The Struts are currently on their most extensive UK tour in almost five years.
Whilst most British bands struggle to crack the US market, The Struts are not most bands. The Derby originating quartet has spent much of the last few years on the other side of the pond. During this time the group has toured America relentlessly whilst gaining a significant following abroad. A string of hit radio singles Stateside as well as tours with the likes of The Foo Fighters have well and truly put The Struts on the map. In fact, Dave Grohl himself regards the band as the best support band they’ve ever had.
Eventually, the UK is finally catching up, with most dates on the band’s current run completely sold out. National Rock Review recently caught up with three quarters of The Struts including guitarist Adam Slack, bass player Jed Elliott and drummer Gethin Davies before their show at Newcastle University to get the low down on their current album Young & Dangerous, life on the road with the Foo Fighters and the simple pleasures of being back home in the UK.
NRR: So you’re currently out on tour across the UK. The current run is your first full UK tour in five years. I was just wondering how have the shows been going so far?
Jed: They’ve been unreal mate. A lot of them have been on par with some of the greatest shows we’ve played in America, which is phenomenal for us because I mean we couldn’t have done it four years ago. But because of I think the splash we’ve made in the USA even without significant radio support over here we’ve still managed to pretty much sell out a tour averaging at like a thousand tickets a night.
Gethin: We came into this tour and for me personally, I was like, I didn’t really think too much about it. And then when we were on stage in Leeds, with so many people, it was just like any great show in America, it was incredible. So last night in Nottingham was amazing, there were 900 people there. So tonight should be no different really.
Adam: I concur with all of them.
NRR: So I mean you’ve also just come back off a run of shows in Australia. Some dates with Greta Van Fleet. I know some of the shows got cancelled. What was the response like Down Under?
Adam: It was great, yeah. Because they cancelled the shows, so it ended up being like our own headline kind of thing. The fans were great and they are really receptive and it kind worked in our favour in a way cause I feel like all these people that we’re going to go see Greta Van Fleet, they now came out and saw us instead. You know, Aussie’s are wild anyway aren’t they. Yeah, it was really good fun.
NRR: I saw you were doing pop up shows in some of the places where the dates had been cancelled.
Adam: We just managed to throw it all together last minute. In Brisbane, this guy overheard us saying, oh we haven’t got any gear because it was all on Greta’s truck. And he said well I’ve got a PA and I’ve got guitars, and we were like alright.
Jed: And he goes, guys, if you let me support you the next time we play in Brisbane, I’ll give you my whole set up. So he rammed it into this little pub. It was like 300 sweaty Aussies in there, it was amazing.
Gethin: It was good because, you know, a lot of people were disappointed. And we went all the way to Australia, we wanted to play. We didn’t go there for a holiday. It was a lot of fun. I think it made up for the lack of shows.
NRR: I guess there are worse places you could have been stranded.
Jed: Oh surely, it could have been Scunthorpe.
Gethin: We would have done a pop-up show in Scunthorpe.
NRR: So at the end of last year you released your latest album, Young and Dangerous. Obviously, you know, you guys have been touring pretty relentlessly as well, so you’ve had to write a lot of that record whilst you were out on the road. I just wondered, what was the starting point for the album musically? Did you have a particular sound or concept in mind?
Gethin: We didn’t want to go that far away from the first album, because we all talked about it. Well, Adam has probably got more input.
Adam: When we started off, we were writing with people in America and we got told to work with these different people and stuff and we were like, you know, cool try it. It turned out it was terrible, we wrote a lot of songs but it didn’t feel like it was us. And then we went back with the guys who we did the first time with. And yeah, the first song we wrote really was a song called “Who Am I” that is on the album. And that actually is one of the most different ones, you know, stylistically. But no I feel that we just wanted to make a continuation of the first one, not drift too far away because now people are bought into the band and are fans of the band and you don’t want to alienate them. But I feel like we’ve definitely grown as writers and some of the arrangements are more ambitious than what we’ve previously done. Yeah, just a continuation.
NRR: I also wanted to talk to you about the song “Body Talks” because obviously, you did a recording of that song with Kesha. I just wondered, can you tell me a little bit about that song and also, how that Kesha collaboration came to fruition.
Adam: Yeah, that song started off with the riff and the other riff was just cool, it was like bluesy and sexy and like it was something that we’d never really done before. When we initially wrote it, we didn’t actually like it. We played it to these guys (Jed and Gethin) and they loved it.
Gethin: It was at the end of the album cycle and by the time that they came back they were numb to everything. They didn’t know what was good and what was bad.
