STORIES

The Struts Plot a Return to Rock's Glory Days

By Alex Strausman on June 13, 2019

The Struts have accumulated huge international fame since they first came together in 2012, securing the opening gig on the Foo Fighters’ 2018 North America tour, the runway performance at the 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, and even supporting the Rolling Stones on four different occasions.

“That one was just ridiculous,” Jed Elliott, the Struts’ bass guitarist, chimes in. “Even to just be playing was an honor and incredibly good fun, but actually getting to watch the [Stones] show and kind of having the best seats in the house, being right down in the front looking at how much fun they still have at their age, we were like, ‘Wow.' Hopefully we can be doing it for that long.”

The four-member U.K. band consists of Elliott, lead vocalist Luke Spiller, guitarist Adam Slack and drummer Gethin Davies, and they are on the forefront of revitalizing rock 'n' roll. With songs like "Kiss This" and "Could Have Been Me," the Struts modernize the retro rock sound with flashes of glam that would make Marc Bolan proud.

“I think it’s quite amazing to get that kind of recognition,” Elliott says. “I don’t think we ever felt like we are particularly carrying the torch for it because I think, as far as we’re concerned, this is the music we have been making for seven or eight years.”

The band made its full-length debut in 2014 with Everybody Wants, followed by several EPs, singles and then a second full-length, Young & Dangerous, in 2018.

“Tastes are changing,” he adds matter of factly. “Rock bands are starting to see some success again. The fact that everyone else is finally catching on now is encouraging.”

The Struts' fanbase has allowed them to travel all over the world,  but Elliott recounts how their roots grew in a very DIY fashion with a brewing hunger and passion that has only continued to grow.

Recalling one such moment, he says, “We were in the 930 Club in [Washington] D.C., and there's a knock on the door five minutes before we go on. Dave Grohl swings open the door, and he's like, ‘The fucking Struts!’ And we are like, ‘Dave Grohl, dude.’ He comes and says hello before the set, and then afterwards we had some beers with him in our dressing room and just chatted about music for two or three hours. Then he gave us the offer for the tour. If we were told that was going to happen back when we were 16-year-old lads, we would have been like, 'Oh yeah, that's the moment we made it.'"

The Struts went on tour with the Foo Fighters for a year, and Dave Grohl called them “the best opening band we’ve ever had” on Radio X. And as far as the band's "we made it" moment, the bassist quickly adds, "I do think that the goal posts keep moving and there's still so much we want to accomplish."

It’s evident, he adds, that the band grew individually and together as musicians from that tour, yet they can cite several more sources of inspiration, including the Stones, Slade, British glam and even Britpop bands like Oasis. In fact, the band’s look and feel has often been compared to that of Queen, especially with the Bohemian Rhapsody film gaining international attention. The Struts don't shy away from this comparison covering "Don't Stop Me Now" and Spiller joining the Foo Fighters for "Under Pressure."

"I think the mixing pot of influences covers a lot of broad spectrums that, if you listen to a Struts' record, you can kind of identify," Elliott admits. "It’s not like, 'Oh, this kind of sounds like new Queen' or 'This song sounds like so-and-so,' but it’s still under the rock n’ roll umbrella, and that’s one thing that makes it very fun to be involved with.”

On top of that, the band adopted a new collaboration process that has them creating more as a group, and it's sure to feed into some new sounds on upcoming songs.

Elliott explains, “The four of us have kind of been writing individually, little bits and pieces here and there, and then actually just going into a studio the old fashioned way. People bring their stuff forward and just jam it in a rehearsal room environment, and we start laying down ideas in the studio.”

He says the new songs are “very very British” while still maintaining their rock n’ roll roots. The band is pretty amped up about them, and group morale is at an all-time high.

Sure enough, the energy has always been there. In their early days before walking out on stage, the band kept up with ritual, pumping themselves up with an AC/DC playlist that Spiller compiled, almost becoming superstitious if they forgot to listen to it before set. As for new traditions, now they never let anyone sit down in the last half hour before stage, slapping each other on the knees to get back up, jogging in place to get the blood pumping and then bolting out on stage with the song "Primadonna Like Me." This one is Elliott's favorite song to play, and the band’s signature opening song that you can hear live now as they’re on tour through October.

Late last year, however, the band had the chance to play the biggest runway of the season⎯the one with models in lingerie⎯and while playing "Primadonna" there would have been priceless, they chose instead to perform their catchy single "Body Talks," rocking out with Adriana Lima as she closed her final Victoria's Secret show.

“We actually joked about that one,” he says of the televised fashion show. “I guess the best analogy is like a Trojan Horse took us into the Victoria's Secret fashion show because we found ourselves there with Shawn Mendes, Chainsmokers, Rita Ora and Halsey, and then a lot of people, including some of the models who weren’t necessarily aware of us at the time, were dancing with us when we were playing. Everyone’s reaction was kind of, ‘Wow, who the fuck are these guys?’ We felt like we put on a show like we always do, but it was a little different flavor. I think everybody was kind of taken back a bit, in the best ways.”

And still, people are continuing to gravitate towards the band members, who themselves have become inseparable friends over the years. “I think we’re quite fortunate in the sense that we don’t have any real arseholes in the band,” Elliott grins, briefly glimpsing into the past.

As for personal life, Elliott has been dating Jade Thirlwall from Little Mix for the past three-plus years. With both groups accelerating quickly into the spotlight, they’ve found they’ve been lucky in love but unlucky with scheduling. The last time they saw each other was for two hours when she landed at London Heathrow Terminal 5 and he was flying out from Terminal 3.

“I went and checked my bags in, we got breakfast together after she just landed from Los Angeles, and, yeah, we just spent a nice two-hour breakfast getting to see each other," he recalls. "That [was after] having not seen each other for a few weeks, and now I think it’s another two months before we can actually see each other. So yeah, time is precious, and we are both very excited to see each other again soon.”

The couple connects on FaceTime as much as they can, often sharing music and lyrics with each other. “I think you always share [music/writing] and want the opinions from the people you’re closest to, and she’s a phenomenal musician as well, so it’s always great to get her input on things,” he adds.  

So, is the band bringing back rock 'n' roll? Just listen to a Struts record for yourself. The music transports you back through time and creates a safe space where maybe—just this one time—it might be socially acceptable to strum along on your air guitar. As long as it's not in public.

Photo credit: Anna Lee.

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