Interview: Luke Spiller of The Struts talks playing with the Stones, music and fashion, and being a band on the verge
By Michael Christopher
It’s the morning after The Struts first national television appearance in the United States, on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, when Vanyaland rings up singer Luke Spiller, who fesses up to being “a bit tired, a bit hungover.” But there’s business to tend to, what with the band’s inaugural tour of the North America on the horizon and the hit single “Could Have Been Me” all over the place since it was released on these shores in the late summer.
One of the most buzzed about bands to come out of England in quite some time, The Struts released their debut, Everybody Wants, more than a year ago. But since signing to Interscope, that album has been on lockdown and impossible to get anywhere but their home country. Instead, there’s a four song EP, Have You Heard…, which is meant to whet the appetite until a remastered version of Everybody Wants, including extra By tracks, comes out early next year. The lack of material hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for the band, if anything it’s made audiences even more hungry for the group; dates across the country — including this Sunday’s at The Sinclair — were initially slated to be held in much more intimate spaces but had to be bumped up due to demand.
An enthusiastic Spiller, who’s been compared to every great frontman from the past – including Freddie Mercury – talked about how fast things are moving and the pressure it puts on him and the rest of his bandmates, gigging with The Rolling Stones and the relation between fashion and music.
Michael Christopher: You’ve got a got a gig coming up here in Boston where you were originally scheduled to play a venue that had about a 200 person capacity. It sold out immediately, and now you’re playing a space that holds over 500; and it’s not just here, it’s happening all over the country where the venues keep getting upgraded. What’s that feel like for you guys as a band?
Luke Spiller: Well… it’s about bloody time — you know what I mean? In all seriousness, it’s almost a little bit overwhelming. We haven’t really had a lot of time to think about it since we got to L.A. – we’ve been writing nonstop and been in the studio. The only show we’ve actually properly played is San Diego, and that was amazing. So anything that comes after that, it’s going to be really good. It’s just great – you know what I mean? I can’t really describe it; it’s really exciting, a bit overwhelming, but genuinely making us very excited.
You’ve already taken the UK by storm, but the States are notoriously harder to crack, especially for bands that come from out of the country. But so far, you seem to be heading in the right direction.
Yeah, I mean, thanks! In terms of the UK to America, we feel like America has opened its arms to us more so then our home country, which makes coming out here that much more enjoyable.
When you have a buzz that precedes the band before you even play a note live, you mentioned that it’s exciting and overwhelming, but what about the pressure that comes with it?
Yeah, no, I do feel a bit of pressure. One, we’ve never had touring this extensive. When we’ve been doing tours in the UK and France, yeah we have been doing three week tours, covering thousands of miles, but mate. A four hour drive in the UK is like a big journey for us. You guys in the States that’s a walk down to the shop to get some shopping – you know what I mean? It’s like, the country’s so much bigger; it’s like, sometimes were doing 600, 700, 800 miles a day on our days off in the van getting to the next place. It can take its toll on you, and I’m really aware that this tour and the next six months are basically laying down the foundation for our future in the U.S.A. which could serve us well. Who knows? The boundaries are endless if we can make it work. So yeah, I feel a little bit of pressure, but I’m feeling good at the moment – you know?
Other than the gigs themselves, and getting to play for all the fans, what are you looking most forward to when it comes to touring the States?
To be honest, I’ve never really enjoyed touring — only because in which the circumstances we’ve been doing it. I’m really confident, and everybody else is as well, that this is going to be our last tour in the States where we’re going round in a small van. I think it’s safe to say that if this tour is done right, the the next time we come round, to promote the album release, these venues are gonna get bigger and the bus is gonna get bigger. We’ll have a bit more budget to play with, and have a bit more luxury. So I’m kind of looking forward to just getting it bloody done — you know what I mean? I’m looking forward to just putting my head down and doing the album, ready to move on.
You mention the album; how anxious are you to have people in the States get to hear it, because it’s been out in the UK for quite awhile.
Yeah…it’s a funny little thing, because when we signed to Interscope, [they] felt strongly that – and we came to agree on this as well — they felt strong that we should remaster the album, which we definitely agreed with, and add some new tracks as well. At the end of the day, if you get the chance to make a better album, number one, then what a thing is that — you know what I mean? I just can’t wait for everybody to hear it, and it’s going to be interesting to see the album completed and remastered the original way how we envisioned it.
The comparisons of you to Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger have been talked to death in the press, but last year you got to open for the Rolling Stones in Paris. What was that like?
Just amazing — really good. I mean, all the years leading up to that point and the amount of time I’ve spent listening to their music and reading and watching about them… it was very emotional. I went to watch their soundcheck, they were doing “Wild Horses” and the whole stadium was empty and I got a bit emotional really because I didn’t want to think about it until the day, because I knew that if I was to think about performing in front of 80,000 people the night before, I don’t think I would’ve slept. So I was trying to put it to the back of my mind all the time, and then that moment it all just hit me at once and I was like, “Fuck!” — you know? It was definitely a huge career highlight.
Did you get to talk with the guys at all?
Yeah, yeah, I said hello to Mick and we spoke for a bit. He was really nice and had nothing but good things to say, which was incredible. And just briefly met the rest of them for a photograph and a quick handshake as you do. But it was Mick mostly, which as you’d say anyway is great in itself — right? I’m happy.
One of the last things I wanted to ask you is your thoughts on fashion and how it relates to music. Some bands get up there in the same clothes they did yard work in that morning, but you guys dress the part.
I’ve always done it. It’s the only way I know how to do it, even when was 16, 15, I was making my own stage wear out of, you know, these jumpers and I’d like, cut the chest out and everything and paint on them. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and, you know, we’ve been through a lot of shit when people would say, “Are you sure you want to do that?” or, “We’re not sure about that,” and at the end of the day, it’s quite ironic, now that we can do whatever the fuck we want, we’re actually in a better place than we ever have been. I feel that the look is just as important. I mean, you look at people like Bowie where he was making incredible music and probably spending an equal amount of time on his look. He’d write the songs and be like, “What’s the visual I can back this up with?” So it is really important and something we’re constantly trying to develop.
THE STRUTS + KARMA KILLERS :: Sunday, October 25 at the Sinclair, 52 Church St. in Cambridge, MA :: 8 p.m., all-ages, sold out :: Bowery Event Page
Follow Michael Christopher on Twitter @BlackBranchMC.