Lollapalooza 2016: The Struts
Lollapalooza celebrated its 25th anniversary by expanding to a phenomenal four-day festival, headlined this time around by the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers, J.Cole, and Lana Del Rey. Curious to learn more about 25 of our favorite performers, LADYGUNN was on hand at Chicago’s historic Grant Park providing a predominately blank canvas for each individual to paint a captivating picture of their unique story. Here’s our chat with Adam Slack, Jed Elliot, Luke Spiller, and Gethin Davies of The Struts, who opened up about their journey from cleaning human waste at a rest home to practically pissing themselves in the presence of Paul McCartney.
Would you like to introduce yourselves to the readers?
Adam: My name is Mr. Adam Slack, the guitar player.
Jed: I’m Jed Elliot, the bassist.
Luke: Hello readers. I’m Luke Spiller, the singer of the band The Struts.
Gethin: Hello darlings. I’m Gethin Davis, and I’m the drummer.
What do you love about music?
Adam: Good question…
Luke: Oooh, straight out of ‘Almost Famous.’ Thank you very much.
Luke: I love to use music as a form of escapism. I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s the best brain exercise you can give – to the imagination as well. I’ve been taught more things through the lyrics in songs than anything that someone can physically kind of teach you. And yeah, I mean, what would we do in a world without music? I think it would be an extremely dull place.
Gethin: I saw a quote once that said, ‘Rock and roll makes you feel 10 feet tall,’ and I thought that was pretty accurate. I don’t know, it just makes you feel… elated.
Luke: When I’m onstage, my testicles go from an average size of a 27-year-old to somewhat of a large, muscular bull in a bull fight. And this bull always kills the matador.
Can you recall your earliest memories of music?
Luke: You know what? That’s so weird, ‘cause I was thinking about that the day before yesterday. I remember – this is how young I was – I remember going to a big church festival camping thing with my parents. This is how young I was: I would have been taken to sort of like the Sunday children’s school while my parents went off to the service, and I was grabbing my dad’s hair, because I didn’t want him to leave me alone. So I don’t know how old I would have been then, probably like three or four. But I just had one of those moments… I was lying in bed and this memory just suddenly reemerged from the depths of my deep memory bank. But yeah, I think that was mine.
Gethin: I remember – I lived in a pub – and I remember falling asleep to the sound of “Sir Duke” most nights, ‘cause the jukebox was right underneath me. So when I’d go to bed at 9, I’d probably sneak down at like 11. I don’t know how old I was either, but that’s one of my first ones.
Adam: I remember seeing this cartoon of a crocodile, wearing a leather jacket and a pair of sunglasses, and it was singing “Crocodile Shoes.” I don’t know who sings that song…
Luke: It’s Shakin’ Stevens, isn’t it?
Gethin: No it’s… ugh, I can’t remember his name.
Adam: [Starts singing the chorus] Anyway…
Luke: Oh, is it Mud?
Jed: No, that’s “Tiger Feet.”
[Note: Turns out it was Jimmy Nail.]
Adam: Anyway, so I got my whole family in, borrowed my dad’s leather jacket and a pair of sunglasses, and replicated this cartoon singing “Crocodile Shoes.” I must have been about four [laughs].
Jed: I remember playing… I used to play recorder as a kid – as did everybody in school. I remember mine was like a… I had a tin whistle, ‘cause my dad used to play a lot of Van Morrison and kind of classic Irish stuff as well. He used to play guitar. I’d work out the stuff by ear on recorder, and then play it to my nan’s mates at her house [laughs]. That was my first gig [laughs].
Did you guys ever wanna be anything other than musicians?
Luke: I used to… in my very early years, I wanted to dance. That’s what I wanted to do. I also really excelled in drama, and the stage. I remember writing stories when I was a kid, and I used to write plays. And then singing and rock music came in the early… mid-early teens.
