Luke Spiller Of The Struts On Creativity And Hit Single 'Could Have Been Me'
UK-based rock band The Struts comes to The Pageant Dec. 7 to show America what rock music has been missing. Lead songwriters Luke Spiller and Adam Slack compose songs that represent a style of rock ‘n’ roll that should never (fingers crossed) die.Influenced by the high energy and catchy hooks of bands like Queen and The Rolling Stones, The Struts embody a sound that is classically familiar, yet somehow modernly unique.
I had the chance to speak on the phone with Spiller while he was in-transit to the London train station. We talked about his start as a musician, what inspires his creativity and the meaning behind the band’s hit single “Could Have Been Me.”
Spiller first picked up a guitar at age 11, and by age 12 music started to make an impression on his future plans. When I asked if his parents had always been supportive of his desired career path, he answered “Well, I’ve got one of them next to me right now, getting me to the train. It doesn’t get much more supportive than that.”
When it comes to a musical influence, Spiller says, “I draw from a lot of things, mostly theatrical stuff.” He didn’t give specifics to a particular person or group, saying “it all kind of ties into one thing and it’s difficult to explain.” Still, it’s hard not to reminisce on Freddie Mercury’s glory days when you hear Spiller’s vocal range.
It seems most creative people have a certain spot where inspiration flows and work comes easy. For Spiller, his is “definitely not on the road.” He continued by saying, “there are loads of great places. Personally, I enjoy the most writing probably in England, at home—just looking out onto the back gardens and drawing on the Britishness, if you would. You can kinda pull characters out of the air.” He also mentions the Channel Islands, a place called Jersey, where the band had a few successful sessions. “It’s a very small place, a cool place to get work done. There’s not a lot going on there, so there’s little distraction, great people and a great studio. It’s a place I’d like to spend more time.”
The Struts’ songs are initially built by either Spiller or Slack—individually or together—writing acoustically. “We take the outline of an idea and we bring it to the studio. We tend to bring Jed (bassist, Jed Elliott) or Gethin (drummer, Gethin Davies) in a little bit later,” he says, walking me through their songwriting process. Then, Spiller asks if I can hang on for five minutes as he has reached the train station and needs to purchase his ticket. I hear the car doors shut, some muffled talking and then a loud “bye, love you!” (to his parent, I imagine). I wait as he orders his train ticket—”Hello, may I have two singles to London Paddington, please”—checking in with me every so often to make sure I’m still there and alright.
With all of the recent buzz around The Struts—gaining radio support in the US, vastly expanding their fan base and headling shows internationally—it’s hard to believe that there was ever any calm before the fame storm. But just like in any creative process, there are always moments of disappointment and doubt. Spiller says there were a lot of dark moments before the band reached the platform they are at today.
“Could Have Been Me” and most of the album was written the best part of four years ago,” Spiller explained. Seeing as it wasn’t until just about a year and a half ago that the band ever reached any gain or popularity, there was a good amount of time that the band wasn’t satisfied. “The band was going through a very difficult time. We had rubbish people looking after us, we weren’t being paid much attention to on our label, and there was kind of a fork in the road; we had to go this way or that. We chose to press on because we believed in the quality of the music.”
The hard times inspired the idea behind their single “Could Have Been Me,” which Spiller says “has nothing to do with love whatsoever.” Then he pauses for a thought and returns with, “Well, I guess it could be.” Though, he went on to explain, “It’s more of a song about picking yourself up and getting on with whatever it is that you want to do.”
Judging by their style, you would never believe that Spiller and crew have been living out of suitcases for the past five months. Then again, when you’re headlining for a 3,000-person crowd, you’ve got to look the part. When I asked about his favorite performance costume he said, “I go through phases. I don’t really know. I like them all.”
We ended the conversation discussing past shows with good turn-outs, New York to name one, and his drink of choice, which he says is, “whiskey coke when I’m feeling naughty and gin and tonic when I’m on a diet.” Then he laughed and confirmed that he’s never on a diet.
As far as advice for other musicians goes, Spiller says, “Carry on, don’t be afraid to be different, and be yourself”—something he’s experienced firsthand. Heading off to continue his busy lifestyle between London and LA, Spiller says he hopes everyone in St. Louis has fun and does a lot of dancing at the Decemeber show. Spiller was funny, genuine and a real nice guy to go on a trip through London with (if only I had actually been there).
For tickets to the see The Struts on Dec. 7 at the Pageant, visit thepageant.com.