SXSW: Stars in Strypes
In the 1998 Kurt Russell flick “Soldier,” a group of infants is selected at birth and raised as soldiers. That just may be what’s going on with The Strypes, but instead of using every resource to educate the children in the school of warfare, somebody drilled it into these Irish kids to play the blues.
Although the above scenario sounds like one with dystopian consequences, these teenagers cook. They sound like some of the best bands of the 1960s British Invasion, music that one wouldn’t normally think teenagers would have interest in, let alone be able to master.
“I suppose we’re all from musical households and our parents all play, so we all had a natural inclination towards music growing up,” says 17-year-old drummer Evan Walsh, who is the most outspoken member of the group when we meet them at the SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas.
The band’s debut, “Snapshot,” comes out today. It’s packed with a dozen stylized and adrenalized tracks, but they’re arguably best experienced live, where 18-year-old guitarist Josh McClorey can let the leads really rip.
The band carry themselves with swagger and dress like mods, in sharp blazers ornamented with buttons of their favorite bands on the lapels. Ask Walsh about his Dr. Feelgood button, and it gets the whole band on a roll about the merits of this 1970s pub rock band that most teenagers probably don’t even know about.
“Initially we got into these bands through the early Rolling Stones, and found the Yardbirds, Rockpile and Eddie and the Hot Rods,” says the drummer. “They were all white bands who were basically playing cover versions and originals inspired by that sort of stuff. So we got into those bands first and that led us back to people like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters.”
But the band members’ taste isn’t limited to blues. McClorey rattles off a list of acts he had taken in and planned to take in at SXSW, and they include Damon Albarn, Kanye West, Jay Z and Snoop Dogg.
“The blues was always around us, growing up,” says Walsh, “but so was a lot of the new wave and punk stuff too, like Johnny Thunders and The Clash.”
Strypes on Stryper
When we mention to the band that any other group of teenagers might call their album, “Snapchat” instead of “Snapshot,” Walsh is quick to snap back.
“I think it sounds funny when people make dated references to things,” he says. “I mean, in the ’80s, people didn’t go, ‘I was looking through my Filofax’ in songs, so why would we go, ‘I was on Twitter’?”
Since they seem to know their history so well, we ask their thoughts on the embarrassing Christian metal band with the name so similar to theirs, Stryper.
“I’ve seen the name written down, but I’ve never been intrigued by it,” says Walsh.
McClorey says, either diplomatically or sarcastically, “How can Christian rock be an embarrassing thing?”
We inform him of the hair, power ballads and black and yellow leather, and he seems to get it.