The Killers are on the loose
The Killers are headlining at Glastonbury, T in the Park and V Festival
Headlining Glastonbury, T in the Park and V Festival, The Killers are flying high.
Lead singer Brandon Flowers explains how his Mormon beliefs helped him and how he has got a fear of planes, buses and the number 621
The Killersí rakish frontman Brandon Flowers is a festival god.
By his own admission, he was born to perform on the worldís biggest stages.
He feels most alive when his band headline the main summer festivals, draining rival stages of their audiences with their raw anthemic rock; which is just as well, as only then does he feel that he and The Killers have truly arrived. "I always had huge ambitions for the band," he says. "As soon as we started writing our first songs, I knew we were capable of being one of the biggest bands in the world.
Selling millions of records is a part of that, but itís playing festivals like Glastonbury in front of tens of thousands of people when I really feel it.
"Thatís when Iím reaching for the stars. Thatís when I feel the magic soaking my spine."
In the coming months, Flowers has ample opportunity to experience his share of spine-tingling magic.
The Killers are the promotersí No 1 draw for 2007; they are lined up to play no less than 14 festivals throughout Europe, including headlining spots at Glastonbury, T In The Park and V Festival.
These shows provide The Killers with a perfect opportunity to remind everyone exactly why they were voted Best International Band at this yearís Brits Ė and provide the rest of us with the chance to see just how far Flowers has come. There was a time, just as The Killers were beginning their grand ascent to rock superstardom, when Flowers, 26, struggled to convince.
Playing the smaller halls, he needed to drink copious amounts of alcohol to summon up the courage to perform. Onstage, he seemed stiff and awkward. Iggy Pop he wasnít.
His subsequent metamorphosis from shrinking violet to bona fide rock star is even more surprising when you discover the irrational fears that have ruled his life.
Heís scared of sharks, flying and buses ("no particular reason Ė they just happen to terrify me").
And, most bizarrely, thereís his paranoia about certain number configurations, specifically the number 621.
"Itís the month of my birth and the day of my birth Ė June 21," he says, "and Iíve always been convinced I would die on that date.
"Ridiculous, right? But Iíve felt that way ever since I played with a Ouija board at 13.
"Itís a totally inconvenient date to be paranoid about because these days Iím usually playing a festival.
"A couple of years ago, I had to fly into Glastonbury on that day. I was crying my eyes out, convinced this was the end."
In recent years, heís overcome some, though not all, of these terrors.
Heís also learned to overcome his fear of playing live.
A Mormon who claims to have waited until the age of 19 before kissing a girl, Flowers only required the worldís biggest and most partisan audiences to bring out the consummate performer in him.
These days, Flowers will take to the stage attired according to the mood of the moment.
A cowboy outfit one night, a pink leather jacket the next, trademark eyeliner the one constant.
Heíll spin and gyrate and fall to his knees, working the audience all the while.
The bigger the crowd, the more confidently heíll move. Increasingly, the stages are besieged by female underwear.
Immeasurably classy, like Sinatra lighting a cigarette while crooning Fly Me To The Moon, Flowers catches the panties in mid-air, twirling them on his index finger and tossing them back into the crowd.
Somehow, heís transformed from the shyest man in rock into one of its most captivating frontmen, one that might have been constructed piece by piece with the sole aim of mining festival gold.
Flowers is sitting backstage at a concert hall in Osaka, Japan.
Offstage, jittery and self-conscious, he could more easily be mistaken for a geeky IT student than a limelight-hungry rock deity.
Eye contact is kept to a minimum. He speaks so softly that the microphone has to be placed right next to him.
He begins to thaw only when the subject of his forthcoming British festival dates is brought up. Britain means a lot to him. "Without British music I wouldnít be sitting here talking to you now," he says.
"It was British music that showed me the way. It was life-changing for me. Listening to Morrissey and Pet Shop Boys as a kid, Britain became this magical place.
"But it only sinks in when I go there with The Killers and we play Glastonbury Ė thereís nothing more empowering than the feeling youíve brought all these people together to celebrate the brilliance of music."
