The high-octane history of British glam-rock stars The Struts

The high-octane history of British glam-rock stars The Struts

The Struts
Words by Augustus Welby

UK glam-rockers The Struts were in Australia this past February supporting Greta Van Fleet. Midway through the tour, Greta’s lead vocalist Josh Kiszka came down with laryngitis, which led to the cancellation of their scheduled two-night stint at Forum Melbourne.

The Struts saw no reason to pack it in and instead booked a double header at Cherry Bar and Yah Yah’s. Across two nights, the lads from Derbyshire sampled generously from their two LPs while also including covers of The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, AC/DC and T. Rex.

This selection of covers – from Bowie’s ‘Rebel Rebel’ to The Boss’ ‘Dancing In the Dark’ – gives you a pretty good idea of the British quartet’s stylistic coordinates. The Struts, led by vocalist Luke Spiller and lead guitarist Adam Slack, make loud, performative rock music that brims with melody.

Spiller’s an avowed Queen obsessive. Late last year he told Louder of how “[Queen] resonated straight away,” when he discovered them as a teen. “I bought Queen I and II and then that was it basically. I was hooked.”

Even without this attestation, it’s not difficult to detect Freddie Mercury’s influence on Spiller’s theatrical vocal style. He does an enviable job emulating him physically, too – just Google image search him and you’ll get the idea. 

Across the board, The Struts embrace showy glam rock fashion. It’s all animal prints, tassels, sequined vests, wide-brimmed hats and plenty of eyeliner. They back it up with big yet amiable guitar riffs and a preference for anthemic choruses that resemble the likes of The Killers and My Chemical Romance as much as they do Poison or Quiet Riot.

Spiller and Slack formed The Struts in Derby in the East Midlands in 2012. After hauling in bassist Jed Elliott and drummer Gethin Davies, the band released their first single, ‘I Just Know’ in June of that year. Their debut LP, Everybody Wants, followed two years later, with the band now signed to estimable UK label, Virgin EMI.

Its impact wasn’t insubstantial – Everybody Wants reached no. 52 in the UK album chart – but it didn’t exactly set the world alight. Their radio-friendly glam-rock-meets-power-pop seemed destined for success across the Atlantic, but their profile stateside was still a work in progress.

They were given a boost in early 2015 when they signed with Interscope who agreed to reissue Everybody Wants the following year. North American audiences were soon gobbling up the record’s lead singles, ‘Could Have Been Me’ and ‘Kiss This’.

Album number two, Young & Dangerous, arrived in late 2018 and showcased a band wholly in touch with its pop potential. Assembled over the course of 2018, Spiller and Slack teamed up with a range of co-writers and producers to maximise The Struts’ listenership.

Album opener ‘Body Talks’ was written with Lauren Christy and Jon Levine, who between them have penned hits for the likes of Dua Lipa, Bebe Rexha, Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavigne. It’s still rooted in the rock music worship that brought the band together in the first place, but it’s got a big screen quality.

The Struts aren’t being coy about their intention to infiltrate the pop market, either. ‘Body Talks’ was released as the album’s first single in June 2018, but then re-released in August as a duet with Kesha.

The next single lifted from the album, ‘Primadonna Like Me’, begins with a guitar riff indebted to Keith Richards before modulating into a pop rock tune akin to Robbie Williams’ ‘Let Me Entertain You’. It’s interesting to note that one of the song’s producers and co-writers, Ray Hedges, has worked with Take That.

This should come as no surprise – glam rock is best suited to an arena setting, which is increasingly where The Struts find themselves. Over the last few years, they’ve opened for The Rolling Stones, The Who, Foo Fighters and Mötley Crüe. They’re back in Melbourne this week for a headline date at The Corner. Expect thrusting hips, wailing guitar solos and a heck of a lot of sing-alongs.

The Struts come to The Corner on Thursday August 22 and Friday August 23. Grab your tickets via the venue website.