America’s love affair with British rock and roll is long and storied. From the moment the Beatles washed up on these shores, American fans began flocking to bands like the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Kinks, later discovering the colorful antics of the Sex Pistols and T. Rex, not to mention the sheer brilliance of David Bowie.
Over the decades, that appreciation has only expanded, and while not everything that makes its way across the pond is exceptional, every couple of years a band bursts out of the U.K. that is a little bit special.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that said band will go on to sell a multitude of records or downloads, but it’s always good to be reminded not only that rock and roll is still very much alive, but that it’s still capable of making waves on both sides of the Atlantic.
So when Guns N’ Roses handpicked British band the Struts to open its gargantuan San Francisco show, it was a bit of a wake-up call for audiences. Brits with at least one ear to the ground may have been hearing about the Struts for a couple of years thanks to a gig with the Rolling Stones, coverage in publications like Classic Rock magazine, and tabloid-friendly bits of gossip about, among other things, singer Luke Spiller dating model Laura Cartier Millon — but the group was still an unknown quantity here.
Celebrity nonsense aside, however, America should be taking notice of the Struts. There hasn’t been a new rock-and-roll band like this in some time. These guys are influenced in equal parts by Queen, the Rolling Stones, Def Leppard and even My Chemical Romance, and it’s the sum of those parts that makes them so special. While they don’t sound like MCR, the overt nod to contemporary emo-punk song structure is a natural fit.
The comparison to Queen is the most obvious, perhaps because Spiller bears a striking resemblance to 1970s Freddie Mercury in both appearance and vocal style. Like the Darkness before them, the Struts are fond of splashing their classic-rock sound with operatic elements.
If there’s a strange element to the band, it’s that it’s based in Derby, in the East Midlands region of England. Derby might be the least rock-and-roll town in that country, so it would be reasonable to assume that the band would take off for London as soon as it began to get noticed — but that wasn’t the case.
“There’s no scene there, to be fair,” Spiller acknowledges. “[But] I think that’s why we chose to stick around there for a bit — there’s nothing new going on. I guess when you do this sort of music, in the majority of places you’re gonna be the odd one out.”
He’s not kidding. The men of the Struts look every inch the rock stars they were born to be, boasting long, styled hair, a dash of makeup, elaborate blouses, skinny pants and snakeskin boots. One can only imagine that such wardrobes would garner a few sideways glances in Derby’s city center.
The band formed nearly seven years ago, when Spiller met guitarist and songwriter Adam Slack and the pair connected through a shared love of rock and roll. In 2012, Jed Elliott and Gethin Davies joined in on bass and drums, respectively, and the group was up and running.
Well, sort of. The Struts put out a debut album, Everybody Wants, in 2014, but it was largely ignored until a change of manager led to their landing the gig with the Stones, a deal with Interscope Records and a whole new lease on their collective musical life.
“We were surrounded by the wrong people and label,” Spiller explains. “Nothing happened, apart from [that] France started to play our music. So we went over there to tour, and from that we got the Stones show. That changed our lives, really. We met some massive American managers, and we all of a sudden had radio play over here in the States.”
The Struts play Denver this week, and Spiller is looking forward to coming back after a successful gig the last time they were here. As is the case for many visiting bands, local marijuana laws are appealing, and Spiller likes our museums.
“We’ve got a few new things we’re gonna throw in there,” he says of the upcoming date at the Gothic. “It’ll be a good show: high energy, a couple of costume changes, guitar solos — that kind of concert.”
We’d expect nothing less.
8:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 20, Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway, Englewood, 303-789-9206, $20-$25.
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