He was born in Las Vegas, the youngest of six children, to devoutly Mormon parents.
Growing up in Utah, Flowers was an outsider, a chubby boy whose only interest was golf, at which he excelled.
For a time, he seriously considered turning pro. "But I was never good enough Ė I folded under pressure too easily," he says.
At 19, he faced a crucial fork in the road. The intention was for him to travel abroad as a Mormon missionary.
Then David Bowie intervened. "I was driving down the freeway when Bowieís song Changes came on.
I heard the line, "Still donít know what I was waiting for, and I found my calling at that moment. It was like seeing the light. I knew that I had to form a band and go for it."
This wouldnít be the last time that religion and music came to a face-off in Flowersí life.
When The Killers went big after the release of their debut album, the band toured relentlessly.
For Flowers, life on the road offered up the kind of temptations that ran contrary to the code of his faith.
"I grew up reading all these stories about David Bowie getting loaded in the Seventies," he says.
"It all sounded so great. Suddenly, I was confronted with those things every day. The women, the drink, the drugsÖ Iím not going to pretend it was easy to deal with. It was a dilemma for me."
He admits to experimenting with marijuana during his youth, but heís far more circumspect when asked about his use of drugs during his time with The Killers.
"Erm, it was more about drink for me. I mean, being in a band is very much like being a permanent adolescent.
"So, yes, Iíd drink alcohol. People would ask me how all that fitted in with my Mormon faith.
"Well, I happen to belong to a very tolerant gathering. In any case, Iíve put all that behind me now. Iím a clean machine.
"I take vitamins and have early nights. When we play live, I no longer need drink to fortify me.
"A group cuddle with the other band members does the trick."
His decision to clean up his lifestyle was clearly precipitated by his 2005 marriage to school teacher Tana Munblowsky.
The two had dated for four years before deciding to get hitched.
"Do I miss alcohol? Oh, absolutely! My wife doesnít. Sheís glad Iím no longer drinking, and I canít blame her because I did it to excess.
"Maybe I was trying to behave like I thought a rock íní roll singer should behave."
Married life seems to suit Flowers and he talks with enthusiasm about the prospect of becoming a father.
"I want lots of kids. A big bouquet of Flowers children.
"I believe the love of a child is better than a No 1 album. Maybe I can have both.
"Theyíre not mutually exclusive. In the same way, I donít see why I canít be a Mormon and sing in a band.
"But I realise that being a Mormon is not the coolest thing a rock íní roll singer can be."
Flowers admits that he often has to pinch himself when he reflects on how rapidly his band have reached their current level of superstardom.
It was as recently as 2002 that he first met the other members of The Killers: guitarist Dave Keuning, bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci.
Within two years their first album, Hot Fuss, was on its way to selling in excess of five million copies.
In 2005, they were the worldís biggest-selling band. Last yearís Samís Town album topped the charts in the UK, Australia and Canada. By the time of the release of Samís Town, Flowers was living out his dreams, rubbing shoulders with the very stars he idolised as a child.
Just a few years previously, heíd been working as a waiter in LAís exclusive Spago restaurant.
One night, he spotted Morrissey arriving for dinner.
"I brought him a pizza and told him how much his music meant to me. Then his bodyguards ushered me away. Now Iím playing festivals with him."
Some of his heroes such as Elton John and Neil Tennant have become close friends.
"Itís all a bit unreal. I grew up worshipping U2. These days, I hang around in bars with the band and Bono invites me on stage to sing with him.
"I also get to hang out with Elton John. Iím such a fan that itís hard not to act like a teenage girl in his company."
For now, he looks forward to the festival season with unbounded enthusiasm.
"Iíve even had a gold lamť suit made especially for Glastonbury,í he beams.
Without wishing to rain on his parade, I remind him that he and The Killers are due to headline this yearís Glastonbury on June 23.
For a moment, he looks a little alarmed at the prospect of being anywhere near a plane around the date that holds him in such stricken thrall. Then, for the first time in the interview, he laughs.
"Iíll be there, promise. Even if I have to walk. Wouldnít miss it for the world. Festivals are my oxygen Ė and I need to keep on breathing."