By Shelley Marsden
TWO top Irish acts stole most of the limelight at Sunday’s inaugural Home Coming Festival at Regents Park Open Air Theatre, London.
The event, hosted by private members club Home House and in aid of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, saw the likes of Sophie Ellis Bextor and Ed Harcourt take to the stage in a homage to London entitled Songs in the Key of London.
But the two stand-out acts of the night, according to audience reaction at least, were Cavan four-piece The Strypes, widely heralded as the new face of rock and roll, and Maverick Sabre, who is back with a brand new album this summer after a quiet year or so.
THE FABULOUS FOUR
Sound-checking before the gig, two members of The Strypes (whose ages range from 16 to 18), bassist Peter O’Hanlon and drummer Evan Walsh, told the Irish World they were excited about the concert ahead, but of all the gigs they’ve done (and these have included pre-Oscar events, touring with The Arctic Monkeys and more), one of their favourites of all time was in one of their locals back home.
“It was last year and we were just doing a bit of a low-key gig, but it ended up lasting hours and everybody was just so up for it”, said Jack.
That says it all really, for the band of smart-suited, fast-blues playing teens who bring the term ‘feet-on-the-ground’ and self-assurance to a whole new level.
Asked what it was like to be on America’s David Letterman Show back in March, drummer Evan said: “It was fine but look, without sounding like, arrogant, we really are all about the music and people enjoying it. You’re in and out of the studio in three hours.
“And it’s just a show, no matter how impressed people are by it. You’re still coming out and doing a show in front of 300, 400 people that night.”
Elton John – as well as the likes of Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller and Jeff Beck – is a huge fan of the band (they share the same record label), but again Evan is quick to brush off the celebrity kudos.
“It’s smoke and mirrors, of all that”, said ?? “Yeah we’ve met him a couple of times and he’s a nice guy but that’s all it is. We’re really not into the hysteria of celebrity. We’re not party animals either; we’re just into the music.”
“I can’t speak for the rest of the band, but I’m the most boring person in the world, so I don’t google myself or the band, I don’t really have a clue about the hype around us, apart from what other people tell us”, said ??.
And then there’s the look. As per usual, the lads are smartly dressed in sharp suits and Doc Martins, very much in keeping with their musical heroes Dr Feelgood, The Yardbirds et al.
Said Jack: “Yeah, the look’s important to us but not in an egotistical, image-driven way; in the way that it harks back to the bands we love, and people can identify with that and with our music.”
A modern young band that’s absorbed in the sounds of the 60s and 70s, they have previously been scathing about the music they are surrounded by these days, but name-drop Irish bands The Raglins and The Hot Sprockets as two they “really respect and love hearing live”.
Homeboys at heart (each member still lives with mum and dad), they told the Irish World they can’t see themselves leaving Cavan any time soon.
“We’re never home anyway, so I don’t really see the point”, said Evan. “But no, it’s not something that appeals at all. My dad is our tour manager so I see him all the time anyway. He keeps us on the straight and narrow. We make the music, don’t we – we can’t be expected to organise ourselves as well!”
“I’m really happy to be talking to you”, said Maverick Sabre when the Irish World spoke to him backstage. “I always pick up the Irish World when I can you know. I live in Crouch End so I get it up in the Waitrose there. It’s my little Irish fix, your paper and my Tayto.”
The 23 year old singer, born in Hackney but brought up in New Cross, said playing in a natural amphitheatre like the one in Regent’s Park is quite special – something that comes around rarely for a singer.
He also said, after a period of relative quiet, that fans could expect to hear a lot more of him in the next few months as he prepares to release a new single and album, the much-anticipated follow-up to Lonely Are The Brave, which reached No.2 in the UK album charts.
“Things are starting to get rolling. We put out the video to the first single, Emotion, online just last week and that’s going to kick-start the whole cycle again. I’ve just finished the record, so we’re just mixing and mastering it now. And I’ll be releasing more stuff over the summer so yeah, I’m back, 100%.”
He said the sound on his new album is focused, as always, around his voice: “That will always hold a soulful element to whatever I create. But for me this record is a lot… a lot tougher than the first. I’ve taken a lot more from the hip-hop influences I grew up with in Ireland.”
He added: “Grime and hip-hop raised me. I’m sure I annoyed me mam to bits. I apologise for that mam… but for me it’s bringing what I’ve learned in the last couple of years – that fresh creativity – back to what first inspired me to make music.”
The single Emotion, which samples Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody, was recorded with Jamaican dancehall legend Stephen McGregor. Sabre was over in Jamaica to work with him, and it’s an island he’s been to several times.
“The energy over there is beautiful. I’ve been many times but this was my first time in Kingston, so to be able to go there and create and have that element on the record was beautiful”, he said.
“I love Jamaica. To me it’s like a Caribbean version of Ireland. I’m serious; there are a lot of similarities: the honesty of the people, the love of history and culture, especially the music.
“If you listen to early Irish folk and compare it with roots reggae from way back to Burning Spear and Dennis Brown, listen close enough and there are similarities in the pain, the struggle and what they’re striving for. That feeling is still there, in Ireland and Jamaica. For me it was like going in and being a painter, being given new brushes to play around with.”
The top-selling artist admitted he misses Ireland: “There’s a way of life, a pace of life that you don’t get in London. London’s so quick, everyone’s cold in a certain way, head down and get on with it.”
The singer feels blessed, though, that after moving to the big smoke seven years ago, he now finds himself surrounded by most of his family.
“As the economic situation back home got gradually worse, all my friends and family ended up over here in London. My sister lives two minutes up the road.
“When I first moved over it was tough, coming from a small town of 8,000 in Ireland to life in East London! But I have a good balance here now. Me mum and dad are still home so I go back all the time anyway. I make sure I get my fix!”
See https://homehouse.co.uk for more.