More control, less compromise - the third Strypes album is set to be a pure distillation of all we’ve come to know and love about the Cavan fourpiece.
Home for Christmas after their triumphant annual end of year concert at the Olympia Theatre, drummer Evan Walsh is now looking forward to the release of the new album - pencilled in for early summer - which could define their future.
The Strypes spent November in the legendary Rockfield Studios in Wales where 'Bohemian Rhapsody’ was recorded by Queen, and where Oasis made a mockery of the “difficult second album” cliché by knocking out '(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’ Big Strypes heroes Dr Feelgood and Dave Edmunds also recorded in the studio. That illustrious past and the presence of producer Ethan Johns has resulted in an album they are truly excited about. Johns was key to helping The Strypes ease through the recording process.
“He was an absolute legend and easy to work with. The stuff he’s done is fantastic, he did the first three Kings of Leon albums and he was just fantastic. He really cut through all the music business bullshit that you can encounter just so quickly. Other people in industry are inclined to try and bog you down in all kinds of nonsense, and he let us do what we wanted really. We worked really closely with him in getting an album that we’re all really happy with.”
The second album Little Victories was well received, but Evan feels the band endured a couple of little defeats along the way - too many musical cooks altered the flavour rather than spoiled the broth.
“There were some compromises made [to the second album] definitely, yeah. It’s something we were eager to avoid with this album, the music business thing where the label gets involved becomes, it’s like the phrase: 'a camel is a horse designed by committee’. That kind of comes into play a lot in the music business - that committee thing where everyone feels they have to throw their two cents in and the vision gets clouded from what the band originally wanted to be about.”
The Celt noted that their post punk influences are more apparent live, than on record.
“That’s kind of the direction we’ve pursued more heavily on this album. It was something we were keen to move into, so it’s probably a more articulate expression of where we all are musically. The second one, we’re still all very happy with it in the main, but there were some compromises made and things happened that we would have rather turned out differently. We’ve righted the wrongs with this album I think.”
While guitarist Josh McClorey previously led the way in songwriting, the fingerprints of all four Strypes are more obvious on the new material.
“Pete has written a lot on the new album,” says Evan. “He’s developed into a really good lyricist, and myself and him worked a lot together on a couple of tracks. We’d collaborate on music and he’d come up with bits and pieces so even from that point of view it’s a more articulate expression of us all as people - because we’ve all had more input in that sense.
“There are a couple of voices on the album which is a different journey lyrically speaking. I’d say with first two albums, while they were totally expressive of who we were and all that, it’s from a new angle this time because there’s more writers involved.”
Asked for musical influences on the album Evan namechecks Elvis Costello as “a gigantic influence”, as was The Blades’ chief songwriter Paul Cleary, particularly on Evan and Pete’s O’Hanlon co-writing. The Boomtown Rats’ style also inform some of their writing.
“There is a Boomtown Rats influence on some of the tracks, on the scale of you know the story songs they would’ve done like 'Rat Trap’ and 'Joey’s on the Street Again’. There’s a bit of that in it.”
The Celt notes that of course there’s a fellow Cavanman amongst the Rats, with Pete Briquette.
“He’s a lovely lad, we’ve met the Rats a good few times actually and they’re all just really sound lads, I’d be a massive fan of their early stuff.”
Evan had mentioned the Oasis second album being recorded in Rockfield, which was notable for the lavish strings to their sound - did the Strypes do something similar?
“The budget didn’t quite stretch that far,” he says with a laugh, “and even the time frame didn’t quite stretch that far.”
“There is a lot of keyboard on the album that I played. I’m kind of an amateur piano player, I busk away, but I did a lot of bits on a Hammond organ and things like that.”
There’s also some sax on two of the tracks, courtesy of one of Jools Holland’s bandmates.
“That came about through Chris Difford from Squeeze who works with the band - we ended up getting Jools’ sax player in and it was fantastic having a musician of that calibre playing a part like that, it was really amazing.”
They expect to release it in the first half of 2017 - “early summer by the latest” and then hit the tour bus once again.
“The album will be out in time for the whole festival season, so I expect we’ll be full on touring from then on.
“We’ll do the UK and Ireland jaunt, and Europe is par for the course, but hopefully we’ll be able to take it further afield as well - it would be great if it got picked up in that way.”