It’s not very often that I venture outside my comfort zone and sacrifice a Saturday night of leisure to go jaunting through the country roads of Glossop, down the road work ridden debacle of the M1, and onto Nottingham a couple of hours away from home. It seems even more puzzling when there’s not even the prospect of a few beers and a heavy night waiting afterwards, but sometimes in life these things are well worth the sacrifice, especially when it comes to watching a band that restore your faith in music, capturing the glitz and glamour of a time now passed, simply called the ‘60s and 70s music scene.’ They are every bit as theatrical and dramatic as this statement suggests, and they are, ‘The Struts’, a vibrant four piece made up of lead singer, Luke Spiller; lead guitarist, Adam Slack; bassist, Jed Elliott; and drummer Gethin Davies. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them, you will!!
Ever since I saw them for the first time almost two years ago, they’ve been a band that I’ve avidly followed and impatiently waited to see burst onto the commercial scene, and really take control of the genre. They are a band that has fantastic, overpowering tunes, full of great riffs and a rhythm section that matches their lead singer’s dynamism. In Luke Spiller, we see something that is completely unique in today’s industry, something that has been lost since the 70s, a real onstage performer who not only has one hell of a wail, but has the natural, breath taking stage theatrics that rival any of the glam rock performers we’ve seen down the years.
With that in mind, why would I not venture down to Nottingham’s Spanky Van Dykes and interview a band that could be a game changer to the scene in the future? We spoke openly with ‘The Struts’, who were every bit as insightful as their music, to find out how their single, ‘Could’ve Been Me’ eventually did in the iTunes charts, how they ended up rocking a festival as a headline act in France, and why 2014 is such an exciting time for them!
NIGE: How did ‘The Struts’ form? You consider yourselves a Derby based band but you’re all not originally from Derby?
LUKE: Yeah we’re all from different parts of the country, but how it came about was me and Ads were on the same management company and both of the bands we were in at the time had fallen apart due to University and growing apart at 16 and 17 years old. We were encouraged to write with each other so I started coming up to Derby and writing with Ads. Once we had a really good body of work we then got the record deal. Jed and Geth then got involved when we were asking people on the live circuit if we they knew a drummer and a bassist. We did a few auditions, but they really stood out, and it’s been getting stronger and stronger since.
NIGE: So you are actually signed then? What plans do they have with you?
LUKE: Yes with Virgin EMI.
GETHIN: We’ve got an album coming out in the first quarter of next year. A hell of a lot of touring as well.
ADAM: Two more singles are coming up in the New Year too.
NIGE: The single ‘Could Have Been Me’ has just been released, and I was following it at the time when you were posting updates on its rise. How did it end up doing?
LUKE: We literally put this single out for the fans, and we weren’t looking to chart. We weren’t out there pushing it nor had any budget. It ended up getting to number 8 on the iTunes alternative chart and the video got to number one on the alternative music video chart! It’s got plays on XFM, MTV and is currently being used on the Rugby coverage.
ADAM: It’s done a lot for us!
NIGE: How many have been sold on iTunes?
LUKE: We know it charted but we don’t know how many sold.
JED: The hype is around the single we’re bringing out at the start of next year. That’s the one we’re really going to push.
LUKE: We should be doing a lot more things revolving around that. We’ve done a few TV spots which should be aired in January or February time, so there’s going to be a bigger push and a lot more tension so to speak.
NIGE: Is it going to be a typical ‘Struts’ sound like ‘I Just Know’ and ‘Could’ve Been Me’?
LUKE: Yeah we’re looking for another high energy performance based video. Maybe something more glamorised with lots of glitter, maybe some confetti, sexy girls and starfish nipples, that sort of thing!
NIGE: Regards ‘Could Have Been Me’, how much do the lyrics reflect your mindset as a band, as there is an ‘I don’t want to die wandering’ feel to it?
LUKE: It was written about two years ago now! The band has had to overcome some tribulations and hurdles, but at that specific time some really annoying stuff was going on and we were trying to get through it. That song completely reflected how we felt and it’s that mentality that’s got us exactly to where we are now, sitting with you and talking. We’re that kind of band where we keep the subject matter of the tracks quite personal. We think that if you want to make a great song then you have to sing about something that you know about!
NIGE: For me personally it is one of those tracks that you easily connect with and apply to your own life.
