“It became, in my opinion, one of the strongest records we’ve done to date.” The Struts frontman Luke Spiller chats with us about their new album Strange Days
When lockdown happened, The Struts couldn’t sit still. After being on the road almost constantly for five years and all shows in the foreseeable future cancelled, the British glam-rock band got COVID tests; crowded into producer Jon Levine’s California house and crashed on couches and air mattresses. Within just 10 days, the band wrote and recorded Strange Days, a powerhouse album that frontman Luke Spiller says is some of their best work.
The band, which also includes guitarist Adam Slack, bassist Jed Elliott and drummer Gethin Davies, decided going in that this music would be for the fans. “This wasn’t about radio. This wasn’t about making an album. It was just, ‘Let’s just have some fun, because we can,’” Spiller explained. “It became, in my opinion, one of the strongest records we’ve done to date.”
Strange Days consists of nine original tracks and a cover of a Kiss B-side. It’s the band’s third album, following 2018’s Young & Dangerous, which Levine also co-produced. Spiller, who spoke to us via Zoom from Devon, England, said the experimental writing and recording process wasn’t something the band had tackled before. The intention was to move into Levine’s house and record perhaps three or four songs, but being together 24-7 inspired them to do more.
“We kind of lived and breathed the music that was being made every day,” Spiller said. “I’m not sure if the album and the process would have been as prolific if we had been able to leave or have a few days off and do our own thing. It was very intense, but a great intense.”
All of the tracks were recorded live and most of the guitar-driven songs on Strange Days have a harder edge. Spiller said that the “fearless” sound is the result of the band being on the road almost non-stop. “We had the ability to jam, and the ability to do takes, like the old fashioned way,” he said, explaining that the result was more live-sounding because their playing was instinctive. Recording in Levine’s small studio space gave the drums a “super-70s dead sound, which sounded huge,” he said.
Spiller’s favorite track? "'Cool’" is his immediate answer. “I just think it is so bloody brilliant and it has such great energy to it. It’s just a jam. It's just an amazing jam,” he said noting that most of his vocals were laid down in one take. “It just fell out of the sky. It’s so much fun. I really love that one.”
An all-star list of collaborators contributed to the album. Britpop singer and Los Angeles neighbour Robbie Williams duets with Spiller on the timely and uplifting title track, released last month. To maintain social distancing, Spiller and Williams recorded their vocals on Williams’s front porch. “The birdsong that you hear in the beginning, that’s from Robbie’s front garden,” Spiller said.
The band also teamed up with Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes on lead single ‘Another Hit of Showmanship,’ and Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello added some heavy guitar work to ‘Wild Child.’ Def Leppard's Joe Elliott and Phil Collen contributed to 'I Hate How Much I Want You.’ (At the beginning of the song is a recording of Spiller cheekily asking Elliot to add his “big old pipes” to the chorus.)
The sole cover song on Strange Days, 'Do You Love Me,' sees The Struts updating a track first recorded by KISS in 1976. Spiller said he liked the band Girl’s 1980 cover, on which pre-Leppard Collen played guitar.
Spiller said Levine has a writing credit on every original song due to his immense contribution and direction. “It’s a great feeling knowing that [we’ve finished] something that listens very well from start to finish, takes you on a journey and has so many cool, unique flavors.
“I think our fans are going to absolutely love it.”