Unlike most of his childhood chums, Luke Spiller always knew what he would be as a professional adult: a retro-inspired glam rocker that made music on his own terms.
“Ever since my teens, I’ve carried that ideal and always kept my eye on the ball,” says the Brit, who fronts The Struts, a campy combo that combines the best elements of Slade, Sweet and Queen in a frothy Jeff Lynne blender. “One thing I was clear on was, I’m going to do music on my terms and sing the songs that I’m proud of writing. And anyone who’s really with me can come along for the ride.”
Playing Bottle Rock in Napa this weekend, The Struts have a galloping Interscope debut CD “Everybody Wants.” Revamped from a 2014 indie version, it’s one of the most enjoyable albums of the year, awash in celebratory pop-metal anthems like “Young Stars,” “Kiss This” and “Could Have Been Me.”
Spiller has a Freddie Mercury-operatic vocal style and a peacock-showy stage presence revolving around customized outfits from legendary rock designer Ray Brown and original Queen costumer Zandra Rhodes. And his fashion-scene girlfriend, model Laura Cartier Millon, applies his MAC-based makeup before shows.
Spiller attributes his showmanship to some unlikely sources.
As a kid, his family moved often, until it seemed like he was always the new kid in school. “So I learned at a young age how to fully reinvent myself with every new class that I went into,” he says. “I became very socially aware, and I had this ability to get people to accept me for who I was, because I was always comfortable in my own skin.” From studying the sermons of his Christian-minister father, he adds, “I learned the art of sincerity and passion in performing.” Dad also gave Junior his first guitar.
Next came an obsession with Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” album, then a fascination with U.K. glam revivalists The Darkness.
By 2009, Spiller met a kindred spirit in guitarist Adam Slack, and together they gestated The Struts concept for three secluded years. During that time, he got rock’s fabled sex and drugs excess out of his system.
“I’m approaching my late 20s now, and I’ve had more than my share of STDs and staying up ‘til dawn with a 10-pound note hanging out of my nose — been there, done that,” he says.
When it comes to honoring his influences, Spiller doesn’t follow any rules. Struts sets might feature Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel,” Lorde’s “Royals” or even a recent ballad from The Vaccines. “I just like doing whatever I want, really,” he says. “That’s the bottom line – I do what I want.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Jam Cellars Stage, BottleRock Napa Valley 2016
When: 2:45 p.m. May 28
Note: The band also appears at 10 p.m. May 28 at an after show at Napa Valley Opera House; tickets are $40 at www.eventbrite.com