It seems like that stuff could kind of help you even with your stage presence now…
Luke: Yeah, it’s all intertwined. Everything happened for a reason, and studying the stage and performance – and performing arts on a whole – I think has given myself and the group a huge advantage surrounded by our contemporaries. It’s quite rare for people to actually put a lot of thought into their performance and stuff. It’s quite strange. Our set on the whole is somewhat routine, and we have a lot of set pieces and set studies if you wanna call it that, and cues and things like this, so yeah, we use it to our advantage.
Adam: When I was really young, I wanted to be a postman… with a red mini. And then I wanted to be a cartoon drawer – like make characters up for a cartoon or something. I used to draw all the time with my friends. And then I got into music when I was probably about… 11… with Michael Jackson.
Gethin: Only thing I can remember wanting to do – apart from [being] involved in music – was… when we used to go to the supermarket, they had a deli counter, and I always wanted to work behind there.
Jed: Big dreams…
Gethin: They had these little boxes they would just fold in really quickly and give to the customers… I was just amazed by it.
Jed: I wanted to be – when I was like maybe 13, 14 – I wanted to be an architect. I did it for work experience with school, and I remember it was when I had just started my first band, and I had been so excited for this work experience trip, and I spent the whole time on MySpace listening to these crappy demos that I had done. And I remember thinking that was the transition. I think I only wanted to do [architecture] ‘cause I enjoyed playing The Sims… on build mode… so I thought I could be an architect. That was my qualification.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Gethin: I was a… [Turns to Luke] You probably have the same as me. I was a cleaner for—actually, no! The worst job I ever had was at Christmas time – I lived in a little village in Whales – and I got paid 20 quid, which is like $30, for a day’s work of plucking turkeys for Christmas. They’d just been killed, and you’d have to pluck ‘em all. They’d be full of shit, and if you squeezed too hard, the shit would splatter you. That was absolutely horrific.
Was than an annual thing, or just one year?
Gethin: I did it one year. They asked me back next time, but I said no.
Luke: I was a cleaner for one and a half years in a rest home. It was me and one other lady, and we just had to clean up every human waste possible. And it’s quite funny, like once people get to that age, their feces are kind of very consistent. Every single resident, bless them—
Adam: ‘Cause they’re eating the same stuff.
Luke: Some of them aren’t with us anymore. But I could tell who had done it, just from the look of their stool. But, on the other hand, it was a—physically it wasn’t the nicest job, but… I got to walk around with my… I had one of those giant 50GB iPods, the really thick ones, and I just had years’ worth of music on it. Me and my friends, we used to upload loads of stuff to our computers, and one of my friends had this insane back catalog of the most obscure stuff. So I would just listen to music for six, seven hours a day and clean. So for a year and a half, I discovered so much music [laughs] – it was insane.
What’s something you wish you knew when you were younger?
Jed: Learn piano.
Luke: Yeah, I’d say learn piano. And… really don’t give a shit about what anyone thinks. I think that’s really important.
Jed: Something that’s beautiful as you get older is that… yeah, you worry less about what people think, but it does occupy a lot of your headspace when you’re growing up, which sucks for a lot of people.
Luke: Especially the misfits – the ones who are growing up who don’t really feel like they’re quite fitting in, they’re a little bit three sheets to the wind. As you get older, you celebrate that, and you become almost – to some degree – admired for that. It’s just a funny transition. And to be fair, I wasn’t ever too self-conscious, but I think everyone has their moments. So I’d say, don’t worry so much about what everyone thinks.
What’s been your biggest pinch-me moment?
