We caught up with The Strypes back in June, just after they emerged with their incredible third album.
Sharp-dressed young men The Strypes talk about the trials and tribulations of being in a rock band, joining the Hot Press’ 40th Anniversary celebrations, and stitching together their most accomplished album to date, the incredible Spitting Image. Peter McGoran joins the dots…
The four Cavan lads who make up The Strypes are remarkably articulate and forthright, with an attitude to the world way beyond their young years. They’re also exceptionally funny individuals.
When I meet them in Universal Music offices, early in the morning, it’s obvious that I represent just the first of many promotional chores the band will have to complete over the course of the day. I half expect to be greeted as an unwelcoming, begrudgingly vistor. Instead, I’m practically welcomed into the clan. Every question I ask is jumped upon with an enthusiasm that makes my job incredibly easy.
“It’s really exciting getting back into the swing of things,” says bassist Pete O’Hanlon. “There’d been a few fallow months since we recorded it back in November. So in the meantime we did a tour in March, just to kind of warm ourselves up. We did about 20 gigs or so up and down the length of the country in small pubs. That got us in fighting form for the album release.”
It was in small pubs and clubs that The Strypes sharpened their live performance, until it became the exhilarating beast that it is today. They got their first opportunity to showcase their new tunes to a wider audience when they headlined Hot Press’ 40th Anniversary celebrations back in March.
“That was a mental day,” says drummer Evan Walsh. “It was an incredible honour to be included in that exhibition to begin with. It really put it into perspective to see all the covers lined up like they were and to see the company we were keeping on the wall. Then even when we were at that, we got to meet some great people. People who we’d always idolised, like Arthur Matthews! That was a big moment for us. And the Boomtown Rats were there too – Geldof and the lads. We got chatting to them and ended up playing on stage with them for Rock Against Homelessness that same night.”
“The Homelessness gig was going on as we were playing at the Hot Press Exhibition launch,” says Pete. “So we were literally pulling the leads out and running over to the Olympia. Amazing craic. Then we did the Trinity Ball at half 3 that night.”
While their ability as a live act has always been central to the band’s appeal, album number three was geared as much towards patenting a collection of intelligent rock songs.
“We recorded the album in Rockfield Studio in Wales,” Evan tells me. “That was a big buzz for us because a lot of our favourite records were made there: albums by Dr. Feelgood, Oasis’ Morning Glory, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Christ, there’s too many great records to name.”
Not only were The Strypes working in an iconic studio, they were also under the guidance of one of rock’s most revered producers, Ethan Jones.
“We were doing a couple of demos in Real World Studios in Bath,” guitarist Josh McClorey explains. “And Ethan just happened to be in another studio. He asked could he hear what we were working on and he was really impressed. That led to him asking if we wanted to do some work with him.
“So then, of course, he came to Cavan with us. We did a bit of pre-production in the Town Hall and found him incredible to work with.”
“Bags of enthusiasm,” Evan adds. “As soon as he walked into the Town Hall he thought ‘Fuck it. Maybe we’ll record it here!’ That didn’t actually happen, but he’d just throw these ideas at you. Get you motivated.”
“It’s such a difference from the first two albums,” Josh continues. “For those albums, we were on the road and everything was done on-the-fly. We didn’t ever get a chance to just sit down and work out what we wanted to do or how we should approach recording. We were just thrown into things.
“For this album, Ethan was all about making us as comfortable as possible for the recording process. He kept making sure we had everything we needed. We’re all really picky eaters (communal laughter), so he made sure we were all fed well.”
Pete chimes in: “The thing is, in the music industry, people tell you all the time what you can’t do. ‘You can’t do that. You can’t do this.’ But any idea we had, Ethan said: ‘Yep! We’ll go with that. We’ll try that out.’ The atmosphere was fantastic in the studio.”
The pay-off is in the songs themselves. Spitting Image is loaded with quick-fire, sharply-written narratives about small-town living, situational humour and, as the lads themselves describe it, “kitchen-sink drama”. The lyrics are sharply written. “You become disenchanted and get your own place/ Maudlin and tired, the tears fall with grace /Damn she’s the smell of Jewel-pack Lenor/ And a cigarette ash from the night before,” they sing on ‘Behind Closed Doors’. Not only are these songs smart and perceptive, they’re also damned entertaining.
