Killer confesses

Daily Mail

Brandon Flowers is grappling with the sticky subject of facial hair. As lead singer with The Killers, he shot to fame three years ago while sporting a clean-cut, mop-topped look that owed everything to his love of British pop.

But for last year's second album, the more American-influenced Sam's Town, Flowers and his three Las Vegas bandmates ditched the boy-next-door look in favour of the Deadwood look: drooping moustaches, wayward sideburns and decidedly unruly locks.

The adverse reaction to the new image, especially in Britain, astounded the Sin City quartet. But, while Brandon was taken aback at suggestions that they had grown beards to make them appear more serious, he can now laugh about it.

"We didn't think a little bit of facial hair would cause such a stir," he says drily. "And, naturally, we've since apologised for any offence. That said, our drummer, Ronnie Vannucci, has just shaved his beard off, so maybe those negative comments did have an effect."

Hairstyles aside, The Killers currently have little cause for concern. Having broken through in scintillating style with their 2004 debut album, Hot Fuss, they consolidated their position last October with the more complex follow-up.

If Hot Fuss was a glorified love letter to New Order and The Cure, Sam's Town celebrated the singer's fascination with the forgotten highways, casinos and motels of his homeland.

"It was something I couldn't avoid any longer," he says. "The first album was about my fantasies. I grew up listening to The Smiths, The Beatles and Pet Shop Boys. Hot Fuss was a record of my childhood dreams. It was my idea of England.

"But I felt a duty to represent where I came from, too. America gets a lot of negative publicity. But there is still a lot of good stuff there. I didn't want to write about America's place in the wider world. I wanted to write about my country in a more sentimental, non-ironic way."

Named after a disused Las Vegas casino, Sam's Town initially surprised many of the five million fans worldwide who bought Hot Fuss. Most of those devotees, though, have since taken the surging, stadium-rock of the new record to their hearts.

The band have been nominated in two of the international categories at next Wednesday's Brit Awards - best group and best album while their first UK arena tour, which opens in Sheffield next weekend, sold out in hours.

And while he admits that some of the new tunes are not as immediately catchy as 2004' s Mr Brightside or Somebody Told Me, Brandon believes that songs which reveal themselves gradually are often the most memorable in the long-term.

He cites the band's signature ballad, All These Things That I've Done, an anthem that captivated Glastonbury and Live 8 in 2005, as an example.

"Some of our best tracks are slow risers. All These Things was an unexpected success. We had been playing it for ages and nobody seemed to get it. Then, one day, something just clicked."

Although born in Las Vegas, Flowers, 25, grew up in the tiny Mormon community of Nephi, Utah, and drew extensively on his memories of small town life when putting together Sam's Town.

"I was the youngest of six children, and my arrival was a surprise for my parents. One of my four sisters is 17 years older than me, and there is a wide range of ages in the family, so I didn't really have anyone to compete with.

"As I was growing up, the only thing to do for entertainment was to drive down Main Street. Most of the teenagers would spend all day doing that, stopping only for more gas or more beer.

"But once I was old enough to drive, I realised that there was also something incredibly sad about Main Street. It is a road that only recently got its first stoplight. So, all those things are intertwined on the album."

For Flowers, salvation from a life on Main Street arrived in the Eighties Brit-rock albums of his older brother.

Having been raised on the music of Manchester, Liverpool and London, how did the reality of finally touring Britain measure up to his long-distance fantasies?

"Going to Manchester for the first time was a real buzz," he says.

"The first time we played there, we saw the Holy Name Church, which was mentioned in a Smiths' song, and the Salford Lads Club, which was on the cover of The Queen Is Dead.

"I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. I drive down Route 66 all the time when I'm at home and I don't think much of it."

Looking forward to the forthcoming tour, a Brits appearance and a major UK festival date in the summer, the band have triumphantly overcome any initial resistance to their new style - of the musical and the hair variety - by placing the onus firmly on their Killer tunes.

"We'll be over again in the summer, but I'm not sure which festival we'll be doing," says Brandon. "Glastonbury in 2005 was one of the most memorable shows we ever played.

"We had a chance to headline one night, but we weren't ready then. Playing before The White Stripes was great, because we got to see them after us. That made it perfect.

"As for the Brits, we are usually the only band who don't use backing tracks at events like that. We might up the ante a little bit, but I'd rather put the focus on the four individuals and the music."

(Thanks Jess)