The Killers
December 2004

"My first two initials are dB: David Brent," says The Killers' guitarist Dave Keuning. "How about that?" Whilst perfectly friendly, for much of the interview Keuning sounds quite tired. So he should be, because the last few months have been a constant string of concerts and promotional events for the band.

I'm speaking to him just hours before a show in Stockholm, Sweden, and after that it's off to the UK for more. Their busy tour schedule means that they missed the ceremony for the prestigious Shortlist Prize, for which they've been nominated.

I ask if how it feels to miss such an event. "You know it should bum me out, because I've never been to an award ceremony like that," Keuning replies. "But it just doesn't bother me that much. I always watched other award ceremonies on TV and when the band wasn't there, I thought 'oh what jerks, what's the matter with them?' And now I'm in that band, I can't believe it."

And after the hit Somebody Told Me, which has only just dropped out of the Australian singles charts after spending much of the year invading our consciousness, recognition is coming from all quarters. The Killers have even recorded an appearance on the upcoming season of soap opera 'The OC'. The show has recently taken to featuring music by American acts such as The Walkmen and Modest Mouse. "Yeah, we play in a bar on the show," explains Keuning. "The kids just come to the show in the episode and watch music, and they need someone to watch. So it was us that night."

As a big Smashing Pumpkins fan, I note a strong influence of that band on The Killers' debut album, 'Hot Fuss'.

"I've actually never had this conversation before," says Keuning, surprised. "Because most people don't pick up on it. It's there. It's underlying, but it's there."

The band handled the production of 'Hot Fuss' themselves, and so are responsible for any Pumpkins-like guitar leads. But having Alan Moulder mix the album certainly didn't hurt. "He's worked with all our favourite bands," Keuning enthuses. "He's worked with not only the Smashing Pumpkins, but Depeche Mode; he's even worked with The Smiths - he engineered Shoplifters Of The World Unite. He did Nine Inch Nails. They're not a huge influence on us, but that was one of the deciding factors, the way he did [NiN's] 'The Fragile'. The sounds are so great on it, they're so loud. It's a great mix, and that was a big deal for us. And of course, he did a great job on 'Mellon Collie...' too."

Keuning expects the band to head back into the studio around September next year and has already learnt a lot from the band's first go at producing a record. "I'll probably do more of a stripped-down approach. I still want it sound big, but not as many guitar tracks. Mr Brightside had like 30 guitar tracks," admits Keuning, revealing yet another similarity to The Smashing Pumpkins.

Success didn't come immediately to The Killers. The band initially signed to Lizard King in the UK, and it was only after the buzz built up around the band that a deal was inked with Island Records for the rest of the world.

"At the time we had given up hope," says Keuning of the time around the signing to the UK label. "We were just like 'oh, at least we get a free trip to England out of this,' and that's more than we thought we were going to do. We were so happy just to get that. And then we got signed and now we've gone to England like nine or ten times."

American buyers of 'Hot Fuss' hear a different track eight to the rest of the world: instead of Indie Rock And Roll, they get another song, Change Your Mind. I asked Keuning for the story behind that.

"They did it purely because of us," he says. "We had gone back and forth between eleven and twelve songs. We decided eleven is a good number. A lot of great albums have eleven songs, and the total time of the American one, with Change Your Mind is about forty five minutes. Which is a good amount of time. We didn't see a need to make it any longer. We couldn't decide between Change Your Mind or Indie Rock And Roll, as the last song to be on it, you know? So we decided as a compromise to have Change Your Mind on in America, and have Indie Rock And Roll on in the UK."

Keuning's not quite as keen on the idea now, it seems. "It seemed OK at the time, but now that I can look back I really regret the whole thing," he sighs.

"Now we've got different albums, which isn't a bad thing, but I think we should have just had both songs for the whole world and been done with it. Part of the problem is that Indie Rock And Roll means different things in every country. So in our version, we're talking about American indie rock and roll, so we probably should have had it out in America, but it seemed like people didn't like it in America. So we put it on in England, but there, indie rock and roll means something totally different. So only a handful of people really get the song."

Keuning goes on to explain the song. "The song is not indie rock and roll at all," he says. "We sort of did it on purpose, and sort of accidentally, how I hit the distortion pedal on the chorus. It's not indie rock sounding at all, and that's what I think is funny about it. But we're just saying that we don't care, this is our song and it's not indie rock, but we don't give a shit about what indie rockers think. We just play our music."

When I ask which he prefers, he admits, "I actually prefer Indie Rock And Roll. Change Your Mind was the last song written for the album. It's a really good song too, they're both great. I think more people like Change Your Mind than Indie Rock And Roll, actually.

"You can download the track from iTunes, for those who want to get whatever track they don't have," he adds, sarcastically. "Sorry about the whole thing, okay?"