The glam rock band's lead singer discusses their success in America, hanging out with the Foo Fighters, watching the World Cup and, even, playing English lawn bowls in LA.
Back in 2009, The Struts formed in the sleepy town of Derby, when Bristol-raised singer Luke Spiller moved to be closer to songwriter and guitarist Adam Slack. Soon recruiting bass player Jed Elliot and drummer Gethin Davies, the band put out a debut album, ‘Everybody Wants’, in 2014, followed by an EP, ‘Have Your Heard’, a year later, and exploded in the US. Their debut show at LA-haunt the Troubadour sold out in just 30 minutes.
Since then, they’ve toured with the likes of The Rolling Stones and Guns N’ Roses, and are currently playing a string of sold-out shows with the Foo Fighters in America. Tickets have also sold-out for many of their own gigs.
But the band – self-described as “the strange kids in the playground” – have struggled to gain traction in the UK, being shunned by radio stations for more mainstream-sounding artists.
Earlier this month, Dave Grohl, acknowledging that The Struts “don’t get a lot of love in England,” said that the group are “best opening band we’ve ever had.”
And, with a second album set to be released in September, the band look primed to finally breakthrough in the UK.
So, who the hell are The Struts? And what would success in their home country mean to them? NME spoke to lead singer Luke Spiller to find out.
“We are an unconventional band – whether it’s the look and the music – and we’re going to rise to the absolute top in a very unconventional way”
What did Dave Grohl’s words mean to you?
Spiller: “Dave and the whole entire band have been so supportive with us, especially meeting them and touring with them. To be completely honest, we’ve supported some huge acts in the past, like The Stones, Mötley Crüe, The Killers, and Guns ‘n’ Roses, but it’s very rare that you ever have a real relationship with – not just one – but the whole band, whether it’s playing football with them, or talking about music, Queen in particular.”
“When we heard the amazing things Dave was saying, we thought it was great because, like he said, we haven’t had a lot of attention in the UK. Everyone was just buzzing, and all of a sudden all these people from the UK were thinking, ‘who is this band?’ It’s been a real gift.”
So you’ve been playing football with the Foos?
“It’s normally Jed [The Struts’ bass player], who plays football with a couple of guys from the band and a lot of their crew as well. It’s nothing too competitive – it’s kind of like five-a-side. I would love to join in but, as Dave knows, if you get injured it can hurt your performance. So I tend to stay out of it – and I don’t want to embarrass them, I don’t want to show them up.”
How would you describe your sound to those who haven’t heard you?
“A new era of glam rock. To get more specific, I think we have this great mixture of The Rolling Stones and Queen, kind of like fused together, and when you do that you get this real broad and magnificent sound, where you can downplay it a little bit or go really theatrical.”
Why are you are more successful in the US?
“Before I answer that, honestly, it’s all worked out the absolute most perfect way. We are a non-conventional band – whether it’s the look and the music – and we’re going to rise to the absolute top in a very unconventional way.”
“The short story is we were inherited from a certain label, and we put out this album, nothing really happened – we had no press, no radio, apparently radio didn’t want to play it. We were very much in the dumps, and we made some internal changes, and upon doing so we came into contact with these American managers, which heard the same music, the same mixes, the same album and took it straight to American radio and it went straight up to the top. All of a sudden it was like pack up your bags, you have to leave – and you won’t be coming back.
Why do you think you didn’t break through in the UK?
“Without pointing too many fingers – because I believe everything happens for a reason – it’s just a beautiful combination of being managed terribly, and having a record label that, to be quite frank, didn’t have the balls to put their neck out and take this stuff to radio [in the UK].”
“And, I get it, it’s different. I understand it. If I was some radio intern at a record label, I tell you what I would want to take to Radio 1 – and that’s a band that sounds like every other group…What I wouldn’t want is this kind of band that from the surface, could be seen as a little bit strange or, daresay, [a] throwback or not very cool. We were definitely the strange kids in the playground, that nobody didn’t want to talk to or introduce to their friends.”
How do you feel about it?
“Honestly, it’s all turning round. I used to be incredibly bitter about it, and it used to spur me on. But I’d just like to congratulate you, this is our first ever NME feature and interview. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
How is your second album coming on?
“The second album is completely done and dusted. The first single, ‘Body Talks’, from the new album has been out for just over a week or so. We’re just going to continue to drop music as it goes to radio, basically.”
“It’s in that difficult process where it’s all been done, but it’s just the mixing, which is really annoying, a lot of back and forth. It looks like it’s going to be flying out for about – I think we’re aiming for – September.”
What can we expect from your new album?
“Honestly, there’s 14 tracks on this album Every single one of them is an absolute showstopper. I have no reservations of letting anything leak out slowly. I just know that it’s all superb. I can’t wait to get it out there.”
“The majority of it is basically what The Struts are, and that is escapism. Up to now, apart from hanging out with Dave Grohl et cetera, my life has been quite boring – so there hasn’t been a lot to draw on from that. So I tend to go with people who are existing in my head, without sounding too strange.”
“There’s a lot of social commentary, as well. There’s a couple of things that are more personal to me, whether it’s dealing with the acceptance or not being accepted from small towns and small-minded people. Other parts of the album are songs which are very much continuations from the first, and intentionally doing so.”
What would it mean to you to breakthrough in the UK?
“It really would mean the world. We’ve been grafting in the US for three plus years, and to be completely honest, it was never the sort of thing we originally sort of imagined. So to sort of finally start gaining some traction and possibly getting one of songs played on UK radio, after all of these years, would be a huge triumph. Not only for us, but for the loyal fans that have stuck with us through thick and thin.”
“The US has been absolutely amazing, and I think we’ve gone about it in this beautifully strange way of almost going backwards, but it’s taught us an awful lot. And to be quite fair to ourselves, I think it’s giving us the upper hand on a lot of our contemporaries because we’re working harder than any other band in the UK.”
It really would mean the world. We’ve been grafting in the US for three plus years, and to be completely honest, it was never the sort of thing we originally sort of imagined.
What do you get up to on tour when you’re not playing?
“I like to paint a lot. I do commissions where I paint guitars in my spare time and that gives me a bit of extra cash to splash out on new outfits. I like to play English lawn bowls, as well. I’m actually a member of the Beverley Hills LA bowling club. I like hanging out with the 60 pluses and talking about their golden years. Terribly English, but I love it.”
Who have you been painting guitars for?
“I did one as a thank you gift on the first Foos tour. It took me ages, it was a real labor of love. They got it out and Dave was like ‘Pat you’ve got to play it’, and of course that night, Pat got the guitar out and played it. It was amazing.”