British buzz band – fronted by Luke Spiller – are headlining their first major U.S. tour, and it’s coming to Central PA
Just one look at a picture or video of Luke Spiller, and you can almost see the rock star aura of a bygone era exuding from the images – a time when David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger ruled the airwaves and the stages around the world.
The lead singer of the self-described “glamorous indie rock n’ roll band” from Britain aptly called The Struts – named for the way Spiller struts around the stage – seems to almost be channeling Mercury and Jagger as he weaves and dances around the other members of the band, including Adam Slack on guitar, Jed Elliott on bass and Gethin Davies on drums.
He’ll thrust himself into the middle of the crowd without hesitation, holding the microphone close to his mouth as he belts out high notes and lyrics that would make the late lead singer of Queen proud. (Spiller’s even gone to the lengths of recruiting legendary British designer Zandra Rhodes – known for creating the flashy outfits Mercury wore on stage in the ’70s – to make an outfit for him to wear during The Struts performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2014.)
Formed in Derby, England, in 2010, The Struts have been steadily building their fan base in their native Great Britain, as well as on mainland Europe, playing for huge crowds in France (including an opening slot for The Rolling Stones at their show in Paris in front of 80,000 fans last year). They’ve played just about every major festival in Europe – Reading and Leeds in England, Bergenfest in Norway and the touring Sonisphere Festival.
Now on the strength of their viral radio hit (and the accompanying racy video filmed in July throughout London) for “Could Have Been Me,” a rousing appearance last month on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and upcoming performances at major U.S. music festivals (like the Budweiser Made in America Festival in Philadelphia, the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas and the Voodoo Music & Arts Experience in New Orleans), The Struts are poised to show American audiences that glam rock is far from a dying genre. Their debut U.S. EP, Have You Heard…, was released by Interscope Records last month.
Spiller and company play the band’s first-ever official headlining East Coast club date on Friday, September 4, at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster. And for The Struts – who have already sold out their concert appearances in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles – the choice of the Chameleon Club as their first East Coast concert appearance creates the tantalizing potential for an “I was there” moment to see a band on the cusp of becoming breakout rock stars.
I caught up with Spiller last week as the band had just finished their opening slot on the NME/BBC Radio 1 Stage at the Reading Festival (and, somewhat ironically, was being immediately followed on the same stage by Lancaster’s own The Districts).
Michael Yoder: Luke, how are you?
Luke Spiller: Mmm, I’m good – a little tired.
MY: I saw on your Twitter account that you’ve been up since 4 a.m.
LS: I know, I know, man. It’s been becoming quite a habit since the jetting around. But needless to say, the Reading Festival was quite a success. We’re just heading up on our way to Leeds now.
MY: How much energy does performing at a festival like Reading take out of you?
LS: Absolutely everything. I have to slip into an oxygen chamber for at least 40 minutes after performing, because I’ve just got nothing left – as Ian Beale once said in an episode of EastEnders, which airs here in Britain. But yeah, absolutely everything.
MY: How many people were there for your performance?
LS: We were actually quite pleasantly surprised. The reception has been quite different on stage compared to radio and press, etc. The last tours that we’ve done in the UK have been really successful and sold out. But to come and play today – we practically opened the festival, I believe, at 12 o’clock on the dot – God, there must have been at least 5,000 in the tent today.
MY: There’s a tent at Reading that fits 5,000 people?
LS: Yeah, it’s huge. It’s the second biggest stage at the festival. We went to the Leeds Festival two years ago, and I remember walking into that particular tent with that stage, and it was massive. When it’’ full, I think you can fit well over 5,000.
MY: As you’ve progressed through your musical career, do you ever have to pinch yourself to realize some of the amazing things you’ve already had a chance to experience?
LS: Someone asked me that question like six months ago, and to be honest I couldn’t really answer it. But not long ago, we had our first headlining shows in the States – in San Diego at the House of Blues, which was sold out. That was such a great venue. I hear a lot of the House of Blues venues look similar all around the country – kind of an old theater feel to it. But the atmosphere was absolutely amazing, and the sound was incredible. At some point in our career, we felt like we’d never really get to that stage no matter how much we wanted it. We knew the music was capable of taking us there, but sometimes we felt like, “God, we’re just never going to do that.” But that was a real pinch-me moment – seeing that sell out venue and hearing all those people sing. And the screaming was insane – deafening. It was really great.
MY: Why has it taken you so long to come to the U.S. for a tour?
