Borrowing heavily from '80s rock icons, Las Vegas band the Killers are off to a hot start, writes Jane Rocca.
They say timing is everything, and that's exactly the case for the Las Vegas foursome the Killers. Led by an enigmatic and devout Mormon frontman Brandon Flowers, who finds inspiration in Morrissey and the Cars, the band has been tipped as the new cool thanks to their debut album Hot Fuss.
So perhaps it comes as no surprise they also found themselves on the hip TV series The O.C.
"The reaction to the band has been a positive one," explains bassist Mark Stoermer. "A lot of bands go a long time without getting the press that we get, so we feel fortunate."
A few months ago the Killers were filmed in an episode of The O.C., which will air in Australia next year, but Stoermer says nobody in the band had even heard of the show when they took part. "We didn't know what this show was, but we were told it would be great to be part of it," he says. "We basically play as the Killers and the actors in the show come see us play.
"It was an opportunity for us to get more people into our music. That's always a positive thing, as far as I am concerned."
The Killers draw their inspiration from the 1980s, taking a leaf out of the electro pop of Duran Duran and the gothic charisma of early-days Cure. They feast off a similar Brit-band energy that US acts such as Interpol and the Rapture have become known to do. (The music is full of swirling guitars, synthesisers and lyrics about girls and other male obsessions.) But the band members are happy to admit they've been influenced by some of the best.
"We aren't reinventing the wheel," says Stoermer. "We are just taking inspiration from bands we like and making a new sound."
Hot Fuss is full of electro effects and hearty choruses. There's undeniably a salute to Robert Smith and the Cure, just as there is a hint of the Police mixed in with the swagger of the Doors.
"I think the '80s tag comes from the fact that we have keyboards, but a lot of bands [back then] had keyboards, especially the Doors and even Pink Floyd," says Stoermer. "But none of us are just limited to listening to '80s music, we love soul music like Otis Redding, artists like T. Rex and David Bowie, Talking Heads and '90s British bands like Blur, Pulp and Oasis."
The Killers, who took their name from a New Order video clip, may sound like debauched rock'n'roll outlaws, given their rather murderous moniker. But they don't live life in the fast lane, even if they do hail from "sin city". It seems as though their esteem lies in morals, values and, well, great guitar hooks. "We are pretty quiet guys," says Stoermer. "[It's funny] you tell someone you're in a band and they immediately think you've done something wrong . . ."
The band members Flowers (vocals/keyboards), David Keuning (guitars), Stoermer (bass) and Ronnie Vannucci (drums) are all in their mid-20s and resisted the pull towards Los Angeles or New York, instead remaining in their home city of Las Vegas.
"The music scene is pretty hard in Vegas because everything is geared towards the strip and tourists, but we found each other and started this band," says Stoermer. "We spent a lot of time touring the new album before it even came out."
Flowers, 23, has already been dubbed the lady-killer he has that pulsating glow about him that makes young girls go weak at the knees. Stoermer, who says he isn't jealous of the attention, has another explanation: "He has an amazing ability to articulate himself through songs. He's also a very down to earth guy. He doesn't see himself as a pin-up type."
But surely it must be weird to have a lead singer who generally shies away from drinking and smoking? "He's the only one in the group who is a Mormon . . . I don't think it's that big a deal," says Stoermer. "It's a life choice and his spiritual choice. We all have choices.
"(And)we don't consider ourselves party animals. We love playing music and making it."
But when it comes to rock'n'roll, sometimes boys will be boys no matter what the denomination. Take the Killers' song called Midnight Show that features Flowers singing about looking up girls skirts.
The band's debut, Hot Fuss, made it into the ARIA top 20 and it created a buzz among music critics internationally. As one has come to expect with US and British magazine titles competing to outdo one another when it comes to predicting the new rock flavour, Spin declared the lads as the next big thing while NME added to their list of historical declarations by saying they were a band to watch.
"I think it's great we've got magazines like these guys talking about us, it helps," says Stoermer. "But at the end of the day we have to deliver (musically), music bible opinions aside."
The hybrid tastes and musical styles that have influenced the Killers are expected to come to the fore during their Australian tour dates. The band are set to perform in Sydney in a fortnight's time at a sold-out gig at Newtown's Enmore Theatre.