LAS VEGAS' the Killers know, with as much certainty as any
multi-platinum-selling band can know, that success is an
existential crisis waiting to happen.
After the gonzo reception for the group's 2004 debut, "Hot
Fuss," which has sold 5 million copies worldwide and logged 53
weeks in the top 50 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, the
Killers realized they would have to change their sound for the
follow-up CD — or face the dreaded sophomore slump.
"The band was
faced with the challenge of moving on or making the same record
again and being relegated to remaining an '80s synth-pop new
wave band," says Rob Stevenson, the band's A&R manager at Island
The chance to change direction came in the form of Alan Moulder,
the journeyman engineer on "Hot Fuss." He reached out to the
band's management with a groundbreaking idea: The engineer and
veteran British producer Flood (real name: Mark Ellis) offered
to team up to produce the Killers' second album, marking Flood
and Moulder's first reunion as a production team since working
together on the Smashing Pumpkins' 1995 double CD, "Mellon
Collie and the Infinite Sadness" — a sprawling, epochal work
that expanded the boundaries of alternative rock.
"What [the Killers] wanted was a record that sounded one way on
the radio or on your stereo but when you put your headphones on,
you could hear all this other stuff you didn't hear before,"
Stevenson says. "The band met with different producers, but at
the end of the day, they seemed to click with and share Alan and
Flood's vision the most."
The CD, "Sam's Town," recorded in the group's hometown and set
for release Oct. 3, marks something of a departure. Although
lead vocalist Brandon Flowers told Billboard.com the group is
trying to "strip down" its sound "a little bit," Stevenson, who
has overseen recording, parses that characterization.
"If anything, it's more grandiose and bigger," he says. "What
[Brandon] might have meant is it feels more organic and live,
not so compressed and processed as 'Hot Fuss.' Everything feels
like it has its space."
Both the label and the band have accepted that the new direction
probably will alienate some old fans.
"I think you're gonna lose some people along the way," Stevenson
says. "But I think we're going to gain a lot more. It's an
extension of what they've done before. The songs are epic, but
all of the hooks are still there."
So does that mean all the Killers' Duran Duran-meets-the Smiths
comparisons will become a thing of the past?
"The album feels gigantic," he says. "Queen was always able to
do these great stadium anthems rooted in pop. That's what [the
Killers] have accomplished. Now people just have to get past the
'This isn't "Hot Fuss" ' stage and everything will be fine."
The Killers' new single, "When You Were Young," will hit radio
on July 25.*(it is already playing in some areas*)