Meeting the STRYPES for the first time at the Isle of Man’s Ronaldsway Airport had me proper flummoxed. They looked like four, small-town, Irish school kids with cool shoes, accompanied by their Dad – but of course that’s exactly what they are
Lenny Conroy head of Triskel Promotions first saw the band at Westport Music & Arts Festival earlier this year and returned very excited, so much so he quickly booked them to play the newly reopened Port St Mary Town Hall; no small feat given the level of hype that surrounds them.
Paul Weller and Jeff Beck are all raving about this teen quartet and lets face it, playing Ronnie Scotts and opening for the BB King movie premiere in London when the oldest member of the band is 15, is indeed impressive.
I spent most of that day with the band at the excellent Patchwork Cafe, 50m from the venue. They are really down to earth, lovely guys becoming very animated when music or gear was mentioned. They all have an in-depth grasp of the early British & American R&B scene, citing Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Slim Harpo as their influences.
The Town Hall has just reopened following a refurbishment and this was it’s first rock n’ roll gig for many years. The soundcheck was difficult with Mark Cleator of Manx Sound wrestling a four second reverb time caused by hard plaster walls, high glass windows with no acoustic treatment or drapes.
I had offered to assist Mark with the sound system and ended up bringing a couple of spare guitars and my Tweed Deluxe just in case Josh broke a string or blew up the Marshall 1974X amp kindly lent by Dave Lang.
The doors opened at 19:00. Excitement built as the hall started to fill and Hoodoo Nation, who were opening took to the stage. As more people arrived the sound improved but it was still as though the band were playing in a large tiled bathroom.
Hoodoo went down well and by the time the STRYPES were taking to the stage the room was at full capacity.
My first impression was that of a tight, well rehearsed band with attitude and charisma in bucket loads. Visually, Josh McClorey (lead guitar/vocals) is a dead ringer for Wilco Johnson and the rest of the band move very well. Ross Farrelly (lead vocals/harmonica) is a moody frontman with an unspectacular voice but works well as part of the band.
Musically, they are an obvious combination of those that have gone before and probably why the older statesmen of rock love them so much. Dr. Feelgood, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones and The Animals all resonate in the performance. Their set list of mostly covers was drawn from their American and British influences.
I enjoyed the tight ‘Beatlesque’ harmonies and snappy guitar solos, but as the set progressed you really wanted see more dynamics and a variation from the furious tempo – but that’s youth for ya :)
Nearing the end of the show instruments were swapped and a number of ripping harmonica solos delivered by Ross and Pete O’Hanlon (bass guitar/harmonica). Evan Walsh (drums) did an effective and solid job in the engine room keeping great time.
The set finished with encores and worthy applause but I am not sure whether most of the crowd truly ‘got it’.
To me, the star of the show was Pete who had obviously studied the Who’s John Entwistle, giving an exciting, polished and dynamic bass performance. He also plays a pretty mean harmonica. A musician to be watched.
They obviously have record companies all over them at the moment and due to be signed soon, with a plan to play small clubs for the next 12 months to hone their craft.
The man who will make or break the STRYPES is their manager, Niall Walsh. A calm, softly spoken, Irish gentleman who just happens to be the drummers dad. I loved the way he handled the band and their interactions.
The music business has always been a very fickle animal and they will live and die by their ability to write good quality, original material with a distinctive identity plus a deal of luck and clever marketing. The novelty factor will wear off quicker than they may like.
Young indie audiences will find the sound new and exciting, older audiences will be be reminiscent of the golden age of British R&B. For me their market is the United States where R&B is still celebrated and promoted.
Good luck chaps…
Blues at the Bay, 718 Yarm Road, Eaglescliffe TS16 0JE Stockton-on-tees, UK
Saltburn Blues Club, Markse Mill Lane, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, TS12 1QA, UK