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.”
Richard and “Canada AM” host Marci Ien talk about the weekend’s big releases, the pomp and circumstance of “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” the Tom Hanks dramedy “A Hologram for The King,” Sally Field in “Hello, My Name is Doris” and the sexy sax sounds of “The Devil’s Horn.”
Ask any male musician why they joined a band and 99 out of 100 will tell you it was for one very simple reason. To meet girls. Art, money and fame are often far distant second place to the lure of the opposite sex. Such is the case with Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) a fifteen-year-old school by with a crush on Raphina (Lucy Boynton) in the new musical romance “Sing Street” from director John Carney.
Fuelled by jittery new wave music, this Dublin set coming-of-age story is a crowd pleaser. The year is 1985 and Conor is a fifteen-year-old student at Synge Street Catholic School. Leaving the tyrannical Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley) behind one day he lays eyes on Raphina, a teen dream with a perm and aspirations to be a model in London.
In a clumsy attempt to impress her he asks if she’d like to perform in his band’s new video. Trouble is, he doesn’t have a band. Not yet, anyway. Enlisting manager Darren (Ben Carolan) and musicians Eammon (Mark McKenna), Ngig (Percy Chamburuka) among others, he forms a band, writes songs and works to win Raphina’s heart. ‘
With the help of his older brother, stoner Brendan (Jack Reynor), who tells him, “Rock and roll is a risk… you risk being ridiculed,” Conor changes his name to Cosmo and slowly finds his sound. The songs are crafted from his experience—his mom and dad’s martial troubles, the prissy priest who torments him and, of course, his lady love in “The Riddle of the Model”—and are catchy enough to impress audiences and maybe even Raphina.
Call “Sting Street” a neo “The Commitments” if you like—the two have much in a common, a strong soundtrack, a scrappy Dublin setting, a charming cast of unknowns—but the story of music’s power to change and uplift lives is a potent one. Director John Carney says the story is partially autobiographical and his personal touch elevates what could have been a run-of-the-mill rite-of-passage/dream girl story. Walsh-Peelo and Boynton are appealing central characters (even if the other band members are underwritten) but it is the music that binds it all together. Like Carney’s other films, “Once” and “Begin Again,” the tunes and Carney’s deft handling of them, work as more than just a soundtrack. They are the lifeblood of his stories, the thing that makes them special.
In one bravura fantasy sequence Cosmo imagines his video for “Drive It Like You Stole It” as an elaborate restaging of the prom scene in “Back to the Future,” complete with choreography and 1950s costumes. Instead of simply being a flash set piece, Carney works in all of Conor’s issues into the visuals, entertaining the eye and furthering the story.
There isn’t a cynical bone in “Sing Street’s” body. It celebrates risk taking and underdogs in a story that is as joyful as it is tuneful.