Brit Vicious: British rock ‘n’ rollers the Struts have been based here in Los Angeles since the tail end of 2019 and, even accounting for the fact that COVID put a stop to everything shortly after that, it’s clear when speaking to the four chaps over Zoom that they’re thriving. The Southern Californian sun suits them, as they gush about being able to drive with the top down (a novelty in England) and wild nights out.
“It was my friend Taylor Hawkins who really pushed the idea, for at least me anyway, to make the initial move, at a Thanksgiving that he was kind enough to invite me to,” says frontman Luke Spiller. “I think we all saw ourselves as very much a British-based band for quite some time. Taylor explained to me that this is a great time for me to be in the thick of it and we could be doing so much more. It was a little lightbulb moment basically. I remember I was at the Rainbow with the rest of the guys, and I said, ‘Hey, I’m really considering a move to L.A. I think it would be really, really good just to do it now.’ Everyone was like, ‘OK. Let’s go.’ Things have really changed a lot for us, mostly for the better.”
The reality of day-to-day life in Los Angeles is always going to be different to the myth that Brits (this writer included) build up across the pond. Different, but no less wonderful.
“I think we’re all really benefiting from it,” says Spiller. “We’ve made great relationships, Jed (Elliot, bass) got married to an American lady, and it’s very much a mixture between our predominant home and kinda like a second. It really is great though, let’s be real. When I take my car out with the roof off and I’m driving around the Valley listening to music, just feeling like the sun hit you – as an English person, I don’t think that will ever get old.”
“I came from a small town in Wales where there’s not a lot of choice to do anything,” adds drummer Gethin Davies. “So being here, you can go out and have a crazy night, or you can find an event. Bands come through and you can go and see gigs. It’s honestly endless, what you can do here. Also, we were touring for so long, this is the first time I’ve paid rent somewhere since I joined the band. We’d just been living out of suitcases for a while. So it’s nice to be able to settle down somewhere, and have everyone within 30 minutes of each other (they’re spread between Woodland Hills, West Hollywood and Burbank). It’s also nice to have time apart but knowing that we’re all very close if we want to hang out – it’s good.”
The Struts’ fourth album, Pretty Vicious, lands in November, and Spiller says the sound has changed dramatically since the much-loved Everybody Wants… debut.
“I think we learned an awful lot from the previous three records and I think, what Pretty Vicious is on the whole, is all of the experience and knowledge and just everything that we’ve gathered from getting out on the road, recording a whole bunch of records and having the highs and lows and everything that comes with it,” the singer says. “I think people will really hear the growth in these songs. Sonically, I think it’s the best that we’ve ever sounded; it has the sensibilities of the third record where it was very live sounding, but then it has the quality of the songwriting of the first and possibly the second, because we didn’t spend seven days on it to write and record like we did on the third one. We took almost 18 months, maybe a little bit more.”
The album was recorded between Nashville and Los Angeles, and it features horns and strings because the Struts ain’t fucking around. After all, the themes on there include the hopes and dreams of the musicians involved, and they’re not to be fucked around with.
“It still feels like a pursuit of rock ‘n’ roll bliss at points, and there’s definitely a lot of truth in the record as well,” Spiller says. “There’s certain points on the record where I think lyrically I’m being a lot more vulnerable than I have on previous material. The truth is, early on in those first records, a lot of the tracks were written within a character, rather than me taking things directly from my day-to-day life and things I’d experienced. But Pretty Vicious, on the whole, is really written about actual experiences, things that I had done and things that I’d hear people say, and it’s a collection of true stories mixed with a little rock ‘n’ roll fantasy.”
The album’s acerbic title comes from one of the tracks – a song that Spiller describes as one of the most exciting things the band has done in a while.
“It’s not the Struts trying to be super anthemic and rewriting a song like ‘Could Have Been Me,’” the frontman says. “A lot of bands go through a process of unconsciously ripping themselves off, trying to get that same thing. But ‘Pretty Vicious’ is equally as strong but in a different way. I loved the double entendre in the title.”
Meanwhile, the lead single is the rock ‘n’ roll riot that is “Too Good at Raising Hell,” the perfect way to introduce the world to their new chapter.
“I think it showcases a lot of what the record’s about,” says Spiller. “Sonically, it’s exciting and explosive at times. It’s got a lot of great guitar work in it. It has something of an anthemic-y chorus, but it also has approaches to the melody in the vocal that we hadn’t done before. It proved to be a good song to show everyone that we’re back. It’s quite cheeky. It’s a little bit fun as well, and also a little bit expected, but not completely.”
November also will see the band out on tour promoting Pretty Vicious, and preparations start now.
“We’re all on very L.A. carrot juice diets, and going for our daily Botox,” says Davis. “No emotion on the stage and no sweat whatsoever.”
Raising hell indeed!
Brit Vicious: The Struts’ Pretty Vicious is out Nov. 3. They end the tour at the Wiltern on Dec. 10.
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