The Strypes started playing together before they were even teenagers, relentlessly gigging around Ireland. They arrived like a tin can full of firecrackers on the UK music scene in 2012; their debut album ‘Snapshot’ deserves to be filed next to other opening gambits by the likes of The Stones, The Yardbirds, Dr Feelgood and The Jam. 2015’s album ‘Little Victories’ saw The Strypes hit the road, travelling throughout the UK, Europe, and further afield to Japan on a whirlwind tour. Still barely into their twenties, their overworked tour bus eventually rolled up in their hometown of Cavan, just South of the Northern Irish border, in time for Christmas 2015. The first couple of months of ’16 were spent recuperating and taking stock, but the youngsters were writing, too. By summertime, on a tip-off from their friend and mentor Chris Difford, the quartet found themselves using some free time at Peter Gabriel’s RealWorld Studios near Bath to cut some demoes of new material.
It was there that they ran into Ethan Johns, who’d actually tried to sign the band in their early days, and who duly requested to hear the tracks they’d recorded thus far. Recalls bassist Pete O’Hanlon, “He goes, ‘Fuck, this is really good stuff!’” Within minutes he’d agreed to helm the album, and duly turned up in Cavan for pre-production at the local Town Hall, then overseeing sessions in November, at legendary Rockfield in Wales.
Ethan Johns helped navigate his young charges through the whole rite-of-passage of creating an album that defines the band, as of now. ‘Spitting Image’ is the product of this journey.
“It’s the first time we really feel we captured our rawness,” says guitarist Josh McClorey, “and Ethan was hugely important in that. He was the king of getting everybody on the same wavelength before going in for a take. We had about 20 songs, so we’d do two a day, not many takes each, for two weeks, leaving two weeks for mixing. In between we’d sit in a circle and talk shite for a couple of hours, about anything – ‘Dark Matter’ or whatever – then we’d go in again, and that’s when you’d get the take”.
Three-minute kitchen-sink dramas like ‘Grin And Bear It’ tap into the finest tradition of Kinksian lyrical observation. “They’re all pretty bleak,” laughs Pete unapologetically. “We’ve signed on as contributors to the genre coined by Graham Coxon as Despondent Rock. Most of the time, it’s the human condition under duress, like they’re in a situation that’s grey, or someone’s on holiday and they don’t want to be. Y’know, writing a happy song’s boring. We like the classic contrast of a melancholic situation offset against an amazingly catchy melody. And then the challenge is to try and get it past the populace at large”.
Spitting Image indeed packs sufficient to-die-for tunes. The Strypes, of course, didn’t hang around as the road always beckons!
Since the release of Spitting Image, The Strypes have toured Europe, The US, Japan and spent the Summer of 2017 performing at festivals in the UK, Europe and Japan. They look forward to getting back on the road in early 2018, with a tour of Europe, supporting Paul Weller on his UK arena tour, a return to SXSW and a following tour of the US.
The Strypes have released two subsequent EPs since the release of the album. ‘The Demos EP’ featured acoustic versions of tracks from the album which demonstrate their versatility through familiar tracks performed in a softer manner, not often associated with the band. ‘Almost True’, released in late 2017 featured 3 brand new tracks and one live cover of Summertime Blues. In this EP, The Strypes showcase their now trademark accomplished playing ability with some of their wittiest lyrics yet whilst not forgetting how to be catchy.
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