The Killers won’t take time to chill out
By JOHN WIRT
The Killers aren’t messing around. Even after the most famous rock band from Las Vega sold millions of records, earned multiple Grammy nominations and toured the world, the Killers weren’t interested in lounging poolside. There was more music to make, more shows to play.
Following recent touring in Europe, Australia and Japan, the Killers are playing two months of shows in the United States beginning April 6. The tour brings the band to Baton Rouge April 14 as headliners for the multi-act X-Fest at the Baton Rouge River Center.
“We’ve been touring constantly, just not in the states,” Killers drummer Ronnie Vanucci said recently from scenic Mount Charleston, Nev. “It’s gonna be nice to be on U.S. soil, with the modern-day amenities and sunshine.”
Touring can be rough sometimes, but the Killers like the work.
“You’re given this opportunity and you’re lucky,” Vanucci said. “It’s your job then to navigate where you want it to go. We want to go all the way to the top. So you bust your tail, you write good songs, you tour.”
And try not to overdo it.
“It’s a total balancing act, really,” Vanucci said. “You don’t want to kill yourself or overextend your welcome. At the same time, you don’t want to take it for granted. It’s our idea to keep it rolling. This is our life.”
The rock-star life is far from anything Vanucci imagined for himself when he was studying classical percussion in college.
“I was ready to settle with making 22 grand a year, which isn’t bad if you’re doing what you love,” he said. “I was just gonna be a music teacher. But we got lucky. We started writing good songs.”
The songs ended up on the Killers’ album debut, Hot Fuss, which sold 5 million copies. Following extensive touring, the band quickly returned to writing for its second album, Sam’s Town. Released Oct. 3, the album’s first single, “When We Were Young,” was a No. 1 alternative rock track and Grammy nominee for best rock song and best short-form music video.
Production for Sam’s Town began in November, 2005, two weeks into what was supposed to be a two-month break following 400 performances.
“There are so many examples of people who had one or two good songs and you never heard from them again,” Vanucci said. “Today, with the music business being how it is, it’s even more risky to chill out. So we decided to pursue our opportunity. We took a couple of weeks off to decompress and then got back into the rehearsal space and wrote every day. We’ve been writing on the road now, during sound check and things like that, to premeditate our schedule with the third record.”
Working in Las Vegas, Vanucci, singer Brandon Flowers, guitarist Dave Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer wrote about 20 songs for what would become Sam’s Town before producers Flood and Alan Moulder (U2, the Smashing Pumpkins) came to town.
“Flood and Alan would come out once every three weeks and check up on us,” Vanucci said. “They would tell us, ‘Wow, this is sounding pretty different from what you guys were doing before. You sure you wanna do this?’ We were like, ‘Yeah, this is what we’re writing now. We feel good about it.’ ‘When You Were Young’ was one of the songs. It’s done all right. People had a lot of different expectations for the second record. We tried to ignore them and feel comfortable with being who we were.”
Despite skepticism from Flood and Moulder, the production duo was helpful.
“The way we do things, a lot of it happens haphazardly,” Vanucci said. “That’s cool, because it was working. But what these guys did was put more of a method into how we work together. It was kind of like being in school again. They (Flood and Moulder) were so methodical and they had so much vision.
“We had these big discussions about how songs are supposed to feel, which was great. These are fellows who’ve basically been a part of good rock ’n’ roll for the past 20 years. They’ve had bands like U2 and Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails and Smashing Pumpkins bounce ideas off of them. So they’ve heard the best of the best. It’s nice to use them as a filter. You know if it’s moving them, then it’s gonna do something.