Jed: We were like guys this is actually really strong, it’s a really cool demo. And then, it got worked up with the four of us. We were like, this is a pretty fun song. And then, what happened with Kesha is we actually wanted to collaborate with her for a while because we played a college show with her in America like two years ago and I’m like genuinely a big fan of hers, like she had been working with Max Martin, who is an amazing songwriter I’ve liked for a while. So I was kind of quizzing her on him and songwriting and things like that. We kept in touch and then, yeah, when we had that song we were like, this could actually be really cool for like a little duet part and so we sent it to her. She was like, yeah, I’m absolutely in, let’s go to LA and let’s record this. So Luke flew over to get in the vocal booth with her and do it over there. And he actually went into the studio and she was like, yeah, can you play me the track again? Because I’m not sure I’ve even listened to the chorus. Luke was like, what are you talking about, you didn’t listen to the song? She’s like, no, I listened to the first 20 seconds, I loved the intro and I said I’m in. So she heard it and loved it and made it her own.
NRR: You’ve spent pretty much the last three years in the states. I just wanted to know what was it that triggered your shift of attention to the US market?
Jed: It was, actually we kind of used up all of our resources in England to be perfectly honest with you. Like we got the singles “Could Have Been Me” and “Kiss This” were kind of rejected from Radio One. We were getting some radio play in France, so we ended up focusing a lot of our energy there because we were able to see what the power of radio could do, we would have like a thousand people at our shows versus 80 in the UK at the time and that kind of thing. So we went over there, we supported The Rolling Stones in Paris. And then US management noticed us and we signed with them over there. Long story short and they took those original songs, “Could Have Been Me” and “Kiss This” to radio in the USA and we charted in the top five. So, it was kind of the UK didn’t want it but the USA did, and so that made up our mind for us.
Gethin: We didn’t notice what was going on. So we got a phone call and they say, hey guys, so you know we took your songs to the radio well, you know, it’s happening. “It Could Have Been Me”, it’s like rising in the charts, go pack your bags, you need to come to do a tour here. We went out there and we’d never experienced it, but we saw a bit of it in France, but going into America for the first time as a band was just special anyway. For people to be singing back the songs that didn’t work in the UK, and so it was very special.
NRR: So obviously America, it’s such a tough market to crack, especially for a British band. I mean most British bands go out there and fail. And even for an American band, it’s hard because the geography is so vast and tastes even between state to state varies a lot. I mean obviously, you guys have witnessed great success over there. Have you been overwhelmed by the response you’ve received in America?
Adam: Yeah, I guess it was just – to be honest, we all moved home before we went to America and it was that kind of, I know no one really spoke about it, but we’re about to get dropped. And it was like, you know, we’re probably going to break up because we’ve got no money, we don’t live near each other. So I remember getting the message. I mean, yeah, just like, yeah, the songs being played. Then we were going over there and it was just overwhelming like the whole tour had sold out before we even got there. And, yeah, it’s just been great. And to be honest, it’s just been growing every step, we’ve toured the whole country, four or five times now and every time we come back to a state, it’s to bigger rooms. This summer we are going to be doing the biggest tour we’ve done so far in four thousand cap rooms, it’s just brilliant. The Americans, I don’t know they’ve embraced us really, but now finally it feels like it’s happening over here, so yay.
NRR: You must have experienced some of the quirkiest towns in the US as well since you’ve been out there.
Gethin: The one we always mention is Little Rock, Arkansas.
Adam: Corpus Christi, Texas. I came off the bus and it was like something out of The Walking Dead. It was barren land like and homeless people.
Gethin: There had been a Hurricane as well.
Jed: We probably shouldn’t have been performing there that day.
Gethin: That’s one thing we’ve tried to do when we were saying about bands that break in America. Like Taylor from the Foo Fighters told us the way they did it was that they went to everywhere. If you’re a UK band and your big, you’re going to go to America and you want to do the big towns, the big cities. We wanted to spend so much time going to everywhere cause that’s where the real fans are I think. We wanted to establish ourselves as a hard-working band.
NRR: Obviously you’ve been gaining a lot of celebrity supporters as well. Dave Grohl sort of praised the band telling everyone that you are the best opening band they’ve ever had. I just wanted to know what was it like touring with the Foo Fighters?
Jed: We learned so much from them. Even within a year of being on the road with them as a band or just musicians, we tightened up. I think just looking at how much they love what they do and how wonderful people they are as well was really inspiring. And we thought we want to work as hard as they do to make sure that our catering can be as good as there’s because their food was fucking amazing.
Gethin: It was an amazing experience. Really special.
Adam: To play forty-five minutes and then to go and watch the Foo Fighters and have a beer was just fucking amazing, it was the easiest job ever.
Jed: And we felt like we made genuine friends with them.
Adam: Pat Smear called me two days ago. He said I just heard one of your songs on the radio and I wanted to see how you were. I was like oh thanks mate.
Jed: They are all just absolutely wonderful. Like Chris and I would play footie every day, because he’s an Arsenal fan as well, which is nuts for us because they are one of our favourite bands from growing up. So that was an experience.
NRR: I just wondered in terms of your live set, do you have like a favourite song to perform live? And if so, which song and why?
Gethin: I’ve loved playing “Ashes” recently because yeah, I just love the whole mood of it. It’s in the encore and it really connects with the audience I think. “Primadonna” as well, that’s the first song in the set so you go out with all guns blazing.
