Music Preview: New Wave band rides out of Sin City with a 'Hot Fuss'

Friday, December 03, 2004
By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Killers didn't get the memo: the one that says New Wave revival bands are supposed to start in New York, like the Rapture, Stellastar, Interpol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The Killers stem from the land of Wayne Newton, Siegfried and Roy and little else resembling a real rock band. Las Vegas is where Iowa native and guitarist Dave Keuning went to eventually place an ad in a weekly paper to form a band whose style was yet to be named.

"It was probably a weird choice," Keuning says, "because even though we're from there, don't be fooled, there isn't much there for bands -- or musicians. That's why I had to take out the ad."

It was answered by Brandon Flowers, a singer-songwriter-keyboardist who had just been axed from a band called Blush Response and who shared Keuning's affection for '80s acts like The Cure, U2 and New Order. Once they started writing together, that's the sound that emerged.

With a rhythm section intact a year later, The Killers hit a Vegas club scene that was just a notch above deadly for any band, let alone an original one not wearing sequins.

"It was really hard to get people out, but we were different than any other band from Vegas. The few people who actually liked our music kind of came out of the woodwork. If you don't love the usual punk-metal-type thing there was us as an alternative."

Like the Strokes, they made their reputation across the Atlantic, with the help of a British label, Lizard King, that was willing to gamble on a Vegas New Wave band. Lizard King had The Killers tour England, where they were embraced by fans, despite being an American band playing music that sounds British.

"The people never had a problem with it," he says. "I don't think they should. I think some in the press there do [show] favoritism, though. I think the press is rooting for their own family."

Back in the States, the Killers signed to Island Def Jam and issued "Hot Fuss," a debut record with a moody synth-rock sound that's more pop-smart and less abrasive than most of the New York bands. With MTV adding the band's catchy single, "Somebody Told Me," "Hot Fuss" hit No. 26 on the album charts and earned The Killers such niceties as a Shortlist Awards nomination and a coveted spot on "The O.C."

Asked if the Killