Vegoose 2006: Killers frontman says there's no place like home
Las Vegas City Life October 26,2006


Oscar Goodman is no longer the city's biggest cheerleader. That distinction now belongs to Brandon Flowers, lead singer and keyboardist of The Killers, the most successful rock act ever to emerge from Las Vegas. He wants everyone to know how great this town is - so much so, he and his bandmates (guitarist Dave Keuning, bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci) called their recently released sophomore album Sam's Town, a work that sonically and lyrically references both the dust and the glitter of Sin City. And during a recent pre-show chat, the famously frank musician expounded upon his pride for Las Vegas.

CityLife: Have the new songs changed the dynamic of your performance in any discernible way?

Brandon Flowers: Well, at first it was hard to tell. Everyone sort of stares at you during the new songs; they're just taking them in. But now that the album's been out for a couple of weeks, we're starting to see something happening. People are singing along. And they flow with the other songs really well. We'd been playing those songs for so long, and so many times. It's a big breath of fresh air.

So many people are making such a big deal about the new songs being so different, but we don't feel they're that much different. Especially when we play “When You Were Young” and then “Somebody Told Me” almost every night, and it's not that strange.

CL: People call Sam's Town an arena-rock record. You've played huge shows before, but do you guys feel ready to play the really big spaces every night?

BF: I think we're gonna play bigger places, but we're not gonna play gigantic arenas. I'm not ready as a frontman. I wish I could say I was. There are moments where we just look like amateurs between songs and I have a real tough time talking to the crowd still. I can see us getting eventually there if we had 15 hits and we could just play the hits and make people happy! There are some people who have a real gift for that, like [the Flaming Lips'] Wayne Coyne - they just make it happen. I'm not there yet. I'm working on it, and we're getting better as a band.

CL: Did you get asked to play Vegoose last year?

BF: No. But Mark and Ronnie went out there.

CL: Did you feel obligated to do it when the organizers invited you this year?

BF: No. We were excited Tom Petty was on the bill, and that it was at Sam Boyd, so it seemed right. And it's also another chance to go home. We don't get many of those. It'll be rare treat to sleep in our own beds. It'll just be beautiful to play in Las Vegas.

CL: Sam's Town is pretty distinctive from its predecessor. Were the initial ideas for the album coming to you during the Hot Fuss tour, or did they really start bursting forth once you started writing and recording?

BF: Actually, about five the songs started creeping up during touring for Hot Fuss: “My List,” “Bones” - which is quite old - “Why Do I Keep Counting” was toward the end [of the tour], “Uncle Johnny” was a year-and-a-half old. It was a slow progression, but when I look at it now, I ... remember being in the van when we were opening for Stellastarr* and driving across America and listening to Jim Croce and things like that, and that's where the seeds were planted. Everything has been evolving from then.

CL: Did you ever find it bizarre you were recording a record inside a hotel-casino?

BF: It wasn't necessarily about the Palms. It was about being in Vegas. It was exciting for our producers, too. Alan [Moulder] had never been to Las Vegas before. We threw him in the thick of it, stuck him in a hotel for a few months. From midgets and all that stuff, it was exciting for Alan. Other than that, it was the same old [thing]. We wanted to get in the studio and do it.

I myself love the smell of a casino. That's kind of nostalgic, I guess, from when I was a kid. You know when your family comes to town and you go to a buffet? [Laughs.] I grew up with that, but I love it.

CL: The record obviously has a strong Western identity to it, especially lyrically. Do you think you‘d have made a different album had you made it, say, on the East Coast, or done more recording in England?

BF: No, that was already under way. It was something I was real adamant about for a while. That was important to me. People were saying we were the best English band from America and I was proud of that, because we were so accepted there. But I felt like, as a - I hate to say “artist” - I'm not doing my job justice if I'm not representing where I'm from and letting people feel that. And some of these songs do it. When I hear “Bling” and “When You Were Young,” I imagine driving down the I-15 from Mesquite during sunset. That's what it feels to me, and I feel good about it.

CL: Is it just as hard and laborious promoting a heavily anticipated follow-up album as it was for Hot Fuss, even though everyone knew who you were this time around?

BF: The first album was just so exciting. It was that prospect of “making it,” and of having people hear the songs, and going places. That's still there, but now it's more an excitement of pushing ourselves, and trying to write songs we didn't write on the first album, and hopefully songs no one else has written, and maintaining or building on it. That's the hard part. Hot Fuss ended up being so damn successful - where do you go after selling that many records?

I remember our first manager saying, “Hopefully, we'll sell a few hundred thousand and build up,” and we sold five million. That's crazy.

CL: Britain has given you some really good reviews for Sam's Town, and there have been a few from this side of the Atlantic, too. But there has also been some nasty criticism as well. Is it hard not to take that personally?

BF: [Laughs] Sometimes, man, it's hard! It's kind of beating me down; I shouldn't be reading them. [The critics] listen to it once and, if you notice, most of them are basically writing their review based on something I said, rather than the 12 beautiful songs on the album. And some of the things I say contradict how pretty those things are.

Off the cuff, I say ugly things sometimes, and people go off of that, instead of just letting the songs speak for themselves. That's partially my fault. I need to let the songs speak for themselves, too, maybe. At the same time, I just can't help it. I tell people what I think. But I think in the long run, once the songs get their due, it's going to be undeniable. I mean, they feel so good. My ears haven't changed. I still have the same tastes. All of us do. It seems right for us. Maybe we're in a bubble, I dunno.

CL: Do you get the sense interviewers are now trying to goad you into saying something that's a potential headline?

BF: Yeah, I'm pretty easily led! [Laughs.] But I'm starting to pick up on it. I'm trying to focus more on positive things. There are things that creep up that I don't even remember. [Journalists] hold on to [a quote] and wait until they don't have anything write about, except something they read a few months ago and pick it up there.

It brings a lot more drama to my life than I'd like. People around us and the record label and management, it upsets them. I'm hearing about it and - ugh. I don't want to hear it. [Laughs.] I don't mean to offend anyone, either. I don't want to be that guy.

CL: You guys are known for hiring within when it comes to your crew and guest musicians. Was it important your support team have a lot of locals in it?

BF: Yeah. We love where we're from. People don't make a big enough [deal about that]. From down to this album being called Sam's Town - that's because I love that place. I love Las Vegas. We've never done anything but good things for it. It's great to bring our friends out on the road and have people like Corlene [Byrd] sing on the album, and the string [musicians] and it's great they're all in there.

If you're in a band now, it's so difficult to make it. We got really lucky, but we want other people to see it, not necessarily as a launching pad, but at least as a hope. It's just been so long. There was such a drought. I remember I went to Chaparral [High School], hearing about Copperpot and Expert On October and all these names, people that were gonna get a record deal. I remember that excitement brewing, and I'd never gone to a local show or anything. And we did it. So, it can happen. Hopefully that's how people will see it.