“We were always going for something that would be entertaining,” Pete says. “None of us are fans of wilful obscurity. We wanted to put the imagery right out there in the song. Chris Difford was the master of that kind of thing. Elvis Costello and Paul Cleary from The Blades too. You could see what colour the paint was in the room when they sung their lyrics. You knew exactly what was going on. The idea of storytelling is something that I’ve found very lacking in music recently. The idea of telling a narrative from beginning to end.”
What’s the process behind the songwriting then?
“We’d normally have Josh and Ev writing,” says Pete. “Sometimes I’d come in with a very nebulous idea and Ev would hammer it into shape. Then we’d take it to the lads and they’d hammer it into shape even more.”
“It’s always a collaborative process,” lead singer Ross Farrelly concurs. He’s the quiet and thoughtful one.
I ask whether they’ve found it hard to shake the media – and maybe even the public – perception of them as a cut-and-paste Mod Revival band.
“Oh yeah,” laughs Evan. “Just recently we were written about in a piece for Time Out and they called us ‘roughed-up Beatles indie’, which is a really annoying perception.”
“Roughed up like!” Pete says incredulously, gesturing my eyes towards his pristine tweed blazer. “What the fuck are they thinking? We’re dressing in suits!
“Bands get pigeon-holed all the time. We’re not alone in that. The annoying thing is that this album is very different from the last two, but still people might look at us and say, ‘Ah The Strypes? I’ve got their beat, I’m not going to listen to anything else that they write’.” “I feel like in the beginning we were a lot more conscious of it,” adds Josh. “You know, with the age thing. When we were 16 or 17, it was really fucking annoying.”
Pete nods in agreement. “We came to the conclusion recently that maybe we were signed a bit too young and that, ideally, this new album would be our first. We’ve had to mature in our music under the microscope of the whole world watching – and with people thinking they already have our number. If it was a film, we’d be getting signed now.”
Are relationships in the band still as good as ever?
“Obviously, being in each other’s company all the time, relationships do get strained,” says Josh. “It’s a fucking difficult job, spending so much time in each other’s company. But I think being in Cavan did the world of good for us.
“The whole industry side to it really gets heavy. It really fucks your whole enjoyment out of it. So to go home and play in small venues takes you back to why you love music. Not to be all nostalgic, but it’s good to go back and play the likes of Sweeney’s, because that’s where we would’ve got started before the pressures from labels and management came into things.
“This industry doesn’t care enough for bands anymore,” Pete says, shaking his head. “You know, we all still live at home. We don’t make enough money to live anywhere else, first of all. We’ve heard of bands signed to major labels who still have their day jobs. There could be internationally signed artists who still do it as a part-time thing. That’s disgusting. It’s emblematic of a bigger problem in the industry. They’re totally preying on bands.”
“The label has to feed itself…” says Evan, wearily.
“It feels like anything goes now,” Pete continues. “Unless it’s good, in which case you’re never gonna hear of it again. We’re all 20/21 years old now. We should be BOMBARDED with bands right now. But the bands we listen to – the good bands – we’ve heard them through friends, not through promotion. The industry has no time for them.”
A lot of musicians might skirt around this issue for fear of the industry turning against them…
Evan shrugs. “We’re on the fringes of the industry anyway. We’re not a priority act. That was the thing we were told when we signed to a major label. We were told ‘You can sign to an independent label and be treated well but find there’s no money for you. Or you can go with a major label and you have the power of that label behind you.’ But then when you sign you find out that there’s 200 acts in their roster and you’re bottom of the list…”
“And if you’re not selling, they’re not helping you,” chimes Ross.
“But listen,” Pete argues. “We’re not the only band that has this problem. No band has a good relationship with their label.”
“We were all like 14/16 years old when we signed,” Josh adds. “So we were all a bit scared. We thought we needed the financial cushion. But on the other side of that, when we signed, we had no idea what Spotify even was and we didn’t realise how much that would change the industry. We thought we could sell records. But you can’t do that anymore. The silver lining of all this is that whatever way the industry changes, the live show has always been our selling point.”
Informed, wired and slightly breathless, we’re led back round to the present. The lads are set to follow the release of Spitting Image with an ambitious tour.
