The Killers set the agenda for 2004
Liz Starbuck
April 28,2004
LOGO New Music Features

The Killers' recent single 'Mr Brightside' was a revelation. Deadpan vocals riding recklessly over a blaze of electro synth-pop, modulated anguish and smooth guitar noise, it was a sharply crafted debut with dank roots that dug into those of The Psychedelic Furs and Interpol. Before the year began it seemed that The Killers would be one of those to set the agenda for 2004. With a stack of live dates on the horizon, a new single, 'Somebody Told Me', due for release in March and an album expected in the summer, this Las Vegas quartet are, it seems, about to go stellar.

We meet The Killers in December 2003 in the middle of their second visit to the UK. They had jumped off the 'plane and straight into a fourteen-night tour, starting in Nottingham and finishing with a headline show at The Barfly just before Christmas. Our meeting was somewhere in the middle of all that, and I find them lounging gloomily against the walls of the venue when we were introduced. Brooding would be the best description. The sound check was running forty minutes behind schedule, and they were facing the seriously hideous prospect of going on stage without dinner. When it finally came, the sound check was a tense and bitty affair beset by technical hitches, so vocalist Brandon Flowers was coiled like a spring when we headed to the downstairs bar for a chat with the rest of the band.

Despite the inauspicious circumstances, The Killers are surprisingly easy to hang out with. Quiet and unimposing, they are serious about their work and committed to their sound; still they manage to be overwhelmingly cheerful about the tour: "It's been really nice. We all come from working backgrounds, and it's a luxury to be off and playing in a different country for different people… we feel really fortunate to be able to do this sort of thing and to be received as well as we have been."

They have indeed been well received; drawing big crowds and rave reviews, The Killers' musical career is becoming a lot more satisfying than their day jobs (jobs that, incidentally, include being a body-parts courier for a medical firm and a Las Vegas wedding chapel photographer). Formed less than two years ago, they struggled to make a mark on the cliquey Las Vegas scene before being picked up for an independent deal with Lizard King, on which 'Mr Brightside' was released last autumn. Island/Def-Jam have now come on board with a worldwide deal.

The frenetic pace of the last year is not lost on drummer Ronnie Vanucci: "It's been fast. It's been one thing after another… we knew what we wanted to do and we all had similar musical backgrounds… [so] it was very easy to make music." Although they didn't have time to let the trial of breaking through the relatively homogenous Vegas music scene get them down, Flowers muses on the difficulties of developing new music in the States: "The UK assimilates music better than the US does… or differently, anyway. In the UK, the response has been appreciative and maybe the US doesn't show that appreciation, they enjoy music, but it is very much part of the culture for you guys. New music is exposed here more… in England the audience is a little more receptive to newer [music]".

The Killers' know their infusion of beguiling pop and a hollow-eyed rock back bone trumpets some of the better values of the eighties, and it turns the raw whip of The Strokes and contemporaries on its head. The question of purpose is obviously something that the band has thought about before, as they debate the subject at length. "We want to take what bands are doing, bands that are in our vein, to a more mainstream level. We have a lot of the same influences as other bands that are happening now, but we aren't afraid to make a pop song. Nowadays pop songs are only associated with people like Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera, and the rock crowd is afraid to be anywhere near that. But ultimately a good song is a good song, and the word pop is a subjective term…"

It might be a subjective term, but it's about time it stopped being a dirty word. The Killers' crackling, bolshy, anguished but ultimately appealing offerings are going a long way towards cleaning it up. They couldn't have picked a better time to reach our shores. The Killers are here, bring on the massacre.