LS: [laughs] I’d like to tell you that it’s all been carefully worked out with a plan. I’ve always thought that this band is different musically, and our success has also been different – that’s basically what’s happened, really. A lot of things have happened at the right time, which is completely out of our control. And it feels like some sort of higher being is taking control of it – especially now. Things have just fallen into place. We met the right people at the right time, and it feels appropriate more now than ever to make these steps. When it comes to the States, it was never a question of, “Let’s do that first,” or “Let’s wait,” or do it at another moment. But we started to get radio play there, and then the song “Could Have Been Me” started to blow up all over alternative radio across the USA. Then all of a sudden, “Could Have Been Me” had more than 2 million hits on Spotify. It just becomes fairly obvious that you have to go, really.
MY: Who’s the woman you were in bed with in the video for “Could Have Been Me”?
LS: [laughs] She was one of the extras. We had to have a few nude extras for the video. At the end of that actually, she ended up going to bed with Geth that night – our drummer. That’s the way it goes. That’s the way it’s always been. I used to get photographed with naked women, and the other band members would end up with them. [laughs] I’m over that shit. I’ve got a supermodel girlfriend, anyway.
MY: The lyrics for “Could Have Been Me” – have you taken them as a mantra for yourself and the band, not looking back and having regrets and moving yourselves forward? (Read my Monday Music Pick about the song.)
LS: Yeah, we are. If you look at it in some ways, you could think, “Oh, that’s a bit cheesy.” But that’s exactly what happened. It was written in a time where we were at a fork in the road, so to speak, and we had to go one way or the other. We chose to move forward and carry on with this impossible dream. It’s definitely something that we kind of live by now. Even today, being up by 4 a.m. and being really tired and having to gear yourself up for a show, it’s a good reminder to say, “Come on. Get up and do it. This is what you want. Put your money where your mouth is. Show them what you’ve got.”
MY: What was it like being on Jimmy Kimmel Live!?
LS: Pretty cool. As Brits, we really didn’t have any idea how big Jimmy Kimmel was. We had an Uber headed to Santa Monica beach, and the driver started talking to us – as they do. It’s every Uber driver’s job to do that. We were like, “Yeah, we’re going on Jimmy Kimmel.” And he was like, “Holy fuck! Oh my god, that’s massive – absolutely huge.” Obviously when we got there we were like, “Bloody hell. This is the real deal.” The whole day was just really cool. We got to meet Jimmy, and he was really great. He was having his makeup done before they started filming, and he asked the makeup artist to stop while we were playing. He apparently got up and started dancing and started taking his clothes off – those were his words, not mine. [laughs]
MY: The crowd response from the appearance on Jimmy Kimmel is pretty impressive.
LS: Yeah, I know. As far as I know, a lot of them were actually genuine fans. Well, I hope they were, anyway, because I don’t know how you’d get them to sing the words unless they held them in quarantine for 24 hours, just brainwashing them with the lyrics. [laughs]
MY: Were you surprised by how many people were singing along to the songs at Jimmy Kimmel or even at your recent show in San Diego?
LS: It made me feel like, “Fucking finally.” It’s been such a tough road getting to this point, and it really feels like now we’re really making connections and giving us a real confidence boost. It’s inspiring us more. We know now that we’re doing something right. [laughs] At the time on stage, everything is in little flashes – just like, “Wow. Wow. Wow.” I guess if anything it makes us really excited to get on and do this US tour. And like you said, we never played in San Diego before that, and to think that we’re going to be in so many other amazing places like Chicago, Washington, etc.
MY: I saw you already sold out your show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York.
LS: Yeah, I know. We had another amazing one as well. We announced we were going to be playing The Troubadour [in Los Angeles] in October, and that sold out in nine minutes. I was in the room with my guitarist, Adam, and we were like, “Go on and see what happens if you try to buy a ticket.” He thought something was wrong with the computer or the Internet. He said, “I can’t buy it. I can’t buy one.” And then he was like, “I think it’s sold out.” I was like, “Fuck off. It’s been up for nine minutes.” We refreshed it a few times, and it said “sold out.” I think that was another pinch-me moments, to be honest.
MY: What’s been the secret to your success so far as a band?
LS: Definitely just expressing ourselves as individuals. Don’t be too conscious about following trends and going on with that’s “cool.” At the end of the day, “cool” is just a word that its definition changes more frequently than you can keep up with. Just act on your creative instincts and go with what you are and where you are at that point in your life – that’s probably the best thing I can recommend to someone. Be yourself, and it’s better to be different and stand out than just follow everyone else.
The Struts play at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster on Friday, September 4. Brooklyn-based progressive rockers Highly Suspect open the show at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5.07 at the door. The Struts also play the Budweiser Made in America Festival on Saturday and return to the region for another show in Philadelphia – this time at the brand-new venue, The Foundry at The Fillmore – on October 24.