GETHIN: That’s the best thing. If it’s a personal thing that people can relate to then that’s like a bonus for us.
LUKE: That’s the beauty of music! I think we’ve stayed true to ourselves and it’s been hard at times, but we’ve got some really good songs out of it.
NIGE: Luke, having seen you on stage a few times, how fucked are you afterwards? Where do you get your energy from?
LUKE: Haha. I’ve been working on my stamina.
JED: No half measures though with the set. Even if you’re out of breath you keep going!
LUKE: There’s been a few times in my life where I’ve gone up and I’ve been stroppy and moody and not done anything, but I felt mortified afterwards because I felt like I’ve not been myself. I realise now that if there’s six or six hundred watching it’s always good to go for it because the band feed off it too, well we all feed off each other.
NIGE: I remember the first time I saw you play at FAC251 in Manchester and there were six or so people there because of a problem on the door and you still went for it then!
LUKE: Yeah that was around the time when things started to pick up. We were in the Pretty Green Store that day and we were all really hyped for the show. We just went for it anyway because we’d gone all that way. Why give 90% when you can give 100%?
NIGE: Who do you draw inspiration from regards your showmanship?
LUKE: I would definitely have to say Freddie Mercury. I love the feminist stance of people like Robert Plant, and the androgynous vibe of people like Bowie and Marc Bolan. People like that who I find different and inspiring, I just really dig. Admittedly a lot of them are from the 60s and 70s. I like people who think forward and put themselves out on the line, who literally go up onstage and perform naked so to speak.
NIGE: How would you describe the band to someone who hasn’t listened before?
ADAM: Recently we’ve been saying Glamorous Indie Rock n Roll.
JED: There’s a real eclectic mix of influences on the album, some quite unexpected things.
LUKE: It’s quite funny because when we did ‘Could’ve Been Me’ and ‘I Just Know’ everyone was saying we’d ruined our sound, but we’ve got a body of work which spans well over an albums worth of material, so it’s funny how people can say we’ve thrown away our sound, but it’s quite strategically done. Like Jed said, once you hear the album you’ll hear this great, lovely and colourful pallet of music where it’s dynamic. We’re all really proud of it and can’t wait for people to hear it, but if we were to describe ourselves it would be glamorous indie rock n roll.
NIGE: In the past you’ve spoken of cautious bands? Why do you think that is in today’s music industry?
LUKE: I think more than ever the indie/rock bands aren’t selling music like they used to in the 90s, even with the likes of Arctic Monkeys. I think the caution is in the song writing and the performance. A lot of bands are making vibey music for the sake of it in certain areas. My beef is to do with the performance aspect because a lot of them aren’t willing to give the crowd their money’s worth, and that’s where we feel there is a gap that we can fill. Everyone’s sort of too cool for school, and we’re saying it’s cool to be happy. It’s nice to smile and see people on the front row smile and you smile back. We like to think that we’re accessible as a band and as human beings. We’re not gonna stand there on a pedestal and tell people to go away, we’ll talk to everyone.
ADAM: I think magazines tend to hone in on people too cool for school because it makes them cool aswell. I think if we get this wave of ‘it’s cool to be happy’ and actually look up and not at the floor when you’re on stage then music can be brought back round again. I think it’s been in that kind of decline for a while now. In the 70s with bands like T.Rex and Slade everyone was like happy and glamorous, and I think it can come back.
GETHIN: A lot of bands are afraid of chart success and because the charts are the way they are they say we’re too cool for that. Why not aim for the top?
LUKE: We want to aim for the top and we’re literally at that stage where when it comes to the press and magazines and stuff like that we’re not bothered by any of it. If people want to slag us off and call us this, that and the other then they can do that, but as long as people still turn up to our shows having a great time, and we’re having a great time then that’s all that really matters. If we end up being a people’s band then so be it. We’ve gone this far without caring about what anyone’s doing at this present moment, what anyone’s wearing at the present moment, and what anyone else sounds like. We’ve been true to ourselves up to this point so there’s no point stopping now.
NIGE: How come releases have been limited, because you have been together for a while?
LUKE: We’ve had a few things happen internally within our team, but it’s the business, stuff like this happens all the time. You learn to never take anything fully until it’s there right in front of your face and it’s actually happened, because people say stuff and then it doesn’t happen. It’s a very fickle and weird business, but we have had bad luck. The last eight months we’ve been going onwards and upwards so you’re catching us at a really exciting time at the moment.
