By: Craig Hunter Ross
In part two of our exclusive conversation with The Struts, Guitar International dives into the process and pitfalls of producing an album while simultaneously touring like there’s now tomorrow. For those of you just now being introduced to the lads, they are: Luke Spiller (lead vocals), Adam Slack (guitar), Jed Elliott (bass) and on drums, Gethin Davies. PART ONE: HERE!
Being on the road while trying to write and record new music for a new album is a great challenge for any band, let alone for a young band looking to make an even bigger splash with the career critical follow-up to a successful debut album. The Struts share some of the struggles and triumphs of the process and their excitement for the release of Young and Dangerous, which will be released October 26, 2018.
Craig Hunter Ross: With all of the touring you have been doing over the last two years, how did you find time to write?
Luke Spiller: With great difficulty.
Adam Slack: We just kissed our days off goodbye basically. Any day off that was near the west coast, we’d fly to Los Angeles to write. If we were on the east coast, we’d go to Nashville. One time we played in Quebec, left the next morning and flew to London, then to New Jersey and immediately had to get to writing. I remember we went out and got absolutely trashed because we had such bad jet lag.
Luke Spiller: Hey, that was my birthday, wasn’t it? We weren’t allowed into this shitty little club.
Adam Slack: Oh yeah!
Luke Spiller: Actually, it wasn’t a club, it was some little hotel bar and they said they wouldn’t serve us, because we were too drunk and we’d only had literally three pints. So, we went chasing a balloon down the road. Anyway, a different story that is! [Laughs]
Honestly, for me and Adam, for our part, mentally…it just felt liked you were getting fucked in the head by a giant dick every night.
Adam Slack: At one point we are staying in this hotel in New Jersey and we were approaching like day five of not coming up with a song. We’d go down for breakfast in the morning and they are constantly playing Enya, like every morning, like clockwork. It was really old people there. I felt like we were in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or something.
My brain was aching by the time I’d go to bed from trying to squeeze some kind of song out. We can look back and laugh now, but we would really sit there and have conversations just saying “I hope we can come up with something today”.
Luke Spiller: It’s good though. We really pushed the boat out, when you think about it. We had to squeeze the potential of five years of writing that went into Everybody Wants, into a time period I’d say of intense writing that went over about a period of six to seven months. That’s six months of writing, recording and cutting tracks spaced out over a period of two years.
Craig: Did everyone come in with their own ideas or parts, or do you sit together in the studio and hash it out? Do you work in the studio, rent a house, etcetera?
Jed Elliot: A few of them had some different approaches. Because this one has been so intense, a lot of it was just Luke an Adam with a producer working anywhere and everywhere when they would have 48 hours off.
Others, when we have had a bit more time, then yeah, we’d have houses with a drum kit set up and such.
Luke Spiller: We really pushed for that…we needed time in these places where we could sit as a band and really conjure up something. I was making this argument that we were being booked into all of this studio time and we were constantly on the road and it was getting to the point where we had exhausted all of these ideas. I was saying to management and the label that we need the band to get into a house and start actually creating something, because we really had nothing left.
So, we did and got six or seven out of those couple of weeks and like two of them made the album, so it was a really good experience. We could kind of turn the page and realize, okay, these are really cool songs. That felt good, they were original and that kind of gave more fuel to carry on and finish the album.
Craig: From the singles that have been released so far, you have some really big arrangements and a lot going on with some of the tracks. Was it a struggle to know when to stop and say, okay the song is finished, without being tempted to keep massaging and adding, editing?
Luke Spiller: It depends. With a big arrangement, there’s only so far you can go. I think you know when it’s the end. If you are pushing for something larger than life, I believe you know it when you hear it. You say to yourself that it’s as far as you can go within your own personal taste.
Adam Slack: There was a point when were writing “Ashes” and we’d come up with a verse like a week before we’d gone in the studio, then put that old verse in, so like one verse was a slow ballad and the other was an up tempo, so we were wondering what to do and Luke suggested we go into a big breakdown, like a big moment…and it was like if we do that, it probably won’t be a single anymore, but we were like, fuck it, let’s go for it. Sometimes those moments can come naturally in the studio.
Luke Spiller: Again, it comes down to your personal taste, if you are out there to create something huge, it’s up to you as a committee to come up with what the boundaries are. If you are on the same page, and want it to be something special, not “I Would Do Anything For Love, but I Won’t Do that” and go on for nine minutes or some shit…there’s a line of being ridiculous or pompous.
