Dean Lenker III – Staff Writer
CLARION, Pa.- Clarion’s annual CampusFest event rocked the area at Memorial Stadium, April 21.
After hosting comedy acts last year, Clarion’s university activities board welcomed two musical groups from wildly different genres.
Headlining the event was 2000s hip hop star Nelly, and supporting was English glam rock group The Struts. Just hours before their electric performance, The Struts sat down with The Clarion Call to discuss their career, influences, international touring, upcoming music and more.
The Struts formed in 2009 and are based in the city of Derby, Derbyshire of the United Kingdom. According to the band, this city was selected based on its relatively central location within the English mainland, along with the luxury of free practice space in guitarist Adam Slack’s garage. Only Slack was originally from the city of Derby.
Though they are certainly not the first British rock band to bring their music to America (a band named The Beatles comes to mind here), The Struts’ stage presence and energy evokes flashes of nostalgic rock and roll history.
Band frontman and lead vocalist Luke Spiller has drawn comparisons to several rock greats, with “Popular” magazine describing him as “the musical love child of Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger.”
The other three members of the band provide the essentials of traditional rock music: guitar, bass and drums. This four-piece lineup is one that has been utilized by many of the band’s rock influences such as Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. The decision to play with just one guitarist showcases the ability of guitarist Slack to fill the sound, alternating between playing lead and rhythm parts during live performances.
The set The Struts played at CampusFest consisted primarily of songs from their first full length album “Everybody Wants”, which has been released in various forms as well as at several different times over the past few years. Though the album was released in the United States last spring. However, the United Kingdom release was forced early by the The Struts’ record label back in 2014 when some of the songs for the album were still only demo versions.
Accordingly, the record was not received as well as the band had hoped. Like many great rock bands before them, they were able to stay positive and fight through these adverse times.
“It all happened for a reason. At the end of the day, yes, it didn’t get play on the radio and there was only one magazine review. But, you know, we then hit the road, and despite having no real push, we still did some great shows,” said Spiller.
The big breakthrough into the popular music industry that the band was waiting for did not happen in the United Kingdom. It was not until radio stations in Paris got a hold of their music that the door opened up for The Struts to embark on their first serious national tour, which provided them the necessary live experience to hone their craft of putting on killer rock shows.
“All of a sudden, we found ourselves in Paris and France properly touring in this shit van like two to three weeks at a time, which was really cool; we were five English guys [counting their driver, guitarist Slack’s cousin] doing what they loved driving up and down,” said Spiller.
A few months into their French tour, The Struts had an opportunity to play the gig of a lifetime: performing to 80,000 fans alongside a rock and roll royalty act by the name of The Rolling Stones.
“From that, we gained a really big reputation as a party hard, live band. And that’s how we were put up for the show with the The Rolling Stones in Paris, which basically changed our whole life,” explained Spiller.
For the last few months, The Struts have been working on new music for their upcoming album. Even though they have been playing songs from their first album for roughly five years now, their recent success has brought a new energy of sorts for the band when they get the opportunity to go on the road.
“It’s amazing how fresh an old song can be when you’re playing in front of a crowd that knows every word and is singing along,” said Spiller.
In today’s music industry, it is quite uncommon for a band reminiscent of what we now call “classic rock” to experience the kind of impact and success that The Struts are currently enjoying. This could be a sign of things to come in the music industry, or as Spiller views it, it may just be a sign that great music of any genre will always have what it takes to be successful.
“I’m not really throwing my chips on saying that rock and roll is going to make this big comeback,” said Spiller.
“I’m more interested to see whether, given the right quality of music, will the public […] connect with guitar and bass music again, and be, like, ‘you know what, this is somewhat refreshing and I like what this band’s doing,’” said Spiller.
The Struts are seemingly going to continue creating their brand of music as they have already in their career, despite having record labels early on encouraging them to sound more like pop music and more contemporary groups such as fellow English band The 1975.
If any band could pioneer a revival of traditional rock music, The Struts would be that band. As Spiller said, they are not banking on this change of course in the music industry; they are likely to continue creating the style of music they love with their upcoming album release.
To view the full exclusive interview with the band, visit The Clarion Call YouTube channel.