ADAM: In hindsight the stars have aligned in a good way that we’ve had bad luck at the right time because we might not have been ready a year or so ago.
LUKE: We appreciate everything good that happens to us now. There’s been so many times where we’ve been pacing around the house asking what’s going on and what are we doing with our lives?
JED: We’ve learnt an awful lot about the industry we’re going into now through what we’ve done in the last two years. Like Adam said, I think everything’s twisted to a positive now and it’s onwards and upwards from here.
NIGE: You’ve got a few dates in France coming up, how did that come about?
ADAM: We’ve got a good agent.
LUKE: We’ve been really lucky because last year we were put into contact with a few big festivals over there, and we managed to land good slots.
JED: We played the headline slot at one in an old airline hanger at one in the morning to about three thousand drunk French people.
LUKE: It was one of those opportunities that we seized. We got given the slot that we might not have deserved but we just reaped all of those rewards. We were really lucky and the French just seemed to love and appreciate our music, and English music in general.
NIGE: Did you play Spain last year too?
GETHIN: We recorded in Spain and had a road trip, which wasn’t really that necessary. We had this budget and thought we’d go somewhere nice to record it. I think it captured the vibe in the song to be honest. We laugh when we listen to it because of the experiences we had on the trip.
ADAM: Blood, sweat and tears went into that recording. More tears!!
LUKE: We drove from the South of Spain to Derby in one stint.
GETHIN: Thirty six hours and a snowstorm in the North of France!
ADAM: I was crying in the back of the van it was so cold and we had no heating.
NIGE: What was the best bit about the trip?
ADAM: We went to Marbella. We went to this club and they were charging 200 euros a table, but our producer said, “Do you know who these guys are? They’re The Struts!” So he was like, “Ok come in!” The measurements for JD were insane too.
NIGE: What’s been the best thing about being in a band so far?
LUKE: I think it’s a mixture of loads of stuff. I know it sounds silly but being able to talk to people who are interested in the stories is a really cool thing. The creative process and the live performances are what you’re in it for.
ADAM: You get to do what you love really!
LUKE: Yeah. I was a cleaner for ages and I’ve always worked. I always had that dream that seems unreachable at sixteen. Once you’re there that’s the best thing, waking up at 10 or 11 am thinking I’m so lucky that I don’t have to get up at 6 and be at work for 8.
NIGE: Finally, how far do you think ‘The Struts’ can go?
LUKE: As a group we’re just taking every day as it comes. We’ve got the gig tonight and then tomorrow’s another day. We don’t look that far ahead, and we try to keep ourselves in the present as much as possible. We just want to exist now, take every day as it comes, be true to ourselves, write the best music we can, play the best gigs we can and communicate to our fans and give them what they deserve.
Whilst ‘The Struts’ may be taking it day to day, I on the other hand am a beacon of enthusiasm about how the future is shaping up for them. The show was my opportunity to listen to songs that could potentially make it on the debut album, and to also remind myself why Luke is such a natural star, a showman that has a frightening amount of ability that just oozes out of him. I’d go as far as saying that he has the best male vocal and is the most eye catching performer since his idol Freddie Mercury..…yes, he really is that good! It’s scary to wonder just how far this band can go, because despite Luke taking much of the focus, he has a band behind him that are just as talented and important to a raw, high energy sound that gives their lead singer the platform to do what he does best! Their music is full of massive, awe inspiring tunes that you can’t help but connect with. The recent single, ‘Could’ve Been Me’ speaks from the heart and it is a song that makes you stop and think, take onboard the lyrics and use it to motivate yourself in whatever you do. All songs have a similar effect, but they not just a high tempo, no holds barred rock band. You only have to look at their acoustic sessions on YouTube to see that they are the complete package with a monumental all round gift. This is certainly something very special that’s brewing, and witnessing the reaction and attention they get after the show only cements that idea.
Their live shows are so captivating it can only be described as the rock opera of Swan Lake, with the twist and visionary theatrics of a Broadway show, portrayed elegantly by an eccentric Shakespearean performer! I anticipate great things from ‘The Struts’ and I’m already awash with excitement for their debut album next year. If they don’t make it big then I will seriously have to question the integrity of our youth culture and our nation as a whole!
@TheStrutsReview by Nigel Cartner