STORY BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER
For Digital First Media
Checking in from the tour bus in Boston where he’s about to take the stage, Luke Spiller sounds tired. You really can’t blame him, as the band he fronts, The Struts, have been on the road nonstop trying to break America, something very few up and coming acts out of England have been successful doing.
“One year ago we left the UK and embarked on the biggest journey of our career and committed to living out of suitcases in the USA,” Spiller posted on the group’s Facebook page this past Monday. “What a truly insane year this has been! Never been more exhausted in my life but incredibly grateful for the ridiculously hardworking team we have around us and the wonderful fans all over this country!!!”
This Sunday (Aug. 7), the upstarts who came charging out of the gates with the hit “Could Have Been Me” headline third Radio 104.5 Summer Block Party event of the year at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing. It’s the latest in a string of regional appearances which has included a slot on last year’s Budweiser Made in America event and headlining shows at the Theater of Living Arts and Lancaster’s Chameleon Club.
Despite the grind, Spiller remains enthusiastic for a couple of reasons, one being The Struts just played the annual Lollapalooza in Chicago where, despite an early afternoon positioning on the bill, ended up drawing a sizable crowd.
“From the word ‘go,’ I knew it was going to be an exceptional day,” he said. “Sometimes in the past, you never really know how big the audience is going to be, or how small. So we were really, really thrilled with the amount of people who came out to see us. I think it was about 15,000, maybe 20. I don’t know – it looks massive on the picture.”
“I actually printed one of the pictures from it, I blew it up to a massive poster and now it’s [hanging up] on the inside of our tour bus. I wake up; go for a shower and I use that picture as inspiration for my day to day tasks.
Then there was one of the, on the surface, more odd pairings of The Struts with Mötley Crüe for the final four dates of the notorious Los Angeles sleaze rocker’s farewell tour, which came to an end New Year’s Eve. Opening for an act known as much for their tattoo sleeves as songs like “Shout at the Devil” and “Dr. Feelgood” left Spiller understandably apprehensive in the days leading up to the performances.
“I’m not gonna lie; there was a part of me before going onto the stage the first night I was quite nervous we weren’t going to be accepted – I’m not stupid,” he said. “But you know, where credit’s due, a huge, huge majority of the Crüe fans were more than welcoming and I didn’t feel we were out of place by the time we got offstage for the first show. The problem was never really with the audience or the Mötley Crüe demographic, it was always, if anything, to do with us. ‘How could we make this better?’ and ‘How could we get more people in?’ Because they’re there for the taking; they’re a bunch of really nice people. So I was pleasantly surprised.”
Still, triumphs aside, there’s no denying how unforgiving the road can be; long stretches of empty highways from city to city, multiple meet and greets and interviews with irrepressible and irritating disc jockeys and journalists – present company excluded of course.
“It’s the price that we have to pay really; this is what we always wanted,” Spiller said. “Our ambition has always been infinity and beyond, and in order to make that happen we have to do as much touring as we can and we want to talk to anyone who wants to speak to us.
Spiller credits the enthusiasm of the audiences for keeping him and the band energized, feeding off of them each night; even more so on this leg of the tour, which is in support of their March release Everybody Wants, a debut that initially came out in the summer of 2014 to indifference in the UK from their label there. The record has been reconfigured in a number of ways, sonically and song-wise.
“It’s fantastic, even having a second chance in the first place,” Spiller said. “We knew we had to do everything we could to make it worthwhile; remaster the whole album, re-recording some of the tracks, having five new additional songs. These were all pieces that were going to come together to make our debut the second time around far more superior, a superior album. I think everything that’s going on now is just evidence that actually worked. We’re really happy. I’m really happy. And we just can’t wait to get going on number two.”