The first time Jacob Deraps and Josh Gallagher shared a stage was with Toto. After the pair met through YouTube and collaborated remotely, Australian drummer Gallagher flew to guitarist/singer Deraps’s Canadian home town in the summer of 2017. Local bar shows, festivals and private parties beckoned. First, though, they had tickets to see Steve Lukather and co. – preceded by a meet-and-greet that surpassed their wildest dreams.
“That was really insane,” 25-year-old Deraps enthuses. “We asked if we could come up and do a song with them, on their sound-check, and they agreed and we played Rosanna. It was the first time me and Josh played together, but it didn’t feel like the first time. There’s a connection between us. ”
Deraps haven’t even done a proper tour yet, but the young fans at their first gigs quickly drew parallels between the band and Van Halen, in the same way that Greta Van Fleet were compared to Led Zeppelin. Written, recorded and produced entirely by Deraps and Gallagher, their self-titled debut doesn’t so much wear its influences on its sleeve as dress head-to-toe in them.
Still, with such spot-on delivery, killer riffs and moreish choruses it’s ferociously good fun. Single Sex, Drugs And Rock & Roll is like Hot For Teacher on Haribo, hard to resist. But Deraps isn’t just a Van Halen fest. The blues rock of Stevie Ray Vaughan can be heard in Live Fast, Die Slow, while funky bass lines, pop gloss and Metallica-come-Guns N’ Roses beef pepper the rest of the record.
“Van Halen has always been an obsession,” Deraps concedes. “The sound, the guitar playing, the feel and the groove. But it’s not a copycat thing.”
Born in Quebec in 1997, Jacob Deraps grew up immersed in a wide range of music. His father played guitar in local bars, his mother played jazz saxophone, classical piano and bass. In a 21st-century twist, though, it was videogames that inspired him to pick up the guitar.
Aged 11, he was with his parents in a shopping mall when he saw a red V-shaped guitar “exactly like the one I saw in Rock Band”. He begged them buy it. They compromised with an alternative model, which Deraps became hooked on: “With Guitar Hero there’s a lot of songs from the seventies and eighties and I just loved that music, so when I picked up the [real] guitar I knew what I wanted to play.”
At 16 he quit school to focus on music, working factory shifts and temporary jobs on the side. He threw himself into making YouTube videos, and wound up on stage with Dweezil Zappa before meeting Gallagher and forming Deraps in 2017. To date, their gigging has been restricted by geography and Quebec’s long brutal winters. Now, plans for a European tour are in the works.
“We want to tour, we’re ready for that,” Deraps says. “And I want to be in an environment where I can not worry about anything else and make music all the time.
Deraps by Deraps is out now.