Paste Magazine Issue #25 October 2006
How to survive when the new order gets old
Plenty of artists have eye-opening epiphanies,moments where the clouds part and luminous rays of insight and inspiration beam through.but few have claimed (or admittted)as 25 year old killers frontman Brandon Flowers has the honor of having had one while in the WC.More precisely the backstage men's room at last years London held urinal because men go to the uninal,we have to do it,grins the singer for the Las Vegas alt rock phenoms,setting the stage for his strange story.Which was the exact moment another loo.loiterer chose to sneak up behind Flowers and start crooning "somebody told me"his bands Grammy nominated breakthrough hit in his ear.Midstream as they say.
At first,Flowers was befuddled,and a little weirded out.But when he glanced over his shoulder,he sighed with relief."I look..and it's Bernard Sumner fro New order,going Brandon,I just love that single!"Sumners legendary bass heavey,synth slithery outfit had not only inspired The Killers 80's retro sound,but it's name as well.which was nicked from an imaginary combo featured in New orders "Crystal" video.Flowers would even go on to sing a crystal duet with sumner onstage in scotland.but,yes there in the lavatory with one of his heroes,those urinal cakes momentarily smelled like victory."I thought I don't know what else I can do now.We've reached a point where it's like I don't know where we can go from here.But he also remembers telling himself at the time,were definetly gonna try and go there."
Flowers spins this yarn as he autographs contest prize guitars at a killers concert.And he certainly looks the sin city star in his crushed velvet smoking jacket,patent leather loafers,lounge singer dress pants and dress shirt,his face striped with two big streaks of raccoon thick eyeliner.As a kid,he used to idolize the hard parying,skirt chasing rat pack and its kitschy classic vegas enrirons.After "somebody told me."and two more killers smashes from their Hot fuss debut in 2004"mr brightside and all these things that ive done,Flowers had quickly become a sinatra for the cynical modern rock set..Or at east its new dino.and he'd been truly blindsided by his groups overnight success.
It was only a few years ago,in fact,that the future rock star was working as a monkey suited bellhop at the gold coast hotel,where he regularly dealt with unusual guest situations like orgies,attempted suicides,hookers stabbing their tricks with stiletto heels,even a long in the tooth Mrs.Robinson or two requesting services a tad too personal.Condom runs were often included in his duty roster.but he put the bell desk phone to good use,regularyl ringing guitarist Dave Keuning whose las vegas weekly band ad he'd answered to relay song ideas,preserving them for prosterity on voicemail.Messages frowns flowers,"that you don't really know if the worlds gonna recieve or not.I remember singing the chorus of all these things that ive done into dave's cell phone,and thats how we would write songs.But now it's just universal thought people in Italy get it:people all over the world get it.And to actually get to this point has just been great."
After the urinal run in with sumner,flowers thinking while tinkling didnt ebb.In fact,it took on scary new dimensions.What,indeed,was next for the Killers? After being nominated for now less than six Grammy's three billboard music awards and three MTV video music awards(one of which they won in o5 for best new artist),had they already scaled their career defining summit?Was there nowhere to go but down?Flowers has already met his idol.Oasis Noel Gallagher,who'd told him he'd learned to play all these things that ive done on guitar.and that was the highlight of my life,"Flowers says."because a year and a half before that,i was sitting on my bed at home,learning osasis dont look back in anger,so to come full circle,where he's learning one of our songs,I'm done I could be done right now I could tell my kids that story some day,and i'd be happy."
But it doesn't end there.Flowers has also been palling around with one of his biggest booster.Elton John."he does this show in vegas,so when ever were home and hes doing his show,he gets bored because he's cooped up in a hotel and he wants to do something.so we'll go off to his show we've done it a few times and go eat dinner with him afterwards.And it's a nice change of pace for him,and he's the coolest fan he knows everything about every new band,what he likes ,what he does'nt like.and why he likes us he likes that we have soul,he says."
could things get any better?sure,Flowers responds.On Aug 2,2005 he married his longtime sweetheart("I'm luck,he says,"because she was my girlfriend before we ever played a gig,and i wouldnt have had her,well,every girl you mee,you just dont know what their agenda is") then honeymooned in Hawaii.they celebrated their first anniversary this year,albeit on a hectic busman's holiday.The kIllers flew to mexico to film the video for "when you were young" the first salvo from their new bid for enduring stardom and relevance, sophmore album Sam's Town.But only when the exhausting shoot was finished did flowers and his missus spiral off on their much needed vacation.Rock n roll guilt?I live with it every day,"cedes flowers,a practicing mormon."It's hard,having a wife and doing this,being gone all the time and around what we're around.but i was brought up religious,and i think that's been a nice balancing ror me.some people would say it's a terrible way to live,because i live with guilt.but i think it keeps me in a good middle ground.
Picture,then,this middle groung.the site of another epiphany,which flowers relates in a recent conversation,after putting the finishing touches on sam's town.the city cardiff wales.the gig opening for ultimate soupergroup U2,the chance of every young performers lifetime "so me and a singer for another one of the opening bands are watching U2 play,and right before they came out he turned to me and said Wow! this is it! recalls Flowers,who thouhgt about it for a minute and said,"well what is it? and he said,"well,it's not gonna get any better than this.I'm not telling you who it was.but that's when i realized that we're different.and it does'nt mean that were cocky,or that guy is inferior ar anything.It's just that we're different than than other people,because that isn't it for me opening for U2 is not my pinnacle.I wanna have opening bands myself at that cardiff stadium in 10 years.so i guess were still looking up,still shooting for the stars."
