The Struts' Luke Spiller on Taylor Hawkins, five-year-old fans, and the joy of bowls

Luke Spiller headshot
(Image credit: Beth Saravo)

Backstage at Shepherds Bush Empire, Luke Spiller is practically bouncing off the walls with anticipation for his band’s imminent return to the London stage. 

The Struts’ 33-year-old vocalist is all charm and grace as he apologises for an over-running band meeting that has made him literally seconds late for his rendezvous with Classic Rock. He exhibits the effervescent energy of a man chomping at the bit to get down to the business of reminding the capital who this country’s most flamboyant rock star is. 

“Last year I was taken on tour kicking and screaming,” he confides, “because I’d really got used to my quintessential English country gentleman life in lockdown, but it only took a couple of performances before I realised that I missed being loved and adored on stage every night. Now it feels like I’m back where I belong, and I’m ready to be loved and adored some more.”

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How has The Homecoming tour been for you? 

It’s been absolutely incredible. We’ve been playing a lot of material from the album that we recorded during lockdown [2020’s Strange Days], and we’ve got a new song, Fallin’ With Me, which is going to be released in August [this interview took place in July], that we’re actually playing for the first time tonight. So we’re excited. 

Is Fallin’ With Me indicative of the direction the next Struts album will take? 

Yes, we definitely wanted to approach the new record with fresh ears, and we’ve been very conscious of the fact that we don’t want to repeat ourselves. Given that this will be our fourth record, we want to create something really new and fresh. It’s still obviously going to be a guitar record, it’ll still be The Struts, but it’s kinda lo-fi, and quirky, like Talking Heads on steroids. 

Strange Days featured a number of special guests, from Robbie Williams to Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine: this time around are you battening down the hatches so that it’s just the four of you again? 

Absolutely, yeah, man. I mean, it’s funny, upon the release of Strange Days some people were kinda saying: “Oh, The Struts can’t do anything themselves, blah blah blah, they always have to have these features.” And the truth of the matter is that we never really intended to create an album in the first place, and given that it was recorded in lockdown, in 10 days, we wanted to create something really unique and different. 

And having this collection of people that we’d met over the years, we thought would be really fun. But we’ve scratched that itch and now we’re looking forward to getting back to basics. Our new label, Big Machine, is desperate to get new Struts music out there.

Where is home for Luke Spiller these days? 

I divide my time between LA and Devon, and I enjoy that juxtaposition. LA is a great place to be inspired, and it’s a fantastic place to get work done, but the trouble I found when I first moved there three years ago is that it’s a place to play hard too – and I was playing very, very hard for quite some time. But I think I’ve found a good balance now. 

When I came back to the UK and things were just opening up again, I had the greatest summer of my life. I enjoyed having some proper time at home with my piano, and I joined my local bowls team, in Dawlish, and was playing bowls four or five times a week. I was the youngest member of my team by about thirty-five years, but it’s an old-school sport and I’m a bit of an old soul. 

Did many people in the South Devon bowling fraternity recognise you from your day job? 

Nobody! It was just after we had Strange Days as Track Of The Week on Radio 2. But because of my appearance, people would ask: “How can you play bowls during the day? Don’t you have a job?” But a lot of my teammates have become big fans of the band. They’re actually getting a van up to see us play Bristol Academy in a few days, which should be fun. 

There seems to be something of a resurgence in guitar music on the radio at present. Have you noticed an upsurge in Struts tracks on streaming services as a result? 

Yeah. I think it’s a great time to be in a band. People have been starved of live music, and for the first time in a long time there are guitar bands blowing up all over the world. Let’s be honest, the resurgence has mainly been an American pop-punk kind of thing, and that’s not really my bag, so I’m looking forward to pushing a more traditional British kind of sound to the Americans.

[US pop star] Halsey cut Could Have Been Me [a song on The Struts’ 2013 debut album Everybody Wants] for the film Sing 2, and we’ve just seen a massive explosion of all these really young kids coming to our concerts. I’ve been flooded with videos of five-year-olds running around singing Could Have Been Me, which is so surreal. 

You’re scheduled to appear at the Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts in LA and London in September. You paid a beautiful tribute to him on Instagram when he died, so could you tell us what made him special to you? 

He was just the greatest. From the first moment that I met Taylor, we were very much kindred spirits, musically. He had such an encyclopaedic knowledge of music, and he turned me on to a lot of bands I never expected I’d listen to – Alice In Chains, for one. Some of my best memories are performing with him and his covers band Chevy Metal or just rocking out to Queen or The Faces in the rehearsal room at his house by the pool. 

The outpouring of love for him on social media after he died was a real testament to how much he was loved, and how many people he touched. He was such a warm-hearted and welcoming soul, and I’m honoured to be a part of these shows.

The Struts play the Aftershock Festival in Sacramento, CA, on October 9. Tickets are on sale now (opens in new tab).

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.