frontman Ross Farrelly who liberally brings out the harmonica any time he can. Trying to be believable singing the blues is no easy feat but Ross just gets it. Guitarist Josh McClory is already a star. The cornerstone of the group he has the potential to be one of Irelands best with a six string in his hand. He is mesmerising to watch and has stage presence most men three times his age could kill for. With practice he could walk into the line-up of any indie band in the country right now.
What makes, in-essence a cover band, so exciting is what they have done with these old classics. Making music from the past sound like the freshest new fad is not something every band can do. They’re turned modern music preconceptions on it’s head. This is proper striped back music and it sounds awesome! We await some concrete original material with baited breath – some reserving judgement for them as writers before they commit to joining in on the hysteria. Right now that doesn’t matter, they could tour this current show for the next decade and I wouldn’t be disappointed. In turn this could be the start of a new wave of rhythm and blues bands getting their break. Being a mod hasn’t been this cool in years! For once believe the hype. Check out these young lions in intimate settings while you still have the chance. They won’t be playing them for long.