by Cameron Adams
Brandon Flowers put a curse on the Killers, writes Cameron
Brandon Flowers, frontman of Las Vegas band The Killers, has
never been short of confidence. As he was working on Sam's
Town, the follow-up to their five-million selling debut
Hot Fuss, Flowers was sending messages from the recording
The message was far from subtle: Flowers said not only would the
new album top Hot Fuss, it was set to be one of the best
albums of the past 20 years.
"I've had time to digest the album, sit with it and live with
it, and I know it's that good," Flowers says.
"It's just a matter of time before everyone else gets to love it
like I do."
Flowers says he didn't make the statement to hype up his album,
he was just being honest when asked to describe the record. His
record company and management weren't quite so happy.
"They said I'd put a curse on the record," Flowers laughs.
"I still feel that way about the album, though. I don't take it
We're talking in London, Flowers' spiritual home and the country
where he believes The Killers are taken most seriously.
"We've sold five million records and we can't get on the cover
of Rolling Stone, but they'll put Lindsay Lohan on the
cover," he gripes.
It was discovering Oasis, Pet Shop Boys and The Smiths that
caused Flowers to fall madly in love with the music and dream of
making his own. He added a touch of New Order and a hint of
Duran Duran and Depeche Mode for the Killers' sound.
The recipe worked: their 2004 debut Hot Fuss had hit singles
Mr Brightside and Somebody Told Me that seduced radio
stations around the globe.
For their second album, Flowers again turned to his record
Alan Moulder (My Bloody Valentine, Smashing Pumpkins) and Flood
(Depeche Mode, U2, Nick Cave) were hired as producers.
After recording the album at home in Las Vegas, the Killers
moved to the back streets of London to add the polish. We're at
a dingy little studio called Assault and Battery; a venue Flood
and Moulder like to use for luck.
Being the media-friendly band they are, the Killers have
pencilled in a few hours each day when they stop mixing the
record and talk about it to journalists.
Flowers treats the occasion as a chance to hear what fresh ears
think of their new album, not just the producers and yes-people
from his record company.
In fact, before we walk in we're told by the record company to
be prepared: Flowers likes to look at people's faces when
they're hearing his new songs to gauge their reactions.
Flowers is DJ. What's played is up to him. He chooses five
songs, some not even finished (Flowers hums where he has yet to
put lyrics). Others, such as Bones, sound like instant
Flowers asks a studio employee to hunt for one song that's been
shipped in from the US overnight as we sit and wait. He says
little, smoking a cigarette, which many suggest is at odds with
his Mormon faith.
Upstairs, he remains serious as he moves into interview mode.
He's a fan of the interview process. As a youth, he'd read Noel
Gallagher or Morrissey interviews with the same kind of fervour
as he'd listen to their music.
However, though Noel and Moz's slamming of nearly everyone made
them famous, Flowers' outspoken criticism of the Bravery and
Fall Out Boy made headlines in a beige new musical world in
which no one says anything.
In 2006, Brandon Flowers is more reserved. His feuding days are
"When I look back at it, I know what type of person I am and I'm
not like that," Flowers says.
"I get along with people. I love people. I want to help people.
I was upset that people thought of me as this bitchy, pompous
person who wears expensive jackets. That's all they were seeing.
It's not how I was raised. It's not how I want to be perceived,
it's not how I am.
"I'm honest. I get it from my dad. I was raised on the phrase,
'Tell it like it is' and that's a good thing. People asked me
what I thought about a band and I told them.
"Now I'm seeing that may not be the best thing. I appreciate
what other bands are doing. We're lucky to be as successful as
we are. Everyone's out there doing what they're doing and
there's nothing wrong with it. I kinda have a different view
Pushed, Flowers says the criticism hurt him more than people
"I feel like we're a gang, and I hate that. I wish we could all
get on. It doesn't feel as if we're part of any scene. Bands
these days are like gangs - pirates and cowboys. I'd love to
bridge that gap. Heaven forbid we'd do a duet with somebody like
they used to, but we'd like to bring that back.