With some of these songs, I personally, out of sheer exhaustion, didn’t know if I thought they were finished or not. I think I speak for Adam as well when it comes to that. Some of the people who really saved our asses were people that came in from the outside, who stepped in and would say “This is brilliant, but not quite yet the best it can be, you guys should go rehash it.”
Gethin Davies: I remember when they came in with “Body Talks” and were like “This is shit” and I was like “Uh, no this is great”…
Jed Elliott: Yeah, it was like one of the strongest
Gethin Davies: Still they were like no, no…you could tell they were just drained.
Luke Spiller: We had no idea what was good. Thank God people were brutally honest with us, like our management and our families, girlfriends, whomever. It’s how hard we had gone to that point, we had no idea what was decent and if anyone would like it or if we even liked it. It’s only when we stepped back and listened to the mix and I was like “Yeah these are incredible songs”.
Craig: Here’s a fan question from Ted in Virginia…”Even though it’s early on, do you have any songs off the new album that have become your favorites to play live?”
Gethin Davies: I love “Ashes” because it’ so epic. Even though it’s not even out yet, the crowd really connect with it.
Luke Spiller: I would agree, I like doing “Ashes” because I get to play piano on it. I spoke to someone about that the other day. I love doing the whole front man thing, prancing about and what not, but it is fucking hard work. It’s nice to actually play with the band on a different level. I can experience their company in a different way, as four musicians, without being the constant over the top pantomime, which I also love, but being able to play gives me a different sense of responsibiility on a different level.
Jed Elliott: Mine would be Fire. It was one of the ones I wrote with Adam and Luke along with Butch Walker. As soon as Luke came with that chorus, and the piano, it checks off all my boxes musically.
Craig: That tune could easily reside comfortably on the Queen album Innuendo.
Luke Spiller: It does sound a bit like later Queen. A bit like “Mr. Bad Guy” (Mercury solo), as well.
Jed Elliott: It’s got some Smiths, some arpeggio guitar, some Meatloaf epicness, Thin Lizzy, dual guitars, it’s all my favorites wrapped into one.
Luke Spiller: The reason it has those arpeggio guitars is because I laid down the piano track, as it was going to be piano driven like say “Bat Out of Hell”, and our management were like “You can’t play piano the whole song”. So, then Adam and Butch went to work on it and created a really original vibe.
Adam Slack: it’s one of my favorites to do live. “Ashes” is too much with the pedals and too much concentration. “Fire” has a cool solo to play live and I’m not just playing fucking power chords the whole song. It’s a bit challenging, but a fun challenge.
Craig: I love the covers you all have done, like Royals (Lorde), Get Lucky (Daft Punk), so many others. I think it’s time now that you’ve got a tremendous second album under your belts to record an album of nothing but cover songs. You should call it “The Struts: Under the Covers”
Jed Elliott: Nice! I like that!
Luke Spiller: I had another cover idea last night. Don’t know when or how to do it, but a piano arpeggio version of System of a Down’s “Aerials” (sings his version)….
Jed Elliott: Are you high? [All Laugh]
Craig: So, in plans for this cover album project I’m going to give each of you two songs to potentially be on the album. You have to choose which one goes on.
Craig: Okay, Adam…”Saturday’s Alright For Fighting” by Elton John or “I’m Your Boogie Man” by KC and the Sunshine Band?
Adam Slack: Well, I don’t know the second one, so the first one.
Craig: Luke…”Freedom” by George Michael or “Livin La Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin?
Luke Spiller: “Livin La Vida Loca”, because “Freedom” is “Kiss This”. [Laughs]
Craig: Jed your turn…”Does Your Mother Know” by ABBA or “Big Bottom” by Spinal Tap?
Jed Elliott: Nice! It’s gotta be ABBA, always.
Craig: Last one, Geth, “Can’t Stand Losing You” by The Police or “Nights on Broadway” by The Bee Gees.
Gethin Davies: I’m gonna go with The Bee Gees.
Jed Elliott: But, that Police song is amazing dude.
Craig: That’s all for now fellas, thanks for your time and much success with the new album, which will be released October 26
The Struts: Thank you so much!
PART TWO: The Struts Look to Conquer the World with Young and Dangerous
Source: Guitar International Magazine