The Killers: living Las Vegas

 Bob Gordon - Thursday, Jan 18, 2007

Las Vegas sensation The Killers roll into town for the Big Day Out this month. Bob Gordon catches the band in the midst of yet another road trip.

Sometimes the folks in rock bands turn out to be doing just what it seems like they should be doing. For Ronnie Vannucci Jr, drummer of The Killers, it’s an appropriate situation involving a highway and fleeting visit home to Las Vegas.

“I’m on the Interstate 15 in Utah somewhere,” he says, chirpily. “We’re going back to Vegas. We have to make it back there to catch an early flight out in the morning to go to LA to do the Tonight Show With Jay Leno. We’re on a little road trip, seeing all the lights.”

Indeed, that’s been the mode since the release of the band’s second album, Sam’s Town. The Killers have been seeing the sights of places far, far away from the lights leading back into Las Vegas.

“Oh yeah, definitely man,” Vannucci Jr says. “There hasn’t been a wink of time off, really. It’s the way that it goes when you’re trying to get everybody to listen to your record. You’ve gotta get out there.”

Typically, The Killers are a band that are much good at sitting still anyway. Having toured endlessly in support of their 2004 LP, Hot Fuss, the band wound up that era in November, 2005. Some time off seemed on the agenda, but it seems that a need to see what was going to happen next proved all too strong.

“Well we didn’t `do’ any time off,” Vannucci Jr remarks. “We maybe took two weeks off before getting right back into the rehearsal space and just writing for the next record.

“I think I had two or three days at home, but it quickly became `well why don’t we get back into the rehearsal space now to see how we’re all firing? How easy or how hard it’s going to be to make some songs?’ We had a lot of ideas from soundchecks already, little demos that we’d all brought in or whatever.”

Vannucci Jr says that the band allowed itself to sit back briefly and take stock of what they’d started as in 2002, how far they’d come and perhaps, most importantly, to use this way of thinking to take them further ahead.

“We just thought it’d be better to move yet maybe have a little time to sit down and think how lucky we’ve been so far, and not to get lazy and rely on the success of one album that did okay, you know?

“You’re put in such a fortunate position… we don’t live in mud huts or anything (laughs) but we didn’t come from much so this opportunity has been really special to us. We’re not lazy people so we didn’t want to be lazy about work, so we decided to give it another shot.”

The fact that The Killers were afforded the opportunity to record and release a new album in a comparatively short time following a significant 2004 success is unusual. Real album success mostly means that a band ends up on the road for three to four years touring behind it to milk the original success. Not so, in this case, for The Killers.

“That’s true,” Vannucci Jr considers, even if it seems he doesn’t want to knock that scenario either. “Though that’s not to say that those bands who do rely on one album a tour for three or four years are doing anything bad.

“I mean, a music career, being in a band, can be a pretty custom deal. You can shape it how you want and what we want is to be an important band for as long as we can, you know? A lot of bands out there that we look up to have done that.”

In any case it is The Killers’ own experience that marks them as somewhat fascinating. From singer Brandon Flowers’ departure from his first band as a result of not wanting to leave his home for Los Angeles in 2001; to the formation of The Killers in 2002 and the Las Vegas folklore that surrounds them even though their popular success had its seeds in the UK. Then there’s how the Sam’s Town album has a vastly different kind of epic intent to their 2004 Hot Fuss debut. Put simply, The Killers aren’t afraid to be big.

“I think we’re in a good space right now in a lot of respects,” Vannucci Jr muses. “In the beginning we were all very ambitious and we wanted to be… this huge band. And we still do. We were putting on shows and playing like we were playing a 20,000 seat arena.

“Now that we’re playing some 20,000 seat arenas we’re still giving it a shot but we’re bringing a sense of… I don’t know what the hell we’re doing but it seems like we’re getting more in touch with the more realistic side of things while still being into the bigness of happening to be in a band that play big rock’n’roll songs.”

And while writers may posit how things moved on from one album to the next, Vannucci Jr is clear on how the mission remains the same.

“At the very beginning we were very honest and nothing was ever contrived,” he says, “but we were dressing up and playing these shows and inviting people into this… type of reality. Now that we’ve done that we want to try and still bring people into another place that satisfies them.”