7:00am Saturday 28th September 2013
They might not be old enough to drink, but The Strypes have plenty of rock 'n' roll spirit. As they release their debut album, they tell Andy Welch why doubters should just give them a chance.
"You can't judge a book by looking at the cover" sing The Strypes on their debut album, Snapshot.
As blues fans will know, it's a line from You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover, a song originally written by Willie Dixon, one of Chess Records' finest songwriters, and first recorded by blues pioneer Bo Diddley in 1962.
The Strypes aren't the first band to cover the song. The four-piece, from the small town of Cavan in Ireland, are following the example of The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Monkees, Hank Williams and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
The track isn't just a classic, a rite of passage for any aspiring blues band, it's also quite a handy message to anyone ready to write off The Strypes as a novelty.
They're young, you see. Guitarist Josh McClorey, who's just turned 17, is the eldest, while singer Ross Farrelly was 16 a couple of weeks ago, the same age as bassist Pete O'Hanlon and drummer Evan Walsh.
"The age thing, it's more abnormal now than it was a few decades ago," says Walsh. "Lots of punk bands were in their late teens, proper angry young men."
"And we're not much younger than Jake Bugg or Palma Violets," adds O'Hanlon.
It's no wonder they have a strong response prepared, as it's a question they've faced before, along with the claim that they were put together by the same record label who oversaw Jake Bugg's success as a sort of Bob Dylan for the Twitter generation.
"The most unlikely thing is actually the truth," says the Bieber-fringed McClorey. "We're just four friends from school who love the same music and wanted to be in a band.
"There's a lot of cynicism, and people saying that we can't be real because we're young, but I just say, 'Give it a chance'."
When the band first started playing in the UK last year, their set largely consisted of covers such as the aforementioned Bo Diddley standard, alongside songs made famous by Slim Harpo (Got Love If You Want It) or Dr Feelgood and The Kinks (I'm A Hog For You Baby).
Since then, as they've toured the world - they'll be in Japan by the time you read this - they've slowly eased in a batch of their own original songs.
"It's taken a while but we've got the new songs in there," says McClorey. "We just wanted to get them as strong as the standards we were doing, but it was always the plan."
Covers or not, the most appealing thing about the band, when they play live at least, is the energy level.
Their shows are electrifying, and The Strypes have already made fans of some of their idols.
Arctic Monkeys, who saw them at Glastonbury, immediately asked them to open up the shows on their forthcoming October tour, and Paul Weller, after inviting them to play before him at a performance at Abbey Road Studios last year, said he was blown away by their sheer talent, particularly McClorey's precocious guitar-playing.
"I looked at my guitarist and just raised an eyebrow," said Weller afterwards. "I knew we had to be on our game that night after that sort of playing."
Despite plaudits from their peers, there are no special guests on The Strypes' album. That would dilute things, insists O'Hanlon.
"We want it to be The Strypes album, not The Strypes album with all those other people on it," he says.
Walsh adds: "And we haven't got many starry friends. We've met some people, but I wouldn't say we're close friends with any of them."
When saying this, however, they're sitting in the offices of their management company - owned by Elton John, who demanded to meet the band as soon as he heard them before adding them to a roster alongside James Blunt and Lily Allen.
Sir Elton waxes lyrical about The Strypes whenever he gets the chance, while former Squeeze member Chris Difford co-manages them with Walsh's dad. Starry friends they may be without, but they're not short of influential guidance and industry heft.
Despite this, they say they knew exactly what they wanted their debut album to be, and weren't about to be bossed around by a record label as soon as they signed on the dotted line.
There's even a song on the album called What A Shame about, well, what a shame it is to see promising young bands pushed around by managers and record labels and subsequently stripped of what got them noticed in the first place.
"The label from the start said, 'You've come this far on your own, we'll leave you to your own devices'," explains O'Hanlon. "We wanted to record the album as 'live' as possible, and we've saved a lot of time recording it like that too."
"Our bread and butter is playing live in small sweaty venues," says Walsh. "That's what got us signed, so we had to sound like that on record."
McClorey chips in: "The big influence on us at the moment is the Seventies pub rock bands, like Dr Feelgood, Eddie & The Hot Rods and Rockpile."
The album was produced by Chris Thomas, who did the same for Sex Pistols' seminal debut in 1977.
"The main thing we had to concentrate on was making sure the new songs we wrote didn't stand out as originals," adds McClorey. "It had to be seamless with the two or three covers that are on the album.
"And, like the boys said, it had to sound like a live show. All the albums we love, Down By The Jetty by Dr Feelgood or the first Stones album, were just snapshots of their live set."
Their intentions clearly worked. The album entered the chart at No 5 and considering Arctic Monkeys' album AM came out on the same day and became the second fastest-selling album of the year, that's no mean feat.
"It's just incredible that we're going to support them in October," says McClorey. "We really admire what they do, they've never been pushed in any direction by anyone, and they've been one of the biggest guitar bands in the world for a long time.
"If that's not something to aspire to, what is?"
Extra time - The Strypes
:: The Strypes are Josh McClorey, Ross Farrelly, Pete O'Hanlon and Evan Walsh.
:: They were originally a five-piece, without Farrelly, and made their debut performance at a school Christmas concert.
:: Shortly afterwards, Farrelly joined and two former members left, creating the current line-up. They released their first EP, Drunken Heroes, in December 2009 via their local record shop.
:: They picked up a large following in Ireland by travelling around the country playing covers of songs by The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones at various festivals.
:: Their first professionally recorded EP, Young, Gifted And Blue, was released in April 2012 and went to the top of the iTunes Blues Chart.
:: The Strypes' debut album Snapshot is out now. They begin a UK tour supporting Arctic Monkeys on October 22. Full dates below
22 - Newcastle Arena
23 - Manchester Arena
25 - London Earl's Court
26 - London Earl's Court
28 - Liverpool Echo Arena
29 - Cardiff Arena
31 - Birmingham LG Arena
1 - Glasgow Hydro Arena
2 - Sheffield Arena
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