rockets The Killers' rock act takes off despite labeling
as 1980s band
Friday, May 27, 2005 From
There's been quite a "Hot Fuss" about the Killers during the past year. But even
in the wake of platinum sales and Grammy Award nominations, Brandon Flowers
laments that "in most cases, we don't get taken seriously."
"I don't sing about wanting to kill myself, and there's not all this publicity
about what a cokehead I am," says Flowers, who formed the group three years ago
with guitarist David Keuning. "People think there's no way we can be this good.
"Maybe if I was on heroin or talked about how difficult life is, it would help.
But this is what we are, and I'm glad the people who come to the shows and buy
the records seem to like it."
No kidding. "Hot Fuss" -- a British sensation before it came out on the band's
home shores in June -- has passed the million mark and launched hits such as
"Mr. Brightside" and "Somebody Told Me." The album was a finalist for the 2004
Shortlist Music Prize and scored two Grammy nods, for best rock album and best
rock performance by a duo or group with vocals for "Somebody Told Me." Former
Smiths frontman Morrissey is an outspoken fan.
All of that has made the Killers one of rock's biggest new bands -- and has left
Flowers and his mates shaking their heads at the unexpected success.
"Well, uh . . . it's nice," he says with a laugh. "I can't believe the numbers
that turn up every week. The first couple weeks it was cool; we expected a big
[sales] hit at first. Then, progressively, we were getting more and more every
week, which was really weird to us. But that's a good thing, so we're happy."
With some time to reflect, however, Flowers says he has a pretty good idea of
what's made the fuss so hot over the Killers.
"I think it's because it's such a strong album," he explains. "And it's fun to
come to see us live. But a lot of these people are buying the record without
even seeing us. I don't think there's any filler, which is what you get on most
Flowers developed his, er, killer sensibility by growing up with older siblings
--particularly a brother 12 years his senior who played a steady diet of '80s
British rock from the Cure, Joy Division and New Order, U2, David Bowie and
"I was a lot different, I guess, than anyone else," says Flowers, who attended
his first concert -- the Cure -- when he was 13. "Everyone else at my school was
getting into Korn and Tool. I would hang out with my brother a lot 'cause he
listened to the same music I listened to."
Those tastes eventually led Flowers to form an old-school synth-pop band, Blush
Response, that split up shortly before he found Keuning's classified ad in a
local newspaper. Bonding over a shared admiration of Oasis, the two wrote "Mr.
Brightside" shortly after they met and subsequently added bassist Mark Stoermer,
a medical courier, and Ronnie Vannucci, who was majoring in classical percussion
at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas -- where the Killers began rehearsing and
gave birth to "Somebody Told Me."
"That was done in increments," Flowers recalls. "It was really just a bunch of
different pieces that got stuck together. But when it was finally finished, we
felt like we had something."
British audiences certainly felt that way. After the Killers signed with the
U.K.'s Lizard King label, "Mr. Brightside" became a hit across the pond and
generated a major label buzz around the Killers when the quartet played at the
2003 CMJ Music Marathon in New York City. Island Records won the bidding war.
Every silver lining has a cloud, of course -- although the retro tag laid on the
Killers has not proved terribly debilitating.
"Getting compared to anybody that's great like that is wonderful," Flowers
acknowledges, "but to say that we're just an 1980s band, that bothers me 'cause
we're not. But so far, we haven't been compared to anybody who makes us cringe."
And for the older brother who played a role in the Killers' sound by stoking
Flowers' musical tastes, it's been downright fabulous.
"He grew up right in the time of U2 and the Smiths and everything," Flowers
says. "I remember him having New Musical Express covers on his wall, blasting
the Cure and everything. So to have us be on the NME cover and have Morrissey
and Duran Duran talking about us in interviews, he's just in shock. I love it."