In 2017, The Struts opened for Foo Fighters to christen the brand new D.C. music venue The Anthem.
That night, Struts frontman Luke Spiller told the crowd that it was the band’s most important gig to date.
“It’s funny, so much of our relationship with the Foos really started in the D.C. area,” Spiller told WTOP.
“After I met Taylor [Hawkins] in Napa for the festival BottleRock, he must have told Dave [Grohl] about us and Dave actually came to see us at 9:30, which then led us to getting the opportunity to open up for them for the best part of a year. … I think we were the first official rock band to take the [Anthem] stage, so it was a really cool moment.”
This Sunday, The Struts return to D.C. for a sold-out show at 9:30 Club, followed by another sold-out show on July 23 at I.M.P.’s new venue The Atlantis, which is a replica of the original 9:30 Club location that closed in 1995.
“If it means cutting the ribbon or saying a small speech to commemorate the opening of a venue or, of course, playing and singing, I’m always down,” Spiller said. “If anyone’s listening and they have a new supermarket or hospital or music venue that they’d like me to open up, I’m all ears, you know?”
Raised in Bristol, England, Spiller grew up listening to Michael Jackson before discovering British rock.
“Once I discovered Queen and AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, it was kind of game over for me,” Spiller said.
“I just became completely obsessed and just started to go down to the record shops in Bristol and I remember specifically knowing of Queen, I had heard the Greatest Hits, for example, but I made a conscious effort to buy their discography in order. … I did that with a huge amount of groups, including The Stones, The Beatles, etc.”
He met guitarist Adam Slack as a teenager to form The Struts in Derby, England in 2012.
“My school band had broken up, everybody was going to university, I was working as a cleaner,” Spiller said.
“On the Myspace page of my old band, there was a recording of a song called ‘Where Did She Go?’ This guy, who would later become my manager, messaged me asking if I’m still interested in pursuing a career in music. … He said, ‘I’ve been talking with this guy Adam who’s been in various bands up in Derby. Would you be interesting in meeting?'”
Together, they chose the band name from an offhand comment about Spiller’s stage presence.
“At the time, Britain was having a surge of really great music with a lot of bands, including The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand,” Spiller said.
“Me and [Adam] were struggling for a name. … Our manager said, ‘You should be called The Struts, because Luke, you strut around quite a lot.’ I was like, ‘That’s actually really good.’ … It’s a brilliant name, but if you say it in certain countries, a lot of people assume I’m a member of The Strokes.”
Strutting around the stage with moves like (Mick) Jagger, The Struts opened for The Rolling Stones in Paris in 2014. He channeled another one of his British rock heroes when he began wearing glam-rock garb designed by Freddie Mercury’s designer, as chronicled in the BBC documentary “Oh You Pretty Things: The Story of Music and Fashion.”
In 2014, The Struts released the four-track EP “Kiss This,” including a cover of Lorde’s “Royals,” followed by another EP called “Have You Heard” (2015).
“It all holds up pretty well,” Spiller said. “The Lorde cover, for instance, has been such a bizarre thing. Gosh, we recorded that 10 years ago I think, when she first released the song, and we just threw this video together with my friend before a show we did in London on this terrible rainy day. … Then four weeks ago it just blew up on TikTok and it was just like, ‘What?’ So bizarre. Those early EPs — I’m still proud of them. They still contain songs we play literally on this tour.”
The band’s debut studio album “Everybody Wants” (2014) featured the smash hit single “Could Have Been Me,” a song about living with no regrets: “I don’t wanna take my time, don’t wanna waste one line, I wanna live better days, never look back and say, ‘Could have been me.'”
“It was written at a time of real frustration where we were on a label which had the plug pulled out of it and ended up being inherited by another label who didn’t know what to do with us,” Spiller said.
“There was this constant mantra of, ‘I just don’t think you should be wearing this stuff, I don’t think the band should be sounding like this.’ … I was angry and fired up, just b*tching. ‘Could Have Been Me’ was a direct response to the naysayers in suits. … It became a real anthem of staying unique and being true to yourself.”
The band switched labels from Virgin EMI to Interscope Records to release their second studio album, “Young & Dangerous” (2018). It kicks off with the opening track “Body Talks,” which returns again for the final track, this time as a remix featuring Kesha.
“The two versions weren’t actually intended to be on the record — that was something that was heavily suggested to me — the album was meant to finish on ‘Ashes (Part 2),'” Spiller said.
“It was such a great experience and Kesha’s brilliant and I had a lot of fun in the studio wit her going back and forth on the vocal mic. Those vocals were done in the same room with each other and you can really hear the energy and chemistry.”
The band’s most recent album, “Strange Days” (2020), was released during the pandemic.
“We quickly realized that we weren’t going to be able to tour for quite a while,” Spiller said.
“We were only meant to do two or three songs like some sort of lockdown EP, but after about four days, we had like six songs and we were like, ‘Bloody hell, there’s an energy here and there’s just something in this process.’ … By the time seven days passed, we’d recorded nine original songs and covered one song like, ‘Wow, we have a full record here.'”
Their fourth album, “Pretty Vicious,” arrives in November with the lead single “Too Good at Raising Hell.”
“I think it will blow people’s minds,” Spiller said. “We had an amazing time recording between Nashville and L.A. It’s got 11 songs … it’s got some amazing material on in. I think it’s going to be a record that showcases all the best attributes of the band, it’s the closest sounding thing to us live that will think people are going to hear. The songs are brilliant, it flows amazingly, it’s got tons of guitars in it, there’s loads of solos in it, just some real cracking songs that I think people are gonna love.”