Dressed To Dazzle, The Struts Want To Make Rock Fun Again Frontman Luke Spiller talks about how he draws inspiration from glittery bands of the 1970s, especially Queen.
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Dressed To Dazzle, The Struts Want To Make Rock Fun Again

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Dressed To Dazzle, The Struts Want To Make Rock Fun Again

Dressed To Dazzle, The Struts Want To Make Rock Fun Again

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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAMMER TO FALL")

QUEEN: (Singing) Hammer to fall.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

An outdoor concert can be one of summer's great pleasures. And for some, nothing tops a big, flashy rock show.

(SOUNDBITE OF QUEEN SONG, "HAMMER TO FALL")

MONTAGNE: That's Queen in 1981. Few bands sound like that anymore, but as NPR's Vince Pearson reports, there's one that comes close.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COULD HAVE BEEN ME")

THE STRUTS: (Singing) Don't want to live as an untold story. Rather go out in a blaze of glory...

VINCE PEARSON, BYLINE: Meet Luke Spiller, the 27-year-old singer and co-founder of The Struts.

LUKE SPILLER: We pride ourselves on our look as well as our songs.

PEARSON: In recent months, they've become a staple on rock radio. And they're selling out concerts.

SPILLER: If you were to come to a show, it would be very high octane, lots of glitter, 4-5 outfit changes, backed up by some fantastic rock 'n' roll.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COULD HAVE BEEN ME")

THE STRUTS: (Singing) I want to taste love and pain, want to feel pride and shame. I don't want to take my time, don't want to waste one line...

PEARSON: With a look and sound that evokes '70s arena rock, The Struts may seem a little campy. But Spiller says he wants to make rock fun again.

SPILLER: Every band seems to be, like, so self-conscious. And I think people are beyond that now. I think people want to kind of let themselves go. They want to be dazzled. They want songs that they can actually sing along to.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COULD HAVE BEEN ME")

THE STRUTS: (Singing) Hey.

I want to taste love and pain, want to feel pride and shame. I don't want to take my time, don't want to...

PEARSON: Luke Spiller grew up in England in the 1990s at a time when American hip-hop was sweeping the U.K. Even then, Spiller was more drawn to the music of the past. Think '70s acts like David Bowie and Queen.

SPILLER: I guess sort of like the feminine, androgynous quality to it. I was just hooked immediately. I had found my place.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KISS THIS")

THE STRUTS: (Singing) Thomas said stay home, get away from me, saying I was bad for you...

PEARSON: And so this son of a gospel musician started wearing makeup to school and joined a band.

SPILLER: I remember playing my first gig. And I cut the front panel of this jumper, so I still had, like, the elasticated collar around my neck. And then I'd made the sleeves into kind of like wizard sleeves. And I had put a huge letter on the back, and I painted silver flames up it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KISS THIS")

THE STRUTS: (Singing) I did all I could. So kiss this one more time 'cause I'm gone for good...

PEARSON: But not everyone got the vision. When The Struts were signed, there was a lot of pushback from the label. They wanted Luke to tone it down a little, lose the makeup and cut his hair. The band was floundering. Then a real '70s act intervened.

SPILLER: We suddenly got this phone call. We were told that we were going to support The Stones.

PEARSON: Yes, they'd been tapped to open up for The Rolling Stones, and Luke came prepared. He commissioned a special outfit from the designer who dressed the late Freddie Mercury of Queen.

SPILLER: And together we made this fantastic blue overall sort of like cape thing. So I definitely dressed for the occasion.

PEARSON: Luke says that is what people are craving.

SPILLER: Fun, good times and just some good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROLL UP")

THE STRUTS: (Singing) So now whatever I wear, it's got to have flare so you people can stare. And I'll catch your eye when I walk on by. Nobody will stop me, oh....

PEARSON: Vince Pearson, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROLL UP")

THE STRUTS: (Singing) Come take my hand. Let's start the show...

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