The Struts are nothing short of a glam rock force to be reckoned with. Back from their UK tour over the Summer, the quartet is in the run-up to their fourth album release. Pretty Vicious is set to be their most ambitious yet, with released singles Too Good At Raising Hell and Rockstar drenching the impending record with fiery congratulatory anticipation.
Luke Spiller joined MetalTalk’s Monty Sewell to discuss the last (almost) ten years since The Struts’ debut release and the current calm before the storm surrounding the Pretty Vicious drop.
As the band settles into their second decade as a secure industry powerhouse, Spiller reflected on the vastly different circumstances in which their current book-end albums were created.
“With our debut record [Everybody Wants], we were so green and quite naive, even. A lot of great things that happened on the back of the debut album we didn’t quite appreciate at the time. A lot of that had to do with the fact that a lot of the success from that record purely came from the United States. So when someone would say something like, oh, it’s done this, and the song’s done that, we didn’t know what it meant.
“But now we’re also way more aware of what it takes to make an excellent record. We are more on it in terms of presenting it correctly, ensuring it comes out smoothly and has all the right information to go alongside it. Keeping it all aligned with our touring, like our trip down the West Coast in November. It is all these little details that you only know a good ten years on.”
After not gaining as much traction with their first record as hoped in the UK, The Struts switched management and were flown over to the US to an immediate buzz from a fast-growing audience. Regardless, the mid 2010s saw a decline in mainstream instrument-based band interest.
“When the debut came out, it was an incredibly tough time to be in a band, and it was rare that you had any commercial success. Let alone a group from the UK coming over to the US and the rest of the world.
“I think things are opening up for people in bands again, and the industry has started to take notice of great guitar music once more, which was great when working on Pretty Vicious. We kept that current musical climate in mind, and coincidentally, it has made for one of our most exciting records to date, especially sonically.”
Since The Struts’ last record, Strange Days, in 2020, the world has returned to a somewhat new normalcy. With the times a’changed and years of experience alongside a plethora of high-profile achievements, there would be an expected change in the approach to creating the record itself.
“I would say this album is a bit more cohesive and, dare I say, a little bit more organised. With the debut record, we had quite a clear vision. Then, with the second (Young & Dangerous), we were constantly on the road promoting the first, so all of the writing was done in between shows.
“Then, with our third (Strange Days), it wasn’t even meant to be an album. It was meant to be an EP, but we recorded nine original songs and one cover within seven days. It was very off-the-cuff songwriting and we couldn’t even promote it physically because of the pandemic.
“So with Pretty Vicious, it is the first record since the debut where we have had some great chunks of time to sit down and work at it.”
The band’s return to the UK was yet another confirmation of their status as performance perfection. Spiller himself has frontman extraordinaire written all over him, but with a growing number of hits under their arms, writing a setlist might bring new challenges.
“If you consider that every record has about 3 to 4 singles on it, then it is getting to the point where three-quarters of your set is just pure singles. We’ll be coming up with the setlist and be thinking, ‘Okay, how self-indulgent do we want to get?’
“It really is keeping the super hardcore fan base in mind versus the fact that new people are always coming to see our shows. So it can be a bit tough, but I think the set we’re currently touring is solid.”
Spiller’s words can be confirmed as per their show review from the O2 Forum Kentish Town in August.
“We get to show the best parts of what we’re known for, and by the time November rolls around, we’re going to have about five new songs on there. Which, to be honest, I think is enough when you’re onstage for an hour and a half.”
Though a US-based band, Spiller and the guys have never felt too far from home. Previously performing before a huge Union Jack flag, they are always welcomed back with open arms.
“We’ve been delighted with how much our UK audience has grown. The power of social media and word of mouth has been taken to a different level. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world; you can end up discovering great music from anywhere and everywhere.
“We actually noticed that by the time the second record was out and we were touring it, the venue capacities of where we were playing in the UK was almost on par with the US. So it was a real triumph and still is to come back and be playing, arguably, great venues consistently, every night worldwide. We love coming back to the UK. It does still feel like coming home in a lot of ways.”
Considering The Struts have such an amiable, upbeat essence to their music, it was interesting to hear how current social media affected their demographic.
“The band has been really active on TikTok, and since it first happened, there has been a massive injection of, not just younger people, but a lot of 10, 11 12-year-old kids, which is really bizarre. So, I do feel we have an incredibly diverse fan base now. “
Spiller continues, “The music industry has definitely changed in terms of promotion but favouring the artist. If a song can have a moment on a platform like TikTok, it can go to a playlist on the radio or a television show.
“I mean, look what happened with Kate Bush and Running Up That Hill. Suddenly, this artist, who has not done a lot commercially for years, penetrates the cultural zeitgeist with Stranger Things. Suddenly, the song is on every 14-year-old girl’s playlist because it means something, and it was put in the right context.”
So you are not one of those musicians who steer clear of those trends, I ask. “It would be stupid to ignore things like Tiktok or say ‘we’re too cool, blah, blah, blah’. There is always a way of making things work and feel natural within your own world. Sometimes it just takes a minute to find natural, genuine ways to communicate that.”
And if hitting the top end of the trends aren’t enough, the guys are also kicking their record release off with a performance on Good Morning America in New York.
“That is going to be a really interesting show because we somehow have to shave a song which is four minutes long down to about two minutes fifty. Then we embark on the tour, which starts in Vegas on the same day the album comes out. So that’s gonna be a great night.”
With the grandiose of Pretty Vicious already apparent, we finished the interview with a more personal question.
“What song do I feel closest to? Well, ironically, there’s one song on the record, ‘Somebody Someday’, which closes the entire thing, which was very last minute and isn’t actually our song. But when we were recording the album takes in Nashville, I was introduced to this specific song, and I just completely fell in love with it.
“Lyrically, it spoke to me, and I felt it would be the perfect way to close a record. It is a real, reflecting track of how far I’ve come throughout all of the years. And when I hear it, I can see myself as a fifteen or sixteen-year-old in Bristol, imagining this impossible dream that I would be a band and touring the world.
“When I hear this song and those lyrics, it takes me right back there. It has a very poignant message which just speaks to me.”
I speak for us all when I say we cannot wait to hear it, along with the rest of the album.
The Struts new album, Pretty Vicious, is out on 3 November 2023 via Big Machine/John Varvatos Records. Pre-order the album here.