The Struts' Luke Spiller Talks Bringing Guitar-Driven Music Back To Top 40
The Struts have burst onto the scene in the U.S. By infusing the style and flair of glam rock with a unique and modern twist, The Struts have proven themselves ripe for radio play. Perhaps most well-known at this early stage in their career for their massive hit, "Could Have Been Me" – which hit #5 on the U.S. Alternative charts – the band followed that up with the widely-played "Kiss This," giving the Struts their second top-20 single on the US Alternative before their album even released in the States.
With their 2014 debut album, Everybody Wants, finally releasing in the US on March 4 of this year and an enormous tour across America in promotion of that album starting soon, I caught up with The Struts charismatic frontman, Luke Spiller, to get his point-of-view on getting the respect of legendary musicians, putting on a great performance, and bringing guitar-driven music back to Top 40.
There was a different version of Everybody Wants that was released in the U.K. in 2014 that contains different songs. How do you make the decision to cut songs from one version?
It was tough, but I kind of took a little bit of a backseat on that one just because on a lot of levels they’re all like my babies. I have the final say of course – it was narrowed down – but what I concentrated most on was creating the new tracks, which were really fun to do, like “Mary Go Round,” “Young Stars,” “These Times Are Changing,” and a few more. I was more concentrated on that and I thought we’d cross that bridge when we get to it because we had to do it – we’re under a new label and we need to make it fresh. It was really hard, and I think we just kind of sat down and made some really tough decisions. Management as well kind of stepped in and the label had their opinions. Either way, I think it’s a better album than ever now.
With regards to the new songs, you guys really struck a good balance between some of the more heartfelt songs like “Mary Go Round” and some of the more over-the-top songs like “The Ol’ Switcheroo.”
That's the one! That’s one of my favorites!
I think it was Joe Elliott from Def Leppard who described glam rock as “Pop music dressed up in a rock and roll outfit.” Do you subscribe to that definition?
I think there’s a lot of truth to what he’s saying. He’s a huge fan, by the way. He messaged me a few days ago saying hello and whatnot. I have to believe there’s some semblance of truth to what he thinks. I guess with the Struts, I think when people talk about glam, we can’t look at it in the same way or put ourselves in the same bracket as the glam that people are typically referring to, which would be the ‘70s and the kind of glam which I personally am a big fan of – that hair metal phase through the ‘80s like Twisted Sister, etcetera. I think we’re our own kind of version of glam. In terms of our pop sensibility, yes we definitely do have that, but more than anything we try to make good rock songs. We’re trying to bring back guitar solos and guitar-driven music back to the Top 40. In terms of the image and the way I dress, that’s just what I’ve always wanted to do and that’s always how I dress, so it seemed to be like a slight coincidence with us being labeled as glam and whatnot. I really do think we have a pop sensibility with our songs as well because you have to in this day and age.
One thing you have to think about when you talk about bringing rock back to Top 40 is you have to write songs that are both autobiographical and universal in how they appeal to people both in sound and lyrical content. What are the challenges of that?
One part is sticking by your guns and believing in what you do because I’m being very realistic on if this album has songs and leading singles. I personally think that we’ve generated a formula which could potentially go straight to Top 40 radio but yet have the rock edge. Crafting a song with those elements in it comes very naturally. Me and Adam [Slack] work quite well together in terms of not going too far right and not going too far left. We tend to bring a good balance to what we want to achieve.
I haven’t had the chance to catch a Struts show yet, but every account is you guys put on a great show. What are the keys to putting on a great live show?
First, every night you have to bust your ass. Not one night can I think that I haven’t done 110% to the point where I’m being physically able to say, “That’s enough.” Obviously if my voice is giving up I have to be fairly intelligent about it and cut a song or two or leave slightly early. Other than that, putting on a show is making yourself completely vulnerable to the audience and not letting anything hide. I might as well be naked on stage most of the time – that’s how I feel anyway if that makes any kind of sense. I never stop looking at the whites of their eyes, I never stop pushing myself. The main goal is that the listening experience of the album is one thing, but I’ve always been very conscious from an early age when it comes to seeing an actual concert, I want it to be an attack of the senses rather than just a slightly bigger listening experience. I want you to be visually…the smells…everything. It just has to be bigger than just sitting down with their headphones listening to the album.
You were talking about how Joe Elliott is a big fan of yours. What does it feel like to have the respect of big legends of the industry that you grew up listening to?
It’s crazy, man. It really is. It’s definitely a compliment. There was a time when this band was being kicked to the ground. The U.K. has never, ever, ever played any of our songs since we started as a group and put out this album. Even when the album originally came out in 2014 in the U.K. on a U.K. label, we had no radio play, we had no media coverage. Even to this day, the U.K. still hasn’t played our songs on the radio. To have people like Joe Elliott and Steven Tyler more recently – a good friend of mine, I met him in Maui – legends like that absolutely loving the band…and then on the other side as well. Amazing, amazing writers like Desmond Child – legendary writer the guy who wrote “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Livin’ la Vida Loca” – for him to turn around and say the songwriting is fantastic on this album means a lot and it’s given us a new boost of energy and confidence and we can’t wait to spread that confidence – that hot butter – all over the toasty USA.
Obviously a lot of people are excited about what you guys are bringing to the table, but what are you listening to right now?
I’ve been listening to all sorts of things. I’ve been listening to a lot of blues lately. Just on my iPod, I’ve been listening to Abba and I’ve been checking out 5 Seconds of Summer’s latest stuff because I’m working with their producer, John Feldmann, who’s a brilliant guy. At the end of the day, I listen to my own little musical bubble. I do not care for magazines and people putting things in front of me like, ‘I need to listen to this’ and, ‘I need to listen to that.’ I think music should always be a genuine discovery and that’s the only way anyone ever feels any ownership over it. I go on little journey’s myself. I’ll go from one thing to the next through related artists and different playlists. It’s great. I’m 27, but I’m still discovering and being inspired by new and old music every day, so I feel very lucky.
I’m right there with you in terms of music discovery needing to be this organic process. That’s one of my favorite things to do – just dive into musicians that I love and bands I’m really into at the moment and find related artists and go down this rabbit hole and find more stuff that’s similar but takes it in a new direction. I’m definitely with you there.
Yeah, exactly! It’s cool. It’s great to do that.
Is there anything else we need to know about your tour or the new album?
If anyone wants to check us out live, check out TheStruts.com for tickets and a list of dates. Trust me, I’ve seen the list of dates and it’s f---ing huge! We’re peeling back one layer at a time in terms of the full list, so keep an eye on TheStruts.com for all the latest dates. We’re doing a VIP package now for a little bit more, but what you get is a meet & greet, question-and-answer session as well, and you can find that via the ticketing section on TheStruts.com.