With its latest album — 2018’s theatrical, passionate Young & Dangerous — The Struts are beginning to exceed the level of success they initially set out to hit nearly 10 years ago, when they formed in Derby, U.K.
It’s been nearly a year since the release of the critically acclaimed sophomore album, and the band, including frontman Luke Spiller, guitarist Adam Slack, bassist Jed Elliott and drummer Gethin Davies, just arrived in Canada earlier this week to kick off the extensive second leg of their North American tour.
The Struts have earned themselves a number of chart-topping hits, including Could Have Been Me (2013), Kiss This (2014) and Body Talks (2018), among many others. The latter also saw the up-and-comers partner with Kesha for a fiery performance on The Tonight Show.
Ahead of the high-energy and mostly sold-out performances this month, the four-piece released a one-off single — a cover of Martha and the Vandellas’ Dancing in the Street.
WATCH: The Struts’ latest single and music video, ‘Dancing in the Street’
Spiller, co-founder and primary songwriter of the band alongside Slack, has been described by many as a cross between Freddie Mercury and Jagger — who according to him, are two of his biggest influences. His Ray Brown-designed outfits and refreshing over-the-top onstage persona continue to draw fans back to The Struts.
Since the beginning of their career, these “saviours of rock n’ roll” have been asked to tour with not only The Rolling Stones, but The Who and Guns N’ Roses as well. They were also hand-selected by Dave Grohl to be the main opening act for the Foo Fighters on the band’s 2018 North American summer tour.
Their massive opening spot earned them more recognition in Canada and the U.S. than their first album, Everybody Wants (2014), did back home in England.
Now, with Young & Dangerous and the ending of the decade, The Struts are taking rock music to another level.
Ahead of its second-consecutive night headlining at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on Sept. 11, Global News spoke with the band before the show.
Global News: Welcome back to Canada, guys. It’s your second night in Toronto, and you sold out both nights. Was last night the right way to kick off the tour or what?
Adam Slack: Yeah! We loved it. It was great.
Luke Spiller: It was great! I was even saying earlier that I could tell that weed’s legal here. The crowd was so enthusiastic, but when I was looking out into the audience, there were all these faces just like (opens eyes and mouth wide), the lights were just hitting them like “Woah.” (Laughs) You know they’re all smiling, but I was like, “Look, c’mon. Sing. I know you’re having a good time, but let me f**king hear it.” It really was good though, we had a laugh. We love Toronto, and Canada, and we’re looking forward to seeing if they’re louder tonight.
Excluding last year’s show at the Rogers Centre, you guys have always played much smaller venues in Toronto, like the Opera House. Now you’re playing to much larger crowds at much larger venues. Are you getting used to this dynamic?
LS: I was actually thinking about that last night. It’s so cool just to be able to go on tour we and play in front of at least 1,200 or 1,500 people every night.
Gethin Davis: Obviously with a bigger stage, you can have the full production and Luke can run around and get everywhere. The crowd’s bigger too, which means the energy is a lot bigger in the room too. The smaller shows are fun as well, but, yeah, we’re happy that we’re carrying on getting bigger and bigger.
Jed Elliott: It was only really this year that we noticed it, at least in the States. We were finding that suddenly some of our markets were doubling and even tripling in size just within a year. We had no idea what happened, but I guess it was riding off the back of the release of Young & Dangerous. Fun fact: We sold out a venue in St. Paul (Minn.) that David Bowie didn’t sell out ’74. The barman next to us was very pleased to tell us, he was like, “You sold it out!” (He says in an American accent) “Bowie didn’t even do that.” (Laughs)
GD: Yeah! Think about how big he got, and then think about the trajectory for us.
WATCH: The Struts perform ‘Body Talks’ live from the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show
It’s been nearly 10 years since the formation of The Struts, and you four have made it an incredibly long way since then, but did you know each other before this band?
AS: Luke and I met first. He lived in Devon and I was in Derby, and at the time, the same manager was looking at both of us, so I reached out to Luke and said, “Why don’t you come up to Derby and we can write some songs or something.” That’s where it started for us.
And you had two other guys in the band, right? So how do you end up with the amazingly tight rhythm section you have now?
JE: Oh, bless your cotton socks!
JE: I never played bass in my life before this band.
JE: Yeah. No way. I was in bands on the MySpace U.K. circuit since I was about 13. I kept my fingers in a lot of pies as we went along, making friends up and down the country, including the guys that were looking after The Struts. So when my high school band was falling to bits — because people were doing different things — I was ready to explore new avenues. So I sent some music to their old manager and he said, “Hey, look, do you want to come jam with these guys? There’s a position for a bass player.” I was playing guitar at the time, but I thought, “You know what? I should give that a go.” So that’s how I got the spot. This about nine years ago.
