UK glam rockers The Struts have added a third album to their stellar career – which has already seen them open for The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Guns N’ Roses – an album which shows the band have no intention of letting anything slow them down, least of all a global pandemic.
Strange Days is full of rock anthems of stadium-like proportion, demonstrating a new level of confidence from the Derby four-piece. It’s also studded with collaborations with an impressive string of names that function concurrently as endorsements of the band itself.
The title track is a ballad duet that frontman Luke Spiller shares with none other than Robbie Williams, a reflective and optimistic opener that grounds the album in these ‘Strange Days’; this bizarre year in modern history.
Albert Hammond Jr of The Strokes, Phil Collen and Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, and Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine also feature, in itself a glimpse into the band’s ‘just go for it’ attitude that’s earned their music and live shows a reputation of carrying an electric, unforgettable energy.
“Most of the collaborations came out of genuine conversation and just saying, ‘Hey, by the way, [we’re] about to hit the studio – if we can conjure anything up, would you be interested in jumping on it and just going nuts on it?’ and everyone was like ‘Yeah!’”
Spiller’s optimistic, ‘can do’ approach and genuine love for creating music shines through in his ambitious ‘collaboration bucket list’ of artists he’d love to work with.
“Oh my God! I’d love a duet between me and Lana Del Rey, and then having Elton John play the keys and provide some backing vocals – that would be really cool.”
He also cites Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne, and like many, has the goal of doing a James Bond track.
On a roll, Spiller turns a bit cheeky, and adds: “I wouldn’t mind singing for AC/DC – if Brian [Johnson] has a little bit of a sore throat – I know Axl [Rose] has the job – but if Axl and Brian couldn’t make it, they could call me,” he grins, clearly intoxicated by the prospect.
In terms of relating with the icons they’ve worked with on Strange Days and throughout their career, Spiller explains the excitement and amazement “never goes away. They’re still the artists you admire.”
“It’s nice that we’ve been able to bring a lot of different faces and flavours to our table, and some unexpected sounds, as well as songs. It is funny – when I first met Tom Morello, I still was completely fangirling inside.”
He gives the example of when Tom Morello played a Bruce Springsteen cover with The Struts in Nashville, where you can see the band’s incredulity that it’s actually happening.
Despite tour plans for the album looking uncertain for the moment, Spiller doesn’t seem too fazed. He likens the circumstance to being in our mid-teens, before being able to go out.
“I remember in those years, I would never really watch bands – most of the bands I loved and adored were either broken up or dead anyway – but the world that music gave me inside my head was one I ran through, and was hugely inspired by.”
He sees artists as being able to provide escapism for their fans in this time, to “give them something they can fall into when everything becomes a bit too samey and boring”.
“This album kind of fell out of the sky – out of excitement, out of enthusiasm. It was fresh territory for us creatively.”
Strange Days is The Struts’ first album with lyrical content drawn from Spiller’s lived experience, instead of character’s he’s written. Spiller is proud of the uncharted territory the band have entered into.
“The best music and the best songs tend to come from just the place of what you’re feeling at the time,” he points out. “Then it’s drenched in honesty, and…exactly what you’re going through.”
“When we got together to make what would become Strange Days the record, we all agreed that we weren’t going to try ‘cater to radio’ or think about what the label might say – let’s just do whatever we want. Ironically, it becomes some of your most exciting work, because it’s from the heart.”