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Interview: Singer Ross Farrelly of rising Irish youngsters The Strypes

By Matt Pais

RedEye music editor

12:00 AM CDT, March 10, 2014

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UPDATE: The Strypes' March 24 show at Subterranean has been postponed. Stay tuned for a rescheduled date.

Ross Farrelly is 16 years old. He lives with his parents. And right now, Dave Grohl, Elton John and The Who’s Roger Daltrey can’t get enough of him.

As singer for rising Irish rockers The Strypes, Farrelly has toured with Arctic Monkeys, appeared on “Conan” and scored a Top 5 album in the U.K. with the band’s debut, “Snapshot” (out March 18 in the States). The record takes inspiration from American blues and its English R&B/rock adapters, delivering straightforward rock ‘n’ roll that, depending on where you’re sitting, is either shamelessly nostalgic or, more likely, a fitting, exciting tribute. Asked by phone whether he takes it as a compliment or insult that an online commenter snarkily noted, “I love historical re-enactments,” Farrelly chooses the former.

“Everything was going by really fast and you don’t really think about it till afterwards. It was just like going to another person’s house and meeting. He was just down-to-Earth; we just talked about music. I never really thought, ‘Holy [bleep], this is Elton John’ until afterwards.” –What was going through his head when the band was invited to lunch at Elton John’s

“After the song, he comes on and shakes hands to the band who plays. And he came backstage and started talking to us about Ireland and rock ‘n’ roll. He was just telling us where his family were from in Ireland, and we were just chatting about music and he said he was just complimenting us and saying that he never really comes back and says hello to the bands, but he came back and had to say hello to us.” – What Conan O’Brien said to them on his show

“Not really. I wouldn’t say so.” – If Conan’s popular in Ireland

“You kinda go, ‘Yeah, don’t be silly; it’s only me.’ But whenever people say nice things you just take the compliment and get on with it and stuff. You can’t really let anything throw your mind off balance or anything.” – On praise they’ve received

“Thanks very much. I hope to think so.” – On some writers seeming to think the band will save rock and roll (in a more serious way than Fall Out Boy’s tongue-in-cheek album title, “Save Rock and Roll.”)

“I think it’s equal. Our whole interest in music started off with Stones and the Animals and the Yardbirds and stuff, and we found out that a lot of the songs were covers. And then we’re like, ‘Oh, who did them first?’ And then we researched into the older blues stuff, and then that influenced all of us as well. We’re also influenced by ‘70s punk and loads of different kinds of music.” – If they’re more influenced by the Stones and Yardbirds or American blues artists

“Ripping off something is completely just copying something, and then a throwback as you’ve explained it is just a nod to your influences, which is what every band does. You can’t not do it.” – The difference between a throwback (which I define to him as something that affectionately nods to influences) and a rip-off

“That’s a hard question. Not really. Everything is from something. Everything has its own influences. No one can do anything new anymore. ” –If he’s heard a band that was doing something new

“I don’t really care about them. They can do whatever they want. If they want to say hello to us, then we’ll say hello to them. But I don’t think anyone’s going to arrange a meeting … It’s just not what we’re about. I’m sure they’re lovely people.”– On One Direction

“People say ‘the next One Direction,’ and we’re not at all. It is really annoying. Whatever age you are, you should just be [thought of] as another person. In the music business it’s your talent [that matters]; that’s what it should be. If you’re good at something, that’s all that should matter. You’re representing something good instead of being a pin-up that’s just manufactured to make money.” – More on 1D

“I wouldn’t call them music fans because people that listen to all that sort of stuff are just told to listen to it. Whatever is pumping out of the shops or restaurants or whatever people to go nowadays. It’s just blasting out; they don’t really have a choice. They’re kind of forced to like it. So I wouldn’t really call them music fans. I think music fans tend to listen to more actual music, searching for stuff that is real. You know, actual instruments and has a meaning or has a purpose.” – If it’s hard to appeal to young music fans who aren’t used to bands like the Strypes

“Providing an alternative to all that poppy [bleep].” – How they offer an opportunity to those who haven’t had a chance to hear rock

“The Arctic Monkeys; they’re very British. All their lyrics are very British, and the way he pronounces words, are like English slang words. So I can see how they wouldn’t take off [in America]. But I think Irish bands connect better over here because of the whole American/Irish thing. ... A lot of [Americans] claim that they’re Irish, so they kind of have a soft spot for Irish people I think.” – On crossover appeal

“We haven’t really had that huge level of success. I mean, I’m 16 years old; I should be living with my parents.” – If it’s been weird to have success and still live at home

The Strypes, 8 p.m. March 24 at Subterranean. $12.

Plus:
Who he’s listening to now: The Specials
Someone new he’s discovered: Gary Clark Jr.
Favorite movie: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”
Guilty pleasure TV: “I like ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ That’s probably my guilty pleasure. I know it’s not that funny, but I laugh at it. A lot of the jokes are just geek jokes, but I like it.”
A joke: “I haven’t heard a silly word in yonks.” (“Yonks” means a long time.)

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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