Brandon's track by
track guide to Sam's Town
NME October 4,2006
An excited Brandon Flowers talks NME through The Killers' new LP
Kasabian have done it. Razorlight have done it. Now it's The Killers
turn to have a crack at the 'difficult second album' with the
release of Sam's Town this week. So were the Las Vegas outfit
nervous about being the last of the class of 2004 to put out a
follow up LP? Not for a second. "We had a real confidence because of
the success of Hot Fuss, so we thought we'd take advantage of it. We
didn't want to make a shy album," declares Brandon Flowers of the LP
they recorded in Las Vegas and London this year. "We wanted to keep
going and keep building on this". Here, the singer explains to NME
just how he managed it:
We wanted to come back unashamedly and this was the perfect way of
sounding confident and strong. Everybody puts their tails between
their legs when they make their second album, but we wanted to come
out all guns blazing and that's what Sam's Town sounds like. It's
named after a casino I used to live across the street from. The way
The Beatles had landmarks like Abbey Road and Penny Lane; I wanted
to do that for Las Vegas. We're proud of where we're from and it
marks a period of our lives.
I think we invented that, the Enterlude and the Exitlude! (laughs)
We were recording in a hotel casino and I was messing around on a
piano. Next to me was a room key-card that said 'we hope you enjoy
your stay' on it, and it all just took off from there. The melody
came from a dream. I have musical dreams, but I rarely remember
them. This is the only time I've been able to remember one. It
sounds ridiculous but it was Kurt Cobain on a ship, in the clouds!
He was singing this melody and I remember thinking he sounded like
Bob Dylan, so that made it even weirder!
WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG
We knew right away this would be a single. We had the record label
breathing down our necks. They were worried that we wouldn't write
another Somebody Told Me - and we didn't want to, so they were
really worried. One day we were just messing around and this chord
progression came about and I had the Jesus line, so it felt alright.
I remember driving home after we made a rough recording and I slept
a little easier ever since that night. The song's about the idea
that saviours can come in different forms, that's a lot of it.
This was kicking around for a long time and then at the last minute
we added some acoustic guitars and it really made it feel like the
desert, which all ties right into the album. It's like Talking Heads
and Johnny Cash. I guess it's like a medal for my father. It's
glorifying the person who does a great job raising his kids, just
going to work everyday. A lot of people in bands write about the
working stiffs. I wanted to make something that was the opposite,
because that's what my family is and I'm proud of it. My dad is 64
years old, he raised 6 kids and now he's got 20 grandkids and I
guess that's what the ending of the song is about. When you see him
playing with his grandkids he's a happy man.
It's a very old song. We wrote it on tour and recorded it on Louis
XIV's bus. We had a finished version that night and the one on the
album is very similar. We wrote a lot during soundchecks on the
road, hashing out songs. I feel this is a good bridge to Hot Fuss.
READ MY MIND
It's the best song we've ever written! It has a hymn like
spirituality and there's a story - it's what you strive for in a
song. It used to be called Little Angela and it was totally
different. It had a rock beat and my lyrics told a small love story.
Flood and Alan came in and made a stab at my lyrics and had Ronnie
play a disco beat. I started singing this different story and within
a few hours it was a different song.
Uncle Jonny is my mother's brother. He's the black sheep of the
family. Every couple of years something would happen. He's done
everything from shoot himself to drug addictions yet somehow he's
ended up alright. He's really a nice guy. He's heard the song and
he's happy to be immortalised because he's a rocker, he's always got
a Zeppelin shirt on. Jonny deserves the song's riff (laughs).
You don't usually use the word riff with us, but this is one of the
greatest riffs of all time. I guess it's a little bit inspired by
being on the road with U2. We learnt a lot from watching them.
This is the oldest song on the album at 2 years old and I was really
getting tired of it. We hadn't played it for anybody and it didn't
feel good enough, then Mark had an idea. He grew up playing the
trumpet, so we brought in real brass and it brought the song to
life. It just exploded! It's one of my favourites now. It's a
romance, it's sweet but it's twisted in some ways.
It's our attempt at a ballad. It's a unique song, with the way it
goes at the middle 'don't give the ghost up'. It's for my wife. I
wanted people to believe it like I believe when I hear something I
love. I want that on every song, but this one has a moment that you
never know if it's going to happen again - we just got lucky. This
is me. We didn't have many vocal tracks so this is the closest to
what I sound like in the shower (laughs).
THIS RIVER IS WILD
It's a strange one. Some people already hate it; some people like
it, but the ones who love it are diehard. I love it! If ever there's
been a musical journey this is it. When I listen to it I don't want
it to end. Each chorus is different, that's untypical of us, so it's
our shot at doing something different. This is also the most literal
song here. I was born in Las Vegas but I grew up in a small town in
Utah called Nephi, and the whole idea of escaping it and the
excitement of that prospect is all captured on this.
WHY DO I KEEP COUNTING?
It was very difficult to get the band to sound the way we do on
this, but it was time well spent because it became a real explosion.
It's a bit ELO a bit Bowie and it's the climax of the album - it
ends with the gong. Basically it's a bargain with God. I have a big
problem with flying and the first thing I do if there's something
wrong is I pray. Just bargaining, "I'll be good if you let me live!"
I didn't want to melancholic, and everybody seems to be reminiscing
about last month these days as opposed to good times, so I think the
beauty of the Exitlude is there's sadness to it but it's not over.
You want to go back to Sam's Town and I do too. It reminds you of
the Cheers theme tune? (laughs) I grew up on Cheers! I was
with Woody Harrelson the other night and I told him what an effect
Cheers had on my life! (laughs) I felt so ridiculous!
We're not artists, there's only a couple in the world and Anton
Corbijn is one of them. We just put our faith in what he wanted to
do. He listened to the album, had ideas and just ran with it. We
were out there during the shooting and he took the pictures of us on
the inside of the album that day too. I wasn't sold on it until we
put The Killers logo on there and then there was no doubt about it.
What does it all mean? The bighorn sheep is the Nevada State animal,
that's all I'll give you!