"I would like everyone to come along with us, to be part of
something. There's never been that angst-driven stuff with us,
I'd like people to stand next to me and shout it with me. I
don't think you'll hear me saying anything terrible about bands
That is, however, until we get on to the concept of marketing.
It's something Flowers doesn't quite understand.
He grew up in an era when bands had an air of mystery, not a
blog where they shared their daily activities with fans.
Flowers was ignored by Morrissey when he worked as a busboy and
waited on his hero. He was ignored by Morrissey when the Killers
supported him. He doesn't mind.
"That's just Morrissey," he says, pointing out he thinks
Bones will be "Morrissey's favourite on the album".
Flowers loved how Morrissey waited years to release a DVD with
all his singles on it. He fought his record company, who wanted
to release a Killers DVD last Christmas.
"We're finding a happy medium," Flowers says.
"I still love the mystery of Morrissey. We've already done far
more than he would have done. We're somewhere in the middle,
which is where I see our band. I understand indie. I understand
that mentality, but I can't deny the excitement of being
humungous, of bringing tons of people together to celebrate. We
walk the line.
"We do things that are to do with the times. We have our music
on iTunes. We have a website, every now and again we post on it.
But it's things like putting DVDs out, all this extra junk, it's
helping to ruin everything.
"Morrissey put a DVD out and I was so excited after waiting so
long for it. I'd have been less excited if on every single
there's been all this extra footage."
It's here where Flowers' new PC train slightly derails.
"You have these new types of bands, emo bands, who are on their
website every day talking to their fans. They want to put
everything out... I'm going to dig a hole for myself here again,
but they're setting themselves up to be short-lived.
"They have to milk it while they can. I like to have some wonder
about bands. I want the Killers to have that wonder. You have
these emo bands, as soon as they start getting hair on their
chests, their careers are going to be over."
Named after an old casino in their home town, Sam's Town
was fittingly recorded in a Las Vegas casino.
Not just any casino, but one called The Palms, which have built
a Fantasy Tower.
"It's ridiculous," Flowers notes. "If you had an imagination of
what Babylon is like, it's this place. It's so bad. The world is
Inside the Fantasy Tower, among the "erotic suits" is a
recording studio. It was christened by Sam's Town.
Flowers admits there was a strange lure to recording in a
casino, and not just the fact he could go home late each night.
"I just love the smell of casinos," Flowers says. "It was nice
to go in there and have that smell, that noise. They pump a lot
of oxygen into those places, so there's the combination of fresh
air with cigarette smoke, the slot machines... I don't know what
it is, but it's a great smell."
"It's very alive in there, even though it's completely
depressing, people losing their money."
After the touring of Hot Fuss finished (Flowers even
fitted his wedding and honeymoon into their schedule), the band
started compiling the songs they'd written on the road,
including part of Bones and My List, which made
the final product. Another, Higher and Higher, turned
into part of Bling.
On the road they got some sage advice - from none other than
Bono - on following up their debut.
During one of their regular five-minute chats when the Killers
opened for U2, Bono told Flowers to "spare us the interesting
"He's saying that from experience," Flowers says. "They made
(second album and abject failure) October. He's looking
out for us.
"But we are set in our ways so much that we're not going to try
to make Kid A on our second album," Flowers says,
referencing Radiohead's deliberately difficult record.
"I don't think we'll ever make an album like that anyway. I
think Hot Fuss is a great first album. There should be
room to improve. It'd be sad if you could only go backwards."
Flowers says he's keen to silence the haters who think they
can't do it again.
"I know it all happened so fast. I don't feel any different from
when we were playing in Las Vegas bars, and that wasn't that
long ago. I think we still have to prove ourselves to a lot of
people, which is understandable. But I think we have better
"I think When You Were Young shreds Mr Brightside.
I'm happy I'm in the band I'm in because I think we're really
good, but when I think about music in general, it feels as if
there's a drought. That's why we have to prove we can do it
Sam's Town (Universal) out Saturday. The Killers will be
announced next week as part of the 2007 Big Day Out line-up.
