With a cool new album dropping later this month, The Struts continue on their journey to bigger & better music. With a few EPs and a full-length debut album, Everybody Wants, under their belts, and a reputation for being an exciting live band, The Struts are keeping their glam rock loving roots without becoming Freddie Mercury caricatures by simply evolving; which some bands stop doing once they hit upon a formula that works.
Young & Dangerous, due out October 26, will be album #2 for the band out of England who now make their home in the US. The first couple of tracks that have been released to the public are energetic and spicy, winkingly fun and maximized for audience participation: “Bulletproof Baby” has a heavy beat to gyrate to, as does the Kesha collaboration first single “Body Talks,” while “Primadonna Like Me” has Jagger swagger and full-tilt guitars. This album could definitely be the final fuel stop in skyrocketing them into rock superstardom.
Other bands have certainly taken a shine to them. Not only have they just finished up touring with the Foo Fighters – “They’re the best opening band we’ve ever had” according to Dave Grohl – but Guns N Roses, Motley Crue and the Rolling Stones have all asked them to warm up their crowds. If you can’t get Cheap Trick then The Struts is your next best bet as an opener.
With the flash and flair of singer Luke Spiller, this rocking band has so much to offer; not only because their frontman has vivaciousness to burn but the musicians behind him are equally exciting: guitarist Adam Slack, bass player Jed Elliott and hard-hitting drummer Gethin Davies. I’ve personally seen them live on several occasions and have never been disappointed, have never seen them lag in giving everything they had in them to put on an entertaining show. With their Body Talks tour having kicked off on the 21st in Detroit, they are just getting this ball rolling and Glide caught up with Spiller last week during a day off in New York. So keep reading for some insights into songs on Young & Dangerous, Spiller’s early days as a glam rock kid and their life-changing experience of opening for the Stones.
So Luke, where are you guys at today?
Oh God, where am I? (laughs) Definitely on tour. I’m actually in Albany. It’s got NY next to it, so yep, I assume that’s it.
You’ve been in the States long enough to know that NY is New York
(laughs) Well, I’m still English at heart so you’ll have to forgive me
Well you have a new record coming up on the 26th. How would you describe the music that is on Young & Dangerous?
I would describe it as a really great evolution from the debut album. It was basically written in mind with a sort of Part 2 mentality from Everybody Wants, if that makes any sense. But it also has a lot of cool new, what I would call, wild cards thrown in there, you know, cause we didn’t want to make a carbon copy of the first one and I think it was very important that we do grow and evolve. But it’s still very much, at it’s core, a hard-hitting Struts album. I actually think it’s stronger than the debut by miles. I think the songs on there are bigger and better and, dare say, more exciting.
Do you think that’s just from maturity or from opening for these huge bands and having some records under your belt?
I think it’s a bit of everything. I think it’s the traveling. I think it’s the world experience. I think it’s seeing what our audience reacts to and what they don’t react to. I think it’s knowing ourselves a bit more. And, you know, myself as a writer, I think how much I’ve grown as well. Once people listen from start to finish, they’ll have a sense of, wow, things have really come along.
You mentioned some wildcard songs on the album. What is one you can tell us about that you think will surprise your fans because it is different from your usual Struts material?
There is a track called “In Love With A Camera,” and that one was in it’s demo status for well over a year, because it was kind of like a bit of a jokey track. We really couldn’t finish the lyric off and it took about a year of writing lots of other material. It was finished very late in the creative process and once it was done it was kind of like, wow, are we going to stick with this? (laughs) Of course, label heard it and our management heard it and everyone was just going crazy, like, “Wow, this is so new and exciting.” So in that way we’ve taken some personal risks with quite a few of these tracks.
Another track is a song called “Who Am I?,” which has a real seventies disco/Rolling Stones ”Miss You”/Rod Stewart kind of “Hot Legs” meets Rocky Horror Picture Show vibe about it, which is definitely pushing the boat out there. I can say I think both of them are absolute superb tracks but will definitely take our audience by surprise.
Did they come from lyrics or a particular riff or did you knowingly want something to be really different and went from there?
Well, those two particular tracks were both written on an island off the south coast of England, where we did some really great material on the first album. With “In Love With A Camera,” the core of the song was written in about four or five hours before me and Adam got on a plane back to the UK for London. So yeah, we wanted something different, something completely instant. We wanted something that was going to take everyone by surprise and we ended up achieving that.