Jed: There’s one called “Somebody New” that we wrote with the four of us. And I remember as soon as we finished that, as soon as we finished recording it, I think we were saying amongst ourselves, I was like, I felt the UK would love this song. There’s something about it that just has that kind of, it’s a bit Britpop like in a sense of the production is certainly, we’ve really felt that since we’ve been back here. That’s the one where Luke is on the piano. He tells the crowd to sing the chorus and it’s a proper goosebump moment. Sadly I don’t think we are playing that tonight.
Adam: It was great last night because it was like my hometown gig and it was like all my friends and family there and everyone was singing the chorus. I was like, this is amazing.
NRR: For those who have yet to see you play live, how would you go about describing a Struts show?
Jed: It’s very, very energetic that’s why we are all so bloody knackered – day three into the tour.
Adam: It’s entertaining as hell that’s the main thing.
Gethin: If you are gonna come and watch you’ve got to be prepared to have fun. You know, not just stand there with your arms crossed. You know, if we don’t get you dancing by the end then we are doing something wrong.
Adam: Someone said to me last night, I came because my mate told me to come and I’d never heard your music before and I don’t like this kind of music but I’ve walked away thoroughly enjoying myself, I thought that was amazing. And I think that we are one of those bands, it’s like even if you don’t mind rock music, you can’t help but be like, well this is entertaining. That guy is dancing all over the shop and sweating his ass off and you know, I think there is something for everyone.
NRR: In terms of your own musical tastes, what do you listen to you when you are kicking back at home?
Jed: I mean, between the four of us it’s very eclectic. I think naturally as we’ve got older it’s expanded. I mean, I listen to like a lot of like jazz and fifties RnB when I’m back. That’s not what I grew up on necessarily. I don’t listen to a lot of the music we make now. Do you know what I mean? No, I suppose I do, but it’s just like Luke, our singer is when we lived in the house together, he was kind of the house DJ without anyone having a say in it, because he just blasted it from his room, and it would be everything from ABBA to AC/DC. All of these quirky 60s psychedelic bands. Just great songs basically. Not anything that’s kind of cool for the sake of being cool, just great music no matter what the genre is really. Everything from Sheena Easton to Slade.
NRR: I thought you were going to say Sheena Easton to Slayer.
Jed: That would be a good one. I could go with that one, but, well, I can’t tell you any Slayer songs.
Adam: You know what, I don’t listen to a lot of music.
Gethin: I was just thinking the same.
Adam: But in my free time, like I feel like, oh I should put some music on really, I should be listening to shit, but I just quite enjoy the silence.
Gethin: On the plane, I listen to a lot of music. I love the Stone Roses, they are my favourite band ever. I still go back to that first album. Oasis and Liam Gallagher’s new stuff. I found myself listening to a lot newer album’s coming out and now like trying to be more in tune with what’s going on because my taste personally is way back, so I’m trying to keep up to date with what’s going on.
Adam: Our opening bands is what I get like my new music from because it takes a lot for me to be invested in a new band. Like I have to know who they are and shit like that. So there was a band called The Glorious Sons who supported us, and I think they are fucking amazing. White Reaper was great. Kelsey’s really good as well. Spirit Animals who we had with us in the US, they are really cool. But no, yeah they’re really good bands. I like Kacey Musgraves new album, and it just won a Grammy. It’s my new going to sleep album, her dulcet tones.
NRR: Obviously we are at the start of a new year, I just wanted to know have you got 2019 mapped out, you know, what’s in the cards for the band?
Jed: Pretty much, yeah. We’re doing some great festivals, mainly in the USA. We’re doing Summer Sonic in Japan. We’re going to have a big US tour later in the year, but we’re also going to come back and hopefully some more UK and Australia again. Yeah, I think the big one, as we kind of expect will probably be the USA. But it takes longer to do the USA than anywhere else. The UK will still get it’s fair time spent here, which we love.
Gethin: I’m really excited to come back here.
Jed: I said to Geth this morning, I was like, you know what’s amazing about this tour? It’s like I just went to Boots and bought some deodorant. Do you realise what a beautiful thing that is? Rather than being like, what do they sell in Walgreens.
Adam: I like the sandwiches you get from Sainsbury’s or Tesco.
Jed: Oh, world class!
Adam: I know it sounds weird, but in America, you just don’t get that shit.
Jed: I had Nandos for dinner, which was amazing.
Gethin: A cup of tea, that’s my favourite thing. I have a mug with real milk. The water is nicer.
Adam: Instant coffee, I miss that. Call me weird, but I love it. None of this drip shit that is all watery. McVities Digestives.
Jed: Ahh Hob Nobs boys.
NRR: So you are going to pack your suitcase full of sentimental stuff.
Adam: I may take a couple of sarnies with me.
NRR: A Boots meal deal.
Jed: Yes, a Boots meal deal.
NRR: That’s great. Well, thanks so much for taking the time to speak to me today.