“We’re looking to head out to America, Australia, Europe, South America,” says Pete. “We haven’t really toured properly since the summer of last year and so, the touring schedule we’re looking at now will keep us busy right up until March/April of next year.
“The band’s forte is the live show. So now we’ve got an album that we feel is really accomplished, we’re armed with a good set of songs, and we’re confident in our ability to go out and perform.”
The Strypes’Spitting Image is out now
Massive news for the boys in Westmeath.Read More
Hot Press got its hands on the glorious ninth album from post-rock outfit God Is An Astronaut, and we're streaming it here.Read More
Arsène Wenger will leave Arsenal at the end of the 2017/2018 football season, bringing an end to one of the longest managing careers in modern history.Read More
Having written the zeitgeist-defining Asking For It, Louise O’Neill’s latest novel, Almost Love, confirms her status as one of Ireland’s foremost contemporary authors. Photography: Miguel RuizRead More
The City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival will be back for its 17th year this May, featuring artists from across the world and attracting over 60,000 revellers over the course of the Bank Holiday weekend.Read More
As part of their ongoing collaboration for 'Sloe Sessions', David Rooney and Blancke have released their newest track together, 'Home'.Read More
Following on from the success of last summer, Home With The Henry Girls will return to Donegal this summer.Read More
Villagers, Yasiin Bey (FKA Mos Def), Lost Brothers and Maria Kelly have been added to the line-up of this stunning new festival.Read More
Dublin based folk-rock band have done it again with their hook-heavy new single 'I Live For You'.Read More
Dolans, Limerick, on April 26.Read More
Due to phenomenal demand, Arctic Monkeys have added a second date at 3Arena.Read More
Cliff Richard has today arrived at the High Court in London for his legal battle with the BBC.Read More
Superorganism have announced a headline show at The Academy, Dublin this October.Read More
The investment will be part of Leo Varadkar's 'Project Ireland 2040' infrastructure overhaul, and will focus on renovating cultural institutions and digitising national collections.Read More
Creating thousands of jobs, generating millions for the economy, and propelling some of our best musicians onto the international stage – the live music business is an essential part of Ireland’s cultural and economic life. The time has come to stand up for it.Read More
With his brilliant first album Dear Annie enjoying universal acclaim and even Elton John singing his praises, Rejjie Snow is one of the most exciting new Irish artists in aeons. The Dublin rapper talks about the long rise to the top, working with world-class producers, his take on Irish identity – and how he had to find himself before he could find the lyrics for his stellar debut.Read More
The Dublin rapper teams up with Maverick Sabre for this soaring ode.Read More
The artist FKA Mmoths delves into power, strength and fragility in his newest single, which was released on Friday.Read More
The pleasure's all ours.Read More
A major new book, telling the story of music and conflict in Northern Ireland since 1968, will be previewed at the British Council’s ‘Peace and Beyond’ conference opening and civic reception at Belfast City Hall on Tuesday 10 April.Read More
Today FM have announced an exclusive Today FM gig two weeks from now.Read More
Paul Alwright (FKA Lethal Dialect) is set to launch his new record, Hungry, at the Workman's Club on May 18.Read More
Electronic neo-soul artist Melina Malone teams up with MC/producer duo Mango X Mathman for a truly incredible take on '90s gold.Read More
At The Drive-In announce their triumphant return to Vicar Street this July.Read More
Fifty years ago today, on 4 April 1968, the great African American civil rights leader Martin Luther King was brutally gunned down in an assassination carried out by a white supremacist. Here, we take a look at some of the great songs which have been inspired by his legacy.Read More
Having just signed a deal to Sacred Bones Records, Hilary Woods has released the first single from her upcoming debut solo album Colt, which will be out on June 8.Read More
The band debuted a new collaboration with rapper Snoop Dogg, titled 'Hollywood', at Lollapalooza in Chile.Read More
Stendhal Festival has announced the first part of the musical programme for the eighth instalment of the multi-award winning music and arts festival which takes place on August 10 and 11, at Ballymully Cottage Farm, Limavady.Read More
The Electric Picnic-bound Dua Lipa graces the cover of the new issue of Hot Press.Read More
August Wells make a warped soulful return to Irish airwaves, with the release of ‘Nothing Like Love’, the first single to be taken from their forthcoming third album.Read More
