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From the Promoter
Hands down the most exciting rock ‘n’ roll band to emerge from the British Isles in the 2010’s, The Strypes are striking back with redoubled energy in 2017. After a whirlwind four years of non-stop touring and hyperbolic claims on their behalf, the four youngsters from rural Ireland came off the road to work on the defining album of their career so far.
As yet untitled, this fabulously diverse record effortlessly transcends The Strypes’ roots in adrenalized R&B, to present them as songwriters of skill and maturity beyond their tender years, influenced as much by New Wave heroes like Squeeze and Elvis Costello, as by their formative fascination with the blues. Producer Ethan Johns captured all of their fizzing chemistry onstage, while also helping them realise their own songwriterly potential.
Son of Rolling Stones/Beatles studio giant Glyn Johns, and himself revered producer of classic albums by Tom Jones, Kings Of Leon and Laura Marling, Ethan emerged from the process full of praise for their talents. “The Strypes are the real deal,” he enthuses. “Bands like this don't come around very often. I feel lucky to have recorded them.”
When the explosive combo first invaded across the Irish Sea in 2012-13, the British music scene was justifiably electrified by the sheer exuberance of these four 16-year-olds, and their spot-on update of a tradition that runs from Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters in ’50s Chicago through to The Rolling Stones in ’60s London and Dr Feelgood in ’70s Essex.
The Strypes’ success has been born of a fabulous natural chemistry. Growing up within a few miles of each other, all the same age, they’re a band in a million. “In hindsight, it probably did happen too soon for us,” admits Josh, “Everybody was saying we were gonna be the biggest band in the world on our first record, which is stupid. We’ve never known what it’s like to go to college, so this is our college, it’s all we know, and it feels like we’ve come out the other end relatively okay.”
“The funny thing is,” adds Pete, “when everybody else was getting over-excited, saying we’re gonna make millions, the only people in the room being realistic were the four 16-year-olds.”
For this third album, the precocious lads have ensured that things were done their way. For ‘Little Victories’, they were booked into a studio in Central London. There, says Josh, not only did they have “everybody associated with us from the business dropping in to throw their 20 cents in – which is fine, it’s their job, but still!”, but also it was an environment totally alien to them.
“Where we’re from, we’re used to a gentle pace of life,” shudders Josh, “but this was in the most condensed area full of people, where you never get a break from the noise. You’d pop out to get your head together and it was fucking Soho – constant noise! You’d never get silence. So Rockfield was comparatively similar to where we come from, and it definitely helped in terms of stress levels.”
Ethan also “had a great way of telling everybody to fuck off and leave us alone and until we’d finished making the record”. In downtime, they’d go on country walks, play a card game called Shithead, and got embroiled in an internal ‘cheese war’, where they playfully fought, using only cheese as a weapon.
While Johns mentored them in unexpected ways, such as making sure they ate regularly, it was, says Pete, “a peer-based relationship, not like he was in charge. He’d say he was the funnel for all our ideas, it was just his job to spit the album out at the end.”
Writing credits for the thirteen songs aboard are roughly split between Josh, who works alone, and the rhythm section team of near-neighbours Pete and drummer Evan Walsh – singer Ross Farrelly is happy to express himself via his swaggering vocal delivery.
This record indeed packs sufficient to-die-for tunes to start fulfilling some of their label paymasters’ wilder commercial ambitions. The Strypes, of course, won’t hang around waiting for such dreams to come true: the road beckons. Thus equipped song-wise, they’ll be a hard act to beat.