Dressed to Kill
GIANT magazine september/October issue
Thanks to Steven and Hermia[photogallery/photo00011627/real.htm]
One person on the planet knew all along that the killers first album,Hot Fuss,would go on to sell more than five million copies worldwide Brandon Flowers,the band's frontman,who has been wrongly cast in the music rags as cocky and overconfident but who's really just a shy,Las Vegas native with a big dream and even bigger voice.
Standing in front of Flowers in the flesh,you'd never believe such an epic voice which has evolved to resemble Bono's in terms of quirkiness and Freddie Mercury's in terms of range could come out of his pocket Hercules-sized body.But it does.
Since Hot Fuss was released in June2004,the band has been thrice Grammy nominated (for somebody told me and mr brightside and all these things that ive done) and has grown into a formidable arena rock band (like u2 and depeche mode before them).
On the eve of the debut of their second album Sam's Town,we spoke to singer and keyboardist Flowers,guitartist Dave Keuning,bassist Mark Stoermer,drummer Ronnie Vannucci and the band's unofficial fifth member,Rob Stevenson,the Island/Def Jam A&Rguy who signed The Killers (and also fall out boy,sum 41 the bravery and Lady sovereign).We wanted to get the history their ups,their downs,how they're handling their runaway success all in their own.words.
The beginning,in which the guys come together through a newspaper ad and other methods of happenstance.
Brandon:Dave put out and ad in a las vegas paper.Every week,i would scope out the classifieds and look at who the bands would list as their influences.It was alway "Staind!Tool!Korn!Staind1Tool!Korn!"Dave's ad said something about the beatles,and that was enough for me.I went to his house,and it was love at first sight.
Mark:Brandon and Dave were together first,and they played with a few other people who werent very good.I got their cd from a friend who said "listen to this its the best new band in vegas." it was raw,especialy the rythm section.Brandon could barely sing at the time,and live ,it was shake.but you could see they had potential.They has a weaker demo vesion of mr brightside at that time.I started hanging out with Dave,and he talked to me about joining as a guitar player.I threw out,as a side note,that i also played bass because i had a feeling that eventually they'd be changing bass players.when they got Ronnie who i knew as the best rock drummer in vegas.I got chills,i knew from that second this band would be really good.
Ronnie:I'm certainly not the best drummer in vegas.but whatever.they're my band:they're supposed to say shit like that!the way i remember it,I was attending UNLV and studying music.I was at the lake with my brother,and I got a call from my roommate whose band needed a drummer.There was serendipity involved because the killers opened for us that night.they'd only been a band for a few months,and they were awful you could tell Dave was a competent player,and Brandon wasnt quite ready to be a rock star,but there was a fire in him that was fun to see.and everybody in that club thought their drummer sucked.I remember telling them In a few months,you guys will be really good i actually tried to find them a better drummer because i didnt want to join a band I was focused on school.but we kept running into each other.and then brandon called me.we played in the garage for a few hours.That's how it all began.
Rob:I read about the band online,and then i called my friend Sarah Lewitinn,aka Ultragrrrl,and asked her to find out what she could.she called back in five minutes and said "youneed to sign this band right away!they're unbelievable,"i was like really? you think? all of these labels have looked at this act,and i'm the last person on it.Why has nobody signed them?we were trying to figure out,like,is the singer fat?are they really old? whats the problem? I got the demo delivered to my house on a weekend,and on the drive out to my wife's parents house at the beach,I ripped open the fedex and put in the cd it was literally like,"jenny was a friend of mine,on top,mr brightside,somebody told me,my wife was like this is the best demo that youve ever gotten! and ive gotten thousands and those are just the ones ive listened to all i wanted to see was that the band was good enogh to play live.Bands this good are'nt just out there unsigned.when you find an artist like this who clearly has songwiting talent you lose sleep you can't eat.you want to get them to the label as soon as possible it becomes completely obsessive.the band wanted to play a CMJ music marathon in New yorkbefore they signed a deal.some labels that had passed were interested again because they were getting some airplay in the UK,so i actually grabbed sarah a couple of interns and my assistant,and i was like,"get their new york schedule.One of us will be with them the entire time"I took them out for a few drinks before their show,and Dave said he was nervous.I said "Dont be because i don't care.you could cancel tonight's show,and youre still gonna get an offer from us."somebody in the band had serious technical difficulties that night,so i think a lot of other labels were like,"i'm not sure."And we were like,"yes!Go!Get in there! The gods were smiling on me that night.I had won the lottery.
The gods have been smiling on Stevenson and The Killers since day one,and the gods were certainly present when the group recorded Sam's Town in vegas and woked on it in London with Flood and Alan Moulder(the duo behind smashing pumpkins melllon collie and the infinite sadness) at the production helm and mixing board.As a whole,sams town is a larger that life collection of massive hits that arent afraid to reek of their influences."bones"the album's best track,is the killers version of Queens bohemian rhapsody and features horns and sams towns most theatrical hook:"dont you wanna come with me/dont you wanna feel my bones on your bones?/its only natural" the first single when you were young recalls bowies early glam sound as flowers sings,he doesnt look a thing like jesus/but more than youll ever know."For reasons Unknown"is a full on hip shaking feet thumping romp that will have concertgoers belting out the final chorus.
