The Struts walk the walk of the next big rock band
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He’s got moves like Jagger — and a little of Tyler, Mercury and Bowie, too. And though he’s only 30, a mere junior to the Mount Rushmore of rock, it’s incredibly rare to find frontmen like Luke Spiller in the new leagues of rock bands. Someone who has the gumption to write puffed-chest songs like “In Love With a Camera” and “Primadonna Like Me” while keeping a poker face and treating every stage as if it was a three-night stand at Wembley being filmed for the BBC.
When: 6:30 p.m. Nov. 23-24
Where: House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn
Tickets: Sold out
The lead singer and head provocateur of British band The Struts (named for his stage sashaying) has been causing nothing short of a ruckus in recent years, along with his bandmates — guitarist Adam Slack, bassist Jed Elliott and drummer Gethin Davies — who create contagious rock hooks that could have been dustbin cuts from “Toys in the Attic” and “Appetite for Destruction.”
“We just want to become the biggest band ever, that’s it really,” Spiller says without hesitation in a recent phone call. The quartet is on tour to support The Struts’ sophomore release, the exceptionally confident glam overthrow, “Young & Dangerous” released Oct. 26. Yes, even their album titles drip of Sunset Strip swagger.
With the gap in over-the-top rock acts the past decade (or two), The Struts have been hailed as some kind of halo-crushing saviors of rock ‘n’ roll, though they scoff at that label. “We’re not really about bringing back a genre and we’re not here to wave a big rock-‘n’-roll flag,” Spiller adds. “But we are happy that people seem to be really enjoying what we are doing at the moment, because for a long time we struggled.”
The band fully formed in 2012 in Derbyshire, England, but it took a couple of years to really get the buzz they deserve, which came with their debut “Everybody Wants” in 2014-producing single “Kiss This.”
“Though we are still waiting for Radio 1 in the U.K. to give us a shot,” Spiller says, jokingly, noting that by large, American audiences have been ahead of the curve on The Struts thanks to more sustained radio play. There was also a sold-out tour with another up-and-comer, Greta Van Fleet, in early 2017 that pushed things forward. As well as early adopters like GQ’s Drew Magary (who also wrote the liner notes to “Young & Dangerous”) unabashedly calling The Struts “the most important British band to come to America since Oasis.”
The turning point, says Spiller, came in 2014, when The Rolling Stones personally tapped The Struts to open for them in France for an 80,000-person crowd that went mad for them. “That specific show is when things started to really turn around for us. From that point we actually started getting interest from a number of people,” he says. Including a stable of rock elite who also invited the band on the road with them for a grueling, nonstop trek (“We haven’t had an address for four years,” says Spiller); among them, The Who, Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue (on a reunion tour) and the Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl has called The Struts the best band to ever open for them, and if you were at the Foo’s summer shows at Wrigley Field this past July, you can attest to that qualifier.
“The biggest thing I take away from that show is when we jumped up on stage and played [the Queen/Bowie hit] ‘Under Pressure’ with them. That was fantastic,” says Spiller, adding they continue to have a good rapport with their rock elders. “I think they are all slightly protective over us. They’re always making sure we are not getting ripped off, are we getting enough money. They are very kind of punky in their ethics, it’s quite sweet.”
On their latest album, The Struts made a curious decision to do a duet with none other than Kesha on an alternate version of the bluesy clap-along hit, “Body Talks.”
“We met her at a college show and started chatting and kept in touch while we were writing the album. We agreed it would be great to have some sort of collaboration. All the screams and laughing between us on that track, that was genuine,” says Spiller, noting that the move has paid off in garnering an expanded fan base, too. “We’ve already like been meeting fans on a daily basis that discovered us through Kesha.”
With the new music, Spiller hopes to also influence some of the younger fans to pick up a guitar or perhaps stand in the mirror and mimic their favorite singers as he once did.
“It’s been a natural progression, teaching myself how to dance — or what I thought was dancing anyway. My friends and I were really fascinated by the older stars of rock. Even when I was 15 I still noticed this giant lack of anyone else doing what they did. It kind of liberated me and made me feel unique in a way,” he says.
It helps too that he has had designers like Zandra Rhodes (Freddie Mercury’s former designer) and Ray Brown (Lady Gaga, Muse) creating stage looks for him. “That’s how I got turned on to music, and I think whether it was discovering what I identified to be my own taste or whether it was the experiences of being in a band as well, it’s something I’d highly recommend to any young person. It creates a bond that never ever dies, especially in your early to mid-teens. It’s such a fantastic way to grow up, and I would like everyone else to experience that.”
Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.