So are the killers on target with sams town?"when you were young' certainly hits the aesthetic bullseye:over a wolloping brontosarus rythm(courtesy of bassist Mark stoermer and drummer ronnie vannucci) and an arena rousing hook frothing up through the chourus,flowers in a a far more straightforward style than he employed on hot fuss unreels on oddly forlorn saga of a once devout woman beguiled by a sketchy suitor who "does'nt look a thing like jesus/but he talks like a gentleman." Like the killers best work,its simutaneously creepy and hum along happy,and eerily echoes Joyce carol oates sinister smooth talk,wherin a biker jacketed devil coaxes a chaste teenage girl into a hot rod joyride.
Sin versus salvation?"A lot of that stuff has to do with it,Flowers allows."It's part of that constant temptation.I mean,we went from Las vegas,which is already bad enough,where you've got flyers for girls,it's open 24-7,and you can get a bottle of vodka at 5:30am we went from that,to that with no rules,if that's possible.and that's how rock n roll is you go on your bus,you live in your own little world,and theres no police there.so when you were young is about that struggle,and i think a lot of people can relate to it."
How does this faithfully married man navigate such a tawdry hometown,where as he says every corner hawks actual catologs of prostitutes,who promise to be in your hotel room in 30,20,15 minutes?"it's difficult i admit it,"says flowers,who's considering having children soon."this city has gotten so much worse,even since i was a kid.now the new thing on the strip is,not only are people throwing those books in your face,they have these trucks with billboards on the back of em,just driving around.and it's just pictures of women,and the phone number to call to get these women.It's just a gigantic moving sex billboard,and its crazy.but it all goes back to how i was raised,i guess.I had'nt gone to church in a long time until i got married,and ive recently been going again with my wife.and if feel like i've missed out i really missed it.
Still,their fearless leader claims that the killers all still have that wild west in them.which might explain their hip new southwestern duds,all the way down to flowers gunslinger goatee and turquoise bolo ties.for sams town,they wanted to capture the panoramic sweep of their desperado digs.There are springsteen-ish anthems like "bones"(nee the natural,and the albums next single)the opening title track ("i wanted to humanize with this one,"says flowers,"and it's a great introduction to the album") why do i keep counting?(if all our days are numbered,why do i keep counting?is the line,because i just wanna live,and it's no way to live to always be thinking about dying im trying to get over that)and thedarkly dubbed "uncle johnny did cocaine"(based on flowers real life relative who shot himself,thinking space aliens were coming to abduct him amd survived) where did the musicians turn for such "thunder road grand inspiration?believe it or not,swears flowers,to springsteen himself.and his band was more than ready to make the creative leap from brit pop gloss to rustic boss.
It all started with a small hot fuss review that likened a track to vintage bruce springsteen according to flowers.at first,he was insulted."because everybody has the vision emblazoned in their brain of the bandanna and his ass in front of the flag,and everybody knows the f-ing seven singles from the born in the usa but i never realized that there was a 21 year old bruce springsteen out there that i could go buy,and just how ahead of his time he was,and how smart he was."Flowers guffaws at his own naivete."I mean i had no idea.Lost in the flood,sandy,and brilliant disguise?what a great way to describe everyone is that you baby,or just a brilliant disguise?I never thought,Is my wife like that?I looked at my wife differently after that song,i'll tell ya.I'm still with her,I still love her.but i'm just saying,bruce has got that..that ability."
Just to test the water,the key killer started with springsteens greatest hits.Instantly,he was hooked he scurried back out and bought the whole catalog."And that was what was so wonderful about it I havnt felt like this in so long,and i was worried that i never would again.and whats cool is that it wasnt just bruce springsteen that led straight to tom petty.I didnt knwo about the damn the torpedoes and now i do,and i love it.so it was just great to find these new things and to want to got to a record store again an flip through things.and now i just feel really excited.
With some aspects of their follow up,the killers played it safe they recorded in vegas and entrusted the music to textural minded producing vets flood and alan moulder.And for all his bold moves forward,flowers stil finds some degree of solace in familiarity.Despite his seedy surroundings,he wont leave the gambling mecca.and he prides himself on maintaing old friendships.by the time you read this,the killers of their own volition will have played the 10 anniversary party of san francisco indie/brit rock showcase popscene,the tiny nightclub that gave them their first bay area start.a secret gig,just to say,thanks.
But standing next ot Bernard sumner onstaage or in the men's room?"There's just been a lot of stuff like that happening to us lately,"Flowers finishes with a self deprcating flourish."meeting springsteen" I dunno if i'm prepared for that one yet.But being around new order and things like that are what were here for.As classic rock moves into its new phase,your starting to hear pearl jam and stone temple pilots on classic rock radio.Metallica,even.but in 20 years,i want it to be us.you'll start to heat the killers on classic rock radio.
"That's what we're here
for.we wanna be around.and i think we're just beginning to make our