Flowers finds The Boss is Petty good
Between albums, Brandon Flowers discovered Bruce Springsteen and
"I'm a believer," Flowers says of discovering The Boss
"You always hear jokes like 'If he's the Boss I quit', stuff
like that. I didn't really know how important he is, how good he
is. He's so inspirational.
"You just believe every syllable that comes out of his mouth.
With Morrissey you don't know if he's telling a story or messing
with you. I like the directness of Bruce just singing his guts
Flowers says he bought Springsteen's entire back catalogue; he
has most recently pored through Darkness on the Edge of Town.
"I just fell in love with some of this music I'd known about but
didn't own," Flowers says.
"I had the greatest hits, but I didn't realise how good some of
the stuff I was missing out on was. These were albums people
knew about but I didn't, and I should have. I fell in love with
Thunder Road from Born to Run and it just made me
think, 'What else has he got? He wrote that when he was 24 or
25, so there has to be some other stuff'. And of course, there
"It's just nice to find something I love that much at this age.
I felt as if I was a young kid again, It didn't feel any
different from when I got (the Smiths') Louder Than Bombs,
when I got Greetings From Asbury Park, it was the same
type of excitement.
"I'd play songs over and over, hit the rewind button, hear it
again. It was real exciting for me."
The Boss had a direct influence on Sam's Town.
"Not that we sound like Born to Run, but it's a nice new
ingredient to our sound. I still want to sound like me, I want
us to sound like the Killers, but it's made me look at things
differently. I'd been listening to British bands for 12 years,
so it was a real breath of fresh air to me. I think it's
definitely shown its face on this album."
Talk of the town: The Killers' Sam's Town
by Cameron Adams
On first listen, you'll want to love Sam's Town more than
you actually will. Persevere and those initial feelings of being
underwhelmed are blown away by a strong, strident and
stadium-read second album.
Dramatic mini-epic; familiar synths and driving pop kick in when
you get your first taste of Brandon Flowers' new Broooce-inspired
lyrics. It's out with androgynous girlfriends and in with
brothers born on the Fourth of July and grandmas called Dixie.
When You Were Young
Flowers claims it "shreds" Mr Brightside. It doesn't, but
it proves the Killers finally have a bit of hair on their chests
and not just the new communal growth on their chins and top
lips. Listening to all that vintage Springsteen paid off; this
is just waiting for stadium audiences to pump their fists along
Bling (Confessions of a King)
Magnificent: a pounding tale of "running with the devil" on "the
land of the free ride". The chorus gives you a power rush a la
mid-80s U2. Again, purpose-built for stadiums.
For Reasons Unknown
Nothing new here, but saved by a chorus in which Flowers kicks
the voice up a notch or five.
Read My Mind
Deceptive at first, live with this and you realise it's amazing.
Various influences ('80s synth, New Order bass, U2 riffage,
lyrics about "two-star towns") build up (and up and up) into a
killer Killers triumph.
Excellent. Driving bass and piercing guitar tell the dark tale
of Flowers' cocaine-snorting uncle who killed himself. "He's
convinced himself right in his brain that it help to take away
the pain," Flowers says of his late uncle's chemical habit.
Just when you think things can't get better, the album's most
poptastic moment surfaces. As ever, there's a twist -
Morrissey-like verses with bluster and brass, then an immense
chorus: "Don't you want to feel my bones on your bones? It's
only natural..." Global hit-in-waiting.
Low-key ballad liable to be skipped on iPods the world over.
This River Is Wild
Good, but Killers-by-numbers saved by the intense last minute.
Why Do I Keep Counting?
Grand finale that doesn't quite ignite; Killers go Queen.
Where the White Boys Dance
A bonus track? Madness. Well, actually more like early Duran
Duran - cool, dark funk.
The verdict: a clever mixture of what they do best with
several new directions, this is the sound of Brandon Flowers
putting his money were his big mouth is.
4 stars out of 5.