"We’ve been through every rock and roll cliche and we’ve stuck it out..." - The Struts talk new album Young and Dangerous
Derby hard rockers The Struts have yet to make a huge dent in this country, but that’s not the case across the pond.
Troubles with the band’s debut album Everybody Wants and a lack of radio attention saw them quietly dropped by Universal Music in the UK not long after it hit shelves. But, instead of wallowing, they kept going and continued to tour relentlessly. Relocating to Los Angeles, they’ve crisscrossed the US over and over again, opening for The Who, Foo Fighters, The Rolling Stones and Guns N’ Roses along the way.
Their schedule has been so busy that it’s taken them four years to record the follow-up to Everybody Wants, but the LP, titled Young & Dangerous, finally arrives today in hmv stores.
To celebrate, we spoke to guitarist Adam Slack about the long journey to get it recorded, the band’s label troubles and why they owe their spike in ticket sales to Dave Grohl...
It’s been four years since your debut album, was that just because you were constantly touring?
“We find writing quite difficult on the road, Luke especially, he basically works all day to save his voice, so you can’t be doing too much. We toured all throughout 2016 and then started at the beginning of 2017. Not that we’d stopped touring, it was every day off we had, we’d be in the studio. That’s why it took so long to get the album done.”
Did you have a goal in mind about how you wanted it to move on from Everybody Wants?
“To be honest, we did and we ended up abandoning it. We wanted to have six months off to write and then go into one studio with one producer and work on it. Instead, we were touring and doing what we could. We did some songs in London, some in Los Angeles, some in Nashville. It definitely wasn’t the way we intended it, but we’re happy with the finished product.”
Does that mean you’ve ended up with lots of producers?
“Ray Hedges did some of the songs with us in Jersey, some with Butch Walker in LA, some with Jon Levine in LA, some with Sam Hollander and Kevin Griffin in Nashville. It’s all over the place, but somehow it flows, which is lucky.”
Do you like this approach? Does it get something out of you?
“We did the first album like that and we do kind of like it. We want to push rock music forward and working with guys who aren’t typical rock producers does make you try new things and new sounds. We pushed it hard on the first, but we pushed it harder this time.”
Recording across a long period of time must have been a challenge for making the album flow...
“We wrote and recorded a lot. 55 songs. Which is insane. That means it’s the best of the best and it took us a long time to decide on the tracklisting. We still really believe in the idea of the album and we want it to work. The flow is great and there are some wildcards on there. I was worried about bringing all the songs together, but we’ve made it work.”
How long did it take you to get down from 55 songs to the 13 that are on there?
“We didn’t argue, but certain songs had robust discussions. By the end, all of us had listened to the songs so much that we knew which were the cream of the crop.”
Is there a song on the album that took a long time to get right?
“There’s a track called ‘In Love With A Camera’ and that changed a lot. The lyrics were completely different, different title and there were at least five different productions. That took about a year to get right. Ironically, it came together in about two hours. It started as a joke song called ‘Love & Hysteria’, but we kept it because we really liked it, but it did make me and Luke (Spiller, singer) pull our hair out.”
What kind of record is it lyrically? Is there a theme to the record?
“Every song is quite different. There’s a song called ‘Primadonna Like Me’ and that picks up on this persona we like to use. He’s this guy who thinks he’s the bee's knees and has that cocky attitude. There’s ‘Somebody Knew’, which is about being post-break-up. Then there’s ‘Fire’ and ‘Ashes’, a two-parter. ‘Fire’ is about the relationship and ‘Ashes’ is about the aftermath of it. There’s lots of fun, but lots of heart in there too. Something for everyone.”
When did you decide on the title?
“It’s a lyric in two songs on the album, which we didn’t realise until after it was done. We had a few ideas, but Luke brought it to the table and it was an instant yes from all of us.”
You’re not back in the UK until February to tour, is that just a matter of timing and how busy you are in the US?
“We’ve been based in the States for the last three years and it’s only recently we’ve started to get love in the UK. We’d love to tour more here, we’d like to go home and we’d like to be closer to home full stop. But our success has been in the US.”
What do you put that down to? Most bands launch in the UK and then go to America…
“It’s radio. We didn’t get any. Radio 1 wouldn’t touch us and we got dropped. Then we went to the US, got new management and they started pushing us. There’s a rock station in every state in the US and a huge audience for that music. We had three singles on the radio and were selling out shows before we even got to America. In the UK, if you don’t get Radio 1 you’re not getting in anyone’s ears. There’s more opportunity here.”
You’ve got a new label this time, how’s that going?
“Our label history is a long story. We got signed to Gary Barlow’s label in 2010, then that got sold to Universal and we went with it. They put us on Mercury, then that got bought by Virgin EMI. We felt like the unwanted child, we never met anyone at these labels, we just got tagged along and we felt like no-one gave a s**t about us."
"As soon as we left and our songs got played in the US, Interscope wanted to sign us. They’ve been great and they treat us like family. In the UK that’s Polydor and they’re actually giving us some attention now. It’s nice after years and years of being kicked around, it’s nice to feel wanted.”
It must have brought you closer together, all that turmoil, because bands have broken up over a lot less…
“We had two different members at one point and our label at the time made us kick them out. We lived together too so that was horrible. Me and Luke started the band together and we’ve stuck together. We’ve been through every rock and roll cliche and we’ve stuck it out. We’re a tight unit now."
"In spite of everything, we’ve never really argued. We know what we want, we want to be the biggest band in the world. It’s cheesy, but it’s true. I’ve seen bands I’ve loved break up after one bad album. If this album doesn’t sell, then we’ll just write another. But it will.”
Having done this album over such a long period, are you looking to do things differently next time?
“We’re going to be touring for this year and the whole of 2019. After that, we’ll need a rest. We’ve been touring non-stop. We’ve played 45 states. We’ve been everywhere. It would be nice to have a month off, decompress and then write some music.”
Well, hopefully, you can spend more time in the UK...
“We’re doing Rock City, which is in Nottingham, next to our hometown. That’s almost sold out and that’s huge for us. We owe that to Dave Grohl, he told us that we were the best opening band he’d ever had and suddenly everyone wants to talk to us. Thanks Dave!”