With advice from actual rock star Luke Spiller of The Struts
Given the existence of Imagine Dragons, it’s very easy to come to conclusion that, in 2016, rock and roll is dead. Beyond dead, like someone found the ghost of rock and found way to kill THAT as well.
Ah, but that would be overstating things. For as long as '80s babies like me still roam the Earth—hopeless dads in cargo pants laboring under the delusion that they still rock—the form lives on. That’s especially true in the case of U.K. outfit The Struts, a group of fine young lads (they’re so young, they grew up listening to The Darkness; holy shit I’m old) who are reviving the glam rock lifestyle but also imbuing it with some downright mature 21st century sensibilities. After all, you can’t just go around sticking mud sharks inside people anymore. That shit gets tweeted out quickly. So I talked to frontman Luke Spiller on the phone about how being a rock star is different today, and how YOU, fair GQ reader, can be one without being a dickish caveman about it.
1. WEAR SEQUINS!
Spiller is famous for wearing secondhand women’s clothing, and you can be too! “My fashion instinct is always very sequin-heavy. You gotta be like a peacock. You gotta have a great pair of boots. Get your hair a little bit messy. Get yourself a nice big hat, you know?”
Can I pull off sequins?
“Yeah. Just get a sequin cape or sequin poncho.”
2. DON’T BE AFRAID OF MAKEUP!
On stage, Spiller favors blush over emo band eyeliner. “You want a thin coat of foundation. You’re gonna want to try some blush as well, quite heavily on the jawline. And to finish it off, you need the glitter underneath the eyes. The only rule is that you have to make the peacock envious.”
It makes sense, when you think about it. Older artists like Motley Crue and David Bowie were always more than happy to dip into androgyny and lay on the war paint. But after the '90s, a lot of bands shunned a lot of those accoutrements in favor of looking REAL. And you know what I’ve discovered? Real is fucking boring. I want a show. I don’t want you going up there in a t-shirt and jeans, looking like me. You’re a rock star. You aren’t supposed to be me. To that end…
3. DO SOME CHOREOGRAPHY!
The Struts stage show is heavily reliant on planned bits (at one point, the band freezes in place for a solid thirty seconds before launching back into a song) that get the crowd actually dancing instead of moshing into oblivion. “I look at the show as routine performance,” Spiller says. “Certain songs have certain sections which are heavily rehearsed. I have a good sense of how to keep the crowd entertained.”
Have you ever tried things that haven’t worked?
“Yeah. Every three or four shows I’ll try something new and sometimes it plays really well. Other times I kind of cringe when I think about it.”
Gimme an example.
“I got all the guys to get girls on their shoulders on each side, and that was really cool. And then I pushed it too far and said, ‘Okay, now I wanna see some boobs!’ And a very small majority of people did it, and I immediately regretted it. That wasn’t very tasteful!”
4. IF YOU ASK TO SEE BOOBS, DO IT IN AMERICA (AND MAKE SURE YOU ARE BRITISH WHEN YOU DO)
I asked Spiller if one country tended to flash its boobs more than the rest. His answer was instant. “I’d definitely say the Americans, all the way. Just seeing a band from the UK, I get the sense that they’re far more willing and perceptive to anything that I ask them to do.”
“He’s English! He’s being a gentleman about it!”
5. SHOWERING: STILL OPTIONAL!
Spiller has costumes he uses from show to show, and laundering sequins isn’t easy. So he doesn’t. “The washing situation is awful. I’m pretty much wearing wet clothes every day.” So if you’re walking around smelling like a used pair of shoes, OWN IT.
“All right, so the strut: you put all your weight into your heels. And just as your setting down your right foot, you’re lifting up the left, so at one point both your feet are nearly off the ground. Michael Jackson did it quite a lot back in the day.”
7. DO THE BON JOVI THING WHERE TOURING SEEMS LIKE A REAL GRIND!
The Struts are on the verge of breaking through here in the States (they were invited to open for GNR in San Francisco). That means they aren’t quite at the Baller Hotel phase of rock stardom yet. They gotta sleep in the bus. It’s all the same, only the names have changed, etc. When I talked to Spiller on the phone, it was his day off. He needed to be reminded of exactly where he was. “Where am I? Oh, I’m in Delaware.” You want that kind of road-weariness. Makes you seem old and wise and drunk.
8. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A DICK!
The Struts have bought into all of the good traditions of glam rock (big choruses, cool outfits, encouraged nudity) without the trashed hotel rooms or standard 1970s prickishness. Spiller actually seems to care about his audience, and that’s a refreshing change of pace. He doesn’t even party through the night, which sounds lame until he explains why. “Being able to sleep through the night is really important. I need to rest my voice as much as I can. I’m very cautious of letting people down who buy tickets to shows. That’s my priority: in the performance.”
9. YOU CAN HAVE A GIRLFRIEND!
Spiller has been with his girlfriend for two years now. “She does my makeup on tour, which is quite a big task. But if you can tour with each other, you can do anything.”
Does she ever get jealous when other women are around?
“No she’s far too good looking to be jealous. Maybe every 500 girls I see, one or two equal her beauty, so she doesn’t have a worry.”
Got that? Make sure she’s shit-hot and knows her way around a makeup chair.
10. BE SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS!
Hedonism and wokeness need not be mutually exclusive. Spiller was an outspoken opponent of Brexit (I imagine getting your glitter spray through customs is trickier in a post-EU world), and he talks freely about how skittish American gun culture makes him. “I have to admit, the lax attitude with the guns here in the States is very alien to us as a group,” he says. “Some of us have never even seen a gun. The first gun I ever saw was in an American limo driver’s car. On a lot of levels, you’re not completely safe.”
Do you feel a mission to spread a good time message now that the world is going to shit?
“On some levels, yeah. I had three days off when Brexit actually happened. Those are the kind of situations that bring out the worst in people. It’s quite sad.”
Which bring us to the final point:
11. HELP PEOPLE FORGET THEIR TROUBLES!
I saw The Struts live a week and a half ago, when I was in a lousy mood for personal reasons. But the second they peacocked out onto the stage, those troubles melted away. Everyone was jumping and yelling and raising beers, and that was all I needed to be happy again. For what is a rock star but an emissary of joy… someone who makes you feel different simply by gracing you with their presence? That’s a different sort of catharsis… one that doesn’t require shared rage or frustration. You float above it all in your high-heeled boots and sequin capes, and the world floats with you. You can do it, GQ reader. You can be that angel of feel-good debauchery.
Unless you look like me. Then you got problems.
Drew Magary is a GQ correspondent and author, most recently of "The Hike."