With “Who Am I?,” that was written in the same studio and it was basically me, Adam and the two producers just messing around, really, and the lyric, “Who am I?” came out while we were kind of jamming the song against some like mini-drums that were playing out the studio speakers. So that one was very instant and then was later tweaked, sort of about a year later, the same as “In Love With A Camera” was. So yeah, there were some definite decisions that were made, like, okay, let’s push things forward here, let’s grow. We wanted the album to be dangerous, hence the title of it, you know.
Did songwriting come as naturally to you as singing?
No, no, in fact, personally, from a very young age things have just kind of come naturally but kind of a lot later. I always used to be in theatre and dance and stuff like that and singing kind of came in my mid-teens. I wrote “Where Did She Go,” which was one of my first songs I really ever wrote, which appeared on Everybody Wants, when I was sixteen/seventeen years old. Then from that, I considered myself more as like a lyricist throughout my school years and college and stuff like that. Then once I met Adam, it was only then when I started to really kind of pick up instruments, at the age of nineteen/twenty/twenty-one, and really sort of like delve into chords and melody and actually building tracks up and making my own demos. And from that, I started to play piano more and more and more. For the first time ever, on this Body Talks tour, I’m actually playing piano onstage, which is a really cool evolution. So I’ve kind of picked up things from, I guess, from the standard of a lot of other singer-songwriters and people in bands. I’ve just kind of done things a little bit later on.
You had gospel in your early years. Has that shown up in any of your songs?
Oh yeah, yeah, for sure. There is a track called “People” on this next album which has a big Oasis kind of gospel chorus; and there is a track called “Freak Like You,” which is second to last on the album, and it has a really big gospel massive hook that comes towards the end. To be honest, “Freak Like You” in particular I would say, it’s gospel meets musical theatre and towards the end it gets really gospel and there’s like a saxophone solo in it. It’s full of a lot of soul and the way I kind of pull it to be individual is these really quirky lyrics where every single line is describing somebody out there in the world, from different walks of life and how they all come together at the end of the day. You know, we’re all freaks at the end of the day. That kind of sense of unity within people, that in itself, I think has a gospel quality to it.
When you were growing up and were wearing your rock & roll clothes and things like that, how many other kids were like you?
(laughs) Not a lot! Apart from, I guess, my school band that I had. We would roll around pretending that we were rock stars and we’d grow our hair long and sort of really celebrate being individuals. But even through college and stuff like that, I always kind of dressed and did what I wanted to do, which kind of segued into “Who Am I?,” really. That song is very much singing from the view of a guy who’s grown up in small towns, small seaside towns, in the United Kingdom and having experienced every name thrown at me with my long hair and stuff like that, in a town where every guy has a buzzcut and a pastel colored polo shirt on a Saturday night, you know. You experience life in a slightly different way and “Who Am I?” is playing up to that kind of asexual character, which I kind of embody onstage, which I found really liberating and interesting to do.
What was it like opening for one of the greatest rock & roll bands in the world, The Rolling Stones?
Honestly, it was life-changing. The first show we did with them in Paris was the start of a whole entire new chapter in our career. From that, we gained our American management and it was really the catalyst that kind of brought us to the United States, really, and we then got onto support a few other times since then. And it’s just great to watch them, if anything, cause let’s be honest, they’re human and even though they are god-like in a lot of people’s eyes, including mine, they are still human beings and they’re not going to be around for that much longer. So it’s an absolute honor to be a part of something they do and to get to see them now when they’re probably sounding and playing the best they ever have. It’s such an experience. It’s hard to put into words.
And they are still creative at seventy years old where some people just fall back and rest on what they have done.
Exactly, I think that’s exactly the reason why they’re going well into their seventies. They have this burning itch to carry on going, as individuals and as a band, and they are so inspiring. My God, how do you live up to that, you know, as any other group coming up on planet Earth at the moment.
When you started opening for these iconic bands, did you feel the need to readjust your live set for these bigger audiences?
Oh yeah, yeah, of course. For anyone it’s like these headline shows are very self-indulgent at times and the support slots are a lot like the festivals: they’re a lot shorter, forty-five minutes, maybe thirty, maybe an hour, so you have to kind of go in there and just thrill the audience like an automatic machine gun, just bang-bang-bang-bang-bang; no nonsense, just hit them with all the big songs and play the best you can and capitalize on how large the audience is and get them to come to our next show when we head on through to another town.
And you’re going to be touring for the rest of the year
Yep and probably the rest of my life, by the looks of it, if we carry on like this (laughs). I’m still having fun so that’s good.
Portrait by Leslie Michele Derrough; live photos by Jennifer Devereaux