Pete Townshend, guitar god of The Who, says he learned to play guitar and started a band for two reasons:
A: His nose. B. To meet girls.
About his nose he said, “It was huge. It was the reason I played guitar.” He also noted that bands (even band-members with large noses) “always got the best girls.”
“It is definitely one of the things that inspires lads to play music,” agrees Sing Street star Ferdia Walsh-Peelo.
Ask most male musicians why they joined a band and 99 out of 100 will tell you it was for one very simple reason, to meet women. Art, money and fame are often far distant second place to the lure of the opposite sex. Such is the case with Conor (Walsh-Peelo) a fifteen-year-old school by with a crush on Raphina (Lucy Boynton) in Sing Street, the new musical romance from Once director John Carney that plays like a spiritual cousin to The Commitments.
“I think that is the thing that gets Conor started and gets people started pop music,” he says. “Then you form the band and you find refuge in the music. It becomes more than just getting the girl. It’s actually a way of coping when things are crap.
“I didn’t have a great time in school and I went through all these similar kind of phases [as Conor]. I remember seeing [the John Lennon biopic] Nowhere Boy and me and this other guy at school bought leather jackets, gelled our hair back and went into school. Bringing combs with us and doing our hair like in Grease. Looking like complete twats running around town just doing mad stuff. It’s all part of the process. Finding yourself and finding your voice.”
Born and reared just thirty minutes outside Dublin in in County Wicklow, in the film the young actor is the perfect picture of an 80s rock star, despite knowing next to nothing about the decade or the music when he signed on to play Conor.
“It was a huge learning curve,” he says. “I hadn’t reached that point where I was diving into 80s music. I suppose I was up to the late Sixties. When I went into Sing Street I was playing bands and we were still in that place. I was listening to loads of country, music from Tennessee, skiffle music, bluegrass. I had been experimenting with loads of different kinds of music and I got into the 80s stuff when we shot the movie.
“It took me a while but then I got into it after watching a million ridiculous 80s videos. I just got it,” he says. “They just weren’t taking themselves seriously at all. It was just that kind of era. It was all just mad, wasn’t it? There was loads of horrendous stuff around at that time but there were a few gems. Hall and Oates are absolute gems of the pop stuff.”
The musician-turned-actor also singles out The Cure and The Talking Heads as great stuff,” but says his heart lies in folk music.
“Folk music is always where it’s been at for me. I played skiffle music with bands for the craic (fun) of it but when I came back, in my room I’d be listening to Joni Mitchell.”