What to do when 30,000 people are screaming your lyrics(move over U2)
Mark:From day one,this felt good.it was totally different than any other band i played in.each practice we would writea new song.before hot fuss came out,we had forty songs and we threw a lot of pretty good stuff away.
Bob:The first time i went to vegas,Brandon looked me dead in the grill and said "we want to be huge."I said "yeah,i know" and he's like."no you don't get it we!want!to be!huge! with an exclamation point after every word.
Brandon:We're not afraid of having big hits(big songs)are just what come out of us.A lot of people say it's because we're from vegas and its so over the top with the glitz and glamour.I don't know what is i've always been a fan of the big songs on the radio.my favorite arena-rock song?with or without you by U2.The way it builds its one of the best pieces of work that's ever been written.by the end if youre not singing along,if you're not screaming along,you're not living.
Dave:we all like anthems.we all have that in common.
Ronnie:My favorite arena rock song of all time is The stroke"by billy squier it go a lot of great rythm to it what's the key to writing a good anthem? it has to have heart and soul.youve got to really believe in what youre saying and playing.we don't plan ahead and say,this one's gonna be knock your socks off big it's just a layering thing,with everybody putting in their two cents.
Dave: my favorite is sunday bloody sunday.it's really accessible,and you can't help yourself you just end up singing it.it's the best feeling in the world when someone's singing your song. when thousands of people are going yes we know what youre talking about we feel ya!we've had good and bad times on tour,but that hour onstage is the best feeling in the world
Rob:from the beginning instead of focusing on their live show,they focused on their songs and perfecting the craft of songwriting.That sounds basic,but most bands don't do that.there are a lot of bands that are good live but have crappy songs and will never be good songwriters.there arent a lot of bands that have really good songs and suck live for long.songwriting isnt something that you can be taught.you either have it,or you dont.
Brandon:I've always been attracted to performers I think everybody is.who doesnt have a favorite singer?mine changes all the time Morrissey,bono,mick jagger,bowie is it weird to meet my idols?yeah,but i always wished i had the gift of gab and would be able hold on to them.one night bowie came to watch us play we met him,but he left after a minute.I wished i was somebody else,that i couldve kept him intrigued enough to mabey go out and have a drink.I just kinda stared at him.
Rob:Sure,they wear their influences on their sleeves depeche mode,the cure,new order.the truth of the matter is,I'm thirty five and the bands like the cure and depeche mode were big when i was fifteen this is a band that can do for fifteen or sixteen year old kids what those bands did for me.and as they progress,they'll move farther and farther away from their heroes,but everybody needs a road map.
Avoiding the dreaded sophmore slump
Dave:Everybody says there could be a sophmore slump but even if sam's town sells like ten copies,which it wont it's not a sophmore slump because this album is condensed with good songs.and we wanted it to be short.thriller only has nine songs.
Brandon:We've never been in the situation where people are anticipating something that we're doing.its frustrating because apparently alreadyupset a bunch of people by saying how good i think the album is.I cant help it if im not making what i feel is the best album out there,then i'm in the wrong job.when i talk about how great this album is its not because i want to shove it down peoples throats.but if somebody asks me what i think about it,i'll say i think its the best album in twenty years.
Mark:I can't wait until the album is finally out there and we can start performing the songs live.weve made the best record we could possibly make as a band at this point.
Brandon: so many bands are afraid that a common person will like their music,heven forbid Kimmy,who goes to mcdonalds and doesnt wear black converse,likes our music!were fans of pop as much as rock.Tony visconti said to me "you dont have to be a poet to say something profound."that gives me a lot of strength because i'm not surewhat i am.i'm not sure if im a songwriter or an artist or a musician.I dont like any of those words i feel like a normal dude.
Bob:it's funny singers are always the quietest in the band brandon has a lot to say.but hes also the hardest to crack.he's a complex person,always contemplating the world around him.it certainly come through in his lyrics.the interesting thing about the killersis these are four people with strong ditinct personalities each one brings something to the table.if any one of them were out it wouldnt be the killers anymore.it would probably still be great,but it wouldnt be the killers.I listen to hot fuss now and it's like oh,i see what you were trying to do you just didnt know how to do it yet."
brandon:sometimes you get so caught up in making sure the performance is right that you allmost dont get to enjoy being onstage.this time were gonna do it right and enjoy it.its easy to take suceess for granted because you get cought up in the negativity of touring and doing photoshoots i was about to complain about doing an interivew the other day,and this kid goes,thats awesome!i hope i get to do that one day!and it hit me I felt like as ass.three years ago,I was that kid.