It's reported that the lead prosecutor into his death will make decision ‘in the near future’ on whether to charge anyone.Read More
The French indie-rock band have been forced to reschedule tonight's headliner in Dublin "following medical advice".Read More
Ahead of the release of their ninth studio album, which Hot Press will be streaming exclusively in April (watch this space) - here's the newest single from God Is An Astronaut, which came out on March 2.Read More
A new event, to take place on the weekend of May 5-7 at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, will celebrate popular music as "the cultural generator of the 20th century".Read More
The singer had claimed that the British band had asked for 100% writing credits for her song 'Get Free'.Read More
The Stunning are back with a bang, as their new album Twice Around The World gets to within heartbeat of the top spot.Read More
Ahead of a busy summer schedule, Picture This have released their newest single from a second full-length album which is "due out soon".Read More
Four Words To Stand EP was Two Door Cinema Club’s debut, self funded release when the then-school friends were 16 and living in Belfast.Read More
Following in the footsteps of his father Clint, Scott Eastwood has emerged as one of the most in-demand action movie actors in Hollywood in recent years. Hot Press is lucky enough to catch his ear as he tours across Europe to promote his new film Pacific Rim: The Uprising.Read More
The latest single from compelling Dublin singer Ailbhe Reddy.Read More
Bruce Springsteen has announced that he will extend his “Springsteen on Broadway” one-man show until December 15.Read More
‘Accidents & Emergencies’ is the new single from Dublin quartet THE NEW 52. Written by frontman Darragh Cullen following an anxiety related seizure which landed him in hospital, the song features on the new EP GREEN, which is out on March 30.Read More
One of the most promising voices in electro-pop, Galway-based newcomer Cat Turner brings us her haunting new track ‘Waster’ from her debut EP.Read More
Rolling Stones' Croke Park gig is expected to go ahead this summer.Read More
The film company announced that they would be closing today in a statement, which you can read below.Read More
The new book aims to crack the mysteries of Van Morrison's most famous (yet most enigmatic) album, 50 years after it was first released.Read More
Following on from the announcements of The Waterboys (August 16) and Paul Young (July 19) for this summer’s Bulmers Live at Leopardstown, the famous Dublin racecourse this week reveals the next three artists set to play the 8-week racing and music festival.Read More
In the midst of their seven live shows at the NCH, The Gloaming have shot to the third spot on their opening week.Read More
Cathy Davey is taking it all back to the essentials and for 2018 will be embarking on her Bare Bones Tour, along with a live album, which is to be in store on April 21.Read More
The former president and first lady of the United States are in advanced negotiations with streaming service, according to reports.Read More
Easily the best festival of year if you're using the old value + line-up equation, The Biggest Weekend lives up to its superlative name!Read More
The British synthpop band have released the first single from their upcoming second album.Read More
London-Irish writer Jess Kidd talks reviving crime fiction with magic realism, her joy at having never-ending work-loads, and the inspiration behind her beautifully unsettling new novel, The Hoarder.Read More
Storm Emma put a spanner in the works of a number of gigs across Ireland last week, with performances from Everything Everything, Tom Misch, The Stranglers and more all being cancelled. Here's the dates that they've been moved to.Read More
'Girl' is the latest from Dublin-based electronic duo SYLK.Read More
To celebrate Record Store Day 2018 (Saturday 21 April), Pink Floyd will release the band’s debut album ‘The Piper At The Gates of Dawn’ on vinyl, with a new mono 2018 remaster by James Guthrie, Joel Plante and Bernie Grundman.Read More
Taylor Swift has announced Camila Cabello and Charlie XCX as very special guests for her reputation Stadium Tour dates at Croke Park on Friday June 15th and Saturday June 16th.Read More
State Magazine has today announced that it will cease to operate, 10 years after it first started published music content.Read More
Robin Wright will take the helm when House of Cards returns for its sixth and final season this Autumn.Read More
Having developed his career under the patronage of the Diffusion Lab crew, 'Elbows' is the second single from Dave Costello.Read More
The US-Ireland Alliance celebrated its 13th Annual Oscar Wilde Awards last night in Santa Monica. Emceed by J.J. Abrams, the evening’s honorees were Barry Keoghan, Mark Hamill, Paula Malcomson, and Catherine O’Hara.Read More