Adam: I think when we supported The Stones, and we got to go out into the empty stadium, and we watched them soundcheck. It was quite emotional. [Turns to Luke] I remember you saying you felt like you were gonna cry, and so did I, and it was like… God, we’re actually here – like they’re there, and we’re supporting them, that kind of thing. And then Mick Jagger came [offstage] and caught eyes, and he walked over and shook our hands, and it was just like… never been star-struck, but I’m literally—he’s there, and I’m thinking, ‘I have no idea what to say.’ And I said, ‘Oh it’s gonna be a good gig, ‘cause a lot of people are gonna be here.’ [Laughs]
Gethin: It was a bit like that with… we supported The Killers as well, and they were one of my favorite bands in my teens. Luke got invited to go up and sing “Johnny B. Goode” with Brandon Flowers, and we watched it – we were just down in the front, side-stage – and I was watching our singer, sing with Brandon Flowers, and it was very, very surreal. We had a chat with him and he complimented the songwriting – he loves “Could Have Been Me” – and again, I was kind of like, ‘This is pretty surreal for me. I worship this guy’s songwriting, and he’s invited us to come and perform.”
Luke: It’s always a very surreal thing when the music has become such a big part of your life. Like The Stones for instance, the thing that… I know it sounds a bit bizarre, but the thing that almost made me well up is… when I was there listening to them soundcheck physically, I was taken back to this moment when I had this little flat in a town called Clevedon. At that time, The Stones were all I used to listen to, and I remember tripping out on mushrooms and listening to “Sympathy for the Devil” in the bath, and having this crazy experience in this contained environment. And then to be there and see those people physically in the flesh that wrote, performed it, and they’re doing it right there. We saw Paul McCartney as well. And he was so close, we could have thrown like a rock at him if we wanted to.
Adam: It was in Minneapolis.
Luke: But again, it’s like, that man’s music has been so deeply involved in your life – when you see the people that have created that, it’s a very overwhelming experience. I suddenly related to those 11-year-old girls in Beatlemania that used to just piss themselves… and I came close.
Adam: I cried like three times during that Paul McCartney concert. It was unreal. And he had laments to John and George, and he had a huge screen of all these photos, and I was on the edge. I was looking around to make sure the other guys couldn’t see me [crying]. And then they all admitted they all had a little tear as well. It was a really great concert – three hours long as well.
Luke: I started tearing up as soon as he walked on. It was really bizarre. It was uncontrollable.
If you had one wish, what would it be?
Adam: Another wish. No, I’m joking.
[Everyone pauses to think]
Luke: More time. I’d wish for more time.
Jed: No, you know what it is? Have you seen that film about time?
Jed: And he can go back – he can just go into a dark room and he can go back to any point in his life, and just revisit it. I think to be able to do that…
Adam: You have to look forward though, you can’t live in the past.
Gethin: A big house in Barbados.
Luke: I’d like to have more time. I wouldn’t necessarily want to be going back and forth, I would just like to have more time. I think it’s one of those… life is something which… you just don’t know how long it’s gonna be for, and there’s so many things I want to do – so many things I want to write, sing about, and create – and sometimes I just feel like I just don’t have the time.
Adam: I know it sounds like I’m going for Miss America 2016, but… I just want everyone to be happy, and stop fucking killing each other. It’s so depressing, like the news every day, and it’s getting worse and worse at the moment – it’s like we’re on the brink of something coming on. And it’s just like… it annoys me that… can’t these leaders of the world who have all this power just say like, ‘Guys… we’re one, we’re one—we’re all gonna die if we’re gonna carry on like this.’ I’d just say that, just everyone be happy.
Luke: You’re all worshiping the same entity and ideology anyway, so let’s all get on.
Adam: And we’re all one human race, you know? I know it does sound a bit preachy, but it’s true – it’s how I feel.
Any final thoughts for the readers?
Luke: We love you. If you already know about us, thank you for your continuing support. For those of you—
Jed: Our album ‘Everybody Wants’ is out now.
Adam: I’d like to say, if you’re reading this, the person that interviewed us has been a really good interviewer, because it’s been really interesting questions [laughs].
Luke: Yeah, yeah, you asked—thank God for you and your great questions!
Gethin: I’d like to make the statement now that we’re actually bringing him on tour for the rest of the year.
Adam: [Laughs] No but seriously, it was great.
story / Damon Campbell