Luke Spiller won't rest until he's a rock star. And he has a couple of things going for him: As the frontman for the English rock band the Struts, he exudes Mick Jagger's cocksure swagger onstage and bears an eerie resemblance to Freddie Mercury; in fact, he wears stage outfits designed by Zandra Rhodes, the English designer who outfitted both Mercury and Queen guitarist Brian May.
Spiller's band played in front of 80,000 people in Paris as the opener for the Rolling Stones, and Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters recently declared the Struts the “best opening band we’ve ever had.” There's no denying such high-profile support slots give the band a boost, but Spiller says it's difficult to measure success as a modern recording and touring group, particularly when the bandmates' goals are so lofty.
"It's funny, isn't it? Define 'success,' really," he says. "Bob Dylan said success is being able to get up in the morning and go to sleep again, and everything in between that is doing what you want. On the other side, we define success with chart position, cash flow, and how your business, which is your band, grows. In terms of breaking America, I'd say we're taking a giant leap forward. We've covered an enormous amount of ground over the last three years. Everything is moving toward this second album."
The Struts' sophomore album, Young&Dangerous, will be released Friday, October 26. The band is set to play Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale Tuesday, October 16, as part of its plan to take over the world. Really, this is just more of the same from the Struts. On "Could Have Been Me," the first single off their 2014 debut album, Everybody Wants, Spiller lays out his arena-size aspirations in no uncertain terms. In the first line, he sings, "Don't wanna live as an untold story/Rather go out in a blaze of glory."
"I just know that this band is meant for bigger and better things," Spiller says. "Our music is always written with that in mind. If I was happy at this level, where we've been for the past three years, this album wouldn't be as strong as it is, because I wouldn't have resung everything a hundred times. I wouldn't have been so self-critical, and my label wouldn't have been so critical and imposing; my managers wouldn't be so driven. We all want to be an arena band, and we want to be the biggest band on the planet."
What's funny is that Spiller and his bandmates — guitarist Adam Slack, bassist Jed Elliott, and drummer Gethin Davies — aren't trying to cash in on Top 40 trends; rather, they're making strikingly untrendy music that's rooted almost entirely in stuff that happened 40-plus years ago. In fact, that's the main complaint against the Struts: Critics say the band makes overly derivative rock 'n' roll that wears its influences not only on its sleeve but also on its entire sequined suit. It's almost as if the Struts are a cover band playing a bunch of glam-rock hits you've never heard, just with modern production quality.
However, Spiller and company put on such a convincing Mötley Crüe-style show that it's easy to believe the most popular and culturally relevant forms of music are still played with guitar, drums, and bass — that rock 'n' roll isn't dormant, but dominant. Basically, they're banking on tapping into a huge, built-in fan base by blatantly ransacking classic rock’s Library of Congress.
Or at least that's the way it seems on the surface. Though Spiller idolizes the great British rock stars of yesteryear, his influences aren't limited to rock 'n' roll. For example, when singing, he has a tendency to trill his r's much in the fashion of Mercury. But that's not where he picked up the habit.
"When I was 10, I was playing the pharaoh in a musical theater production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber," he says. "In the cast recording I was studying, there's a bit where Jacob tells the audience about his favorite son, Joseph... That's where I picked it up from. I started doing it when I was singing in my old school band. It became part of the character. Yeah, Freddie did it as well on some of the more obscure Queen tracks, but for me, it's more about playing into this character I have onstage.
"And at the end of the day, what didn't Freddie Mercury do?" he continues. "The guy was such a genius; it's hard not to compare him to anyone."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
The comparisons with Spiller won't stop anytime soon — not as long as the Struts are dredging up the oil left over by the dinosaurs of classic rock in the band's brazen attempt to become as big as Queen.
"For the record, I'm not satisfied one bit," he says. "I appreciate where we are and I love it, but am I satisfied? Not really. I mean, ask the Rolling Stones if they're satisfied."
He's got a point: Everyone knows they can't get no satisfaction.
The Struts. 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 16, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale, 954-564-1074, cultureroom.net. Tickets are sold out.