GD: I was in a uni in London, and I got a message on Facebook from their manager, asking if I wanted to go to an audition. So I went up to meet them and it just went from there really. I had no connection to them apart from that message, so it was very random.
LS: It moved pretty quickly though.
JE: Yeah, it was like three weeks later that we were living together.
LS: F**king hell.
How does it make you feel when all these people claim that The Struts are the “saviours of rock n’ roll”? Does it ever put pressure on the band, or do you even give it a second thought?
LS: It tickles my balls and does all sorts of things to me, (Laughs) but it’s nice. It really is a beautiful thing to say, it’s lovely. It’s great and I’m happy about it. It makes me wake up with a smile on my face. It’s totally egotistical, but this job requires that.
That’s all part of being in a rock n’ roll band, right?
WATCH: The Struts: Official ‘Could Have Been Me’ music video
Is there a method to the madness of a The Struts setlist? The entire show seems so beautifully choreographed. Obviously, there’s the hits, fan-favourites and new stuff, but how do account for everybody?
GD: We always have certain songs that we wanted to start the set with, just because they’re so highly energetic, but narrowing it all down is probably the hardest part. We only have an hour, 45 (minutes) every night, right? So this time around, we thought, “How cool would it be to put a medley together and showcase loads more of our songs in a really fun way?”
AS: As is the case that it’s like, “Right, if we do this, that means that we’ll run into that key, which means we can play this song, because that’s in that key,” et cetera. Then it was just a case of having fun with it. I can’t wait to do another one! We’ve got this page on Facebook though, (Laughs) which is like all the “Strutters,” and you’ll go on it and they’re like, “Oh, they didn’t play this song,” and then you think, “Oh, for f**k’s sake, we played every other song other than that.” So hopefully by doing this we can get rid of some of those complaints and everyone can be happy. (Laughs)
GD: We’ve also had moments where we thought we had the perfect setlist in rehearsal, but then we go out on tour and on the first night we play it, and it’s like, “Well that didn’t flow at all.” (Laughs)
LS: Yeah, we’re like, “That went down like a f**king trainwreck.” (Laughs) Sure, we’ve had times when we’ve taken things out, we’re like, “Oh, we should do this!” But now, we’re doing everything we know that works, and then some more on top of that.
So what should Canadian fans expect for the rest of this tour?
LS: What people are seeing and hearing now is really everything that we’ve ever done up to this point. It’s just all condensed into one set, whether it’s things that we’ve just learned or the endings that we’ve choreographed over the years — some of these things we’ve been doing for f**king ages — but it’s basically taking the best bits of the last five years, especially coming to the States and Canada, and putting it all together to make our… (Laughs) greatest moment.
The Struts have a very large fanbase of kids and youth, so in knowing that someone might look up to and idolize you, do you guys feel like you sometimes have to change your behaviour around fans, or is it all second nature?
LS: The most conscious I get of it is probably not sparking a cigarette in front of a 10-year-old boy when he wants me to sign something. I don’t think we’re there yet. When people look up to us, I think if people love the music then that’s really all that matters. Your own personal life is something that unfortunately people will look at and try and relate to it or somehow make themselves a part of it. But I think the music’s the most important part. It’s kind of tough.
GD: I think we’re an escape for a lot of people, and our fanbase is just one big family. They come out every night to see us and they know what they’re getting. I think we’re all pretty nice anyway.
AS: Yeah. I’ve always tried to be a good human regardless of whether I was in a band or not. So I’m not really going to change because I don’t think I need to, really. I’d like to think I’m a nice person. I at least hope I am. (Laughs)
JE: Yeah, me too. (Laughs)
LS: The funny thing I’ve noticed is that in the last couple of years, a lot more kids are coming to the shows, and obviously I swear a lot, and some of it can be quite forward and suggestive and slightly sexual. I have thought, “Do I tone it down?” But I’m like, “No. It’s the parent’s fault. Not mine.”
AS: Yeah, if you’re coming to a big rock show, you should know what getting yourself into.
LS: If I’m doing this to the microphone (motions hand up and down) or whatever, they know what the f**king score is. It’s not irresponsible of me doing it because this is my stage, my show, my art and my character. If you don’t agree with it, then don’t f**king bring your kids, it’s as simple as that. So I actually go even harder on it all now, because I think the kids f**king love it.
WATCH: The Struts’ breakthrough 2014 single, ‘Kiss This’
JE: I liked that you used “my art,” as an example of you w**king a microphone. (Laughs)
LS: Anything — like your persona, what you’re saying, how you move around, how you carry yourself — I think the kids love it even more. I think that when I’m doing things that could be perceived as naughty or risque, that they love it. I know I would if I was a 10-year-old at a rock concert, like “God, this guy’s a f**king bad**s, he doesn’t give a f**k.
Young & Dangerous is now available worldwide. It can be ordered through the official Struts website.
Select tickets for the remaining Canadian ‘Young & Dangerous’ tour dates are still available.