Following a phenomenal 3Arena show last November, which sold out in minutes, Queen + Adam Lambert have made the surprise announcement that the band will play new European dates, including an open-air concert at Marlay Park this July.Read More
London-Irish writer Jess Kidd talks reviving crime fiction with magic realism, her joy at having never-ending work-loads, and the inspiration behind her beautifully unsettling new novel, The Hoarder.Read More
With a stellar line-up including Finbar Furey, Brian Kennedy, Scullion, The Henry Girls, ZoDoMo and many more, the Kilkenny Tradfest also offers dozens of activities, including street performances, masterclasses, workshops and trad discos.Read More
The 18 year old Derry singer has recorded a live version of her new single 'Wasted.Patient.Thinking', recorded at the Boho Barn.Read More
The Mancunian indie rock band tried their hardest, but The Beast From The East claimed another good gig this evening...Read More
Numerous events scheduled for today and tomorrow have been forced to cancel following severe weather warnings in Ireland.Read More
2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the release Elvis Costello's first record album My Aim Is True.Read More
With acclaimed appearances at EuroSonic Festival and South By Southwest to her name – as well as a string of powerful hit singles – Caribbean teenager Au/Ra is on the cusp of major success.Read More
Kris Kristofferson has today announced that he will perform a third concert at The Olympia Theatre on Saturday 30 June, and that the profits will be donated to charity.Read More
Recently signed to Warner Music record label, Cavan native Aine Cahill has announced she will perform at Smock Alley Theatre this April.Read More
Two of the country's finest emerging singers teamed up earlier this month for a track that's as earnest and emotional as it is beautifully written.Read More
Irish four-piece Kodaline has announced their return to Belfast with a headline show at Custom House Square this August.Read More
Multi-platinum selling singer, Paul Young, has been confirmed to play Bulmers Live at Leopardstown this July.Read More
Hip-hop superstars' latest effort hindered by excessive length.Read More
The live scene in Ireland is thriving. Except that, far too often, real music fans can’t get their hands on tickets for big shows – and then see massively inflated prices being sought online by those who do. Ticketmaster’s Head of Music in North America, David Marcus, believes that the company’s new ‘Verified Fan’ initiative can solve one of the most contentious issues in the industry.Read More
Former Hot Presser Dave Fanning pays tribute to the singer in a new one-off documentary, which will air at 10.35pm tonight on RTE.Read More
The former Smiths frontman has penned a letter to Minister Michael Creed on behalf of PETA.Read More
Event to include Traveller music, drama, cinema, historical talks and photographic exhibitions as well as special children’s activitiesRead More
English singer-songwriter George Ezra has announced a return to Belfast with a headline show at CHSq this August.Read More
Boundary pushing opus from Dublin rapper.Read More
Having already amassed millions of online hits and sold out venues across America, Dublin electro sensation Jonathon Ng, aka EDEN, is set to go truly supernova in 2018. He talks to Peter McGoran about early influences, touring the globe, and his stunning debut album Vertigo.Read More
Haim will perform at the Olympia Theatre this June.Read More
The Killers have announced an open-air concert at RDS Arena this June, with special guests are Franz Ferdinand.Read More
American R'n'B singer SZA has been added to one of the most exciting and unique line-ups for any festival in Ireland in recent years.Read More
Mercury nominated art-rockers Django Django are back with their captivating third album Marble Skies. Frontman Vincent Neff talks about returning to the studio, creating genre-bending music, and avoiding overtly political songs.Read More
Filmmaker NORA TWOMEY discusses Oscar nominations, the brand new Animated Festival taking place in Kilkenny, and why the animation sector is thriving in Ireland. Interview: Peter McGoranRead More
Hard rockers Jet Fuel Chemistry released their newest single 'Phantom' at the start of 2018.Read More
In the space of one year, Tullamore hip hop crew Chasing Abbey went from being unknowns to fully-fledged hitmakers. They discuss their trad origins, a whirlwind year, and signing with major league dance label 3 Beat Records. Interview: Peter McGoranRead More
Following on from a sold-out show at the Olympia Theatre this March, Vance Joy will return to the venue in November for another headliner.Read More
The seventh episode of Hot Press' new live performance series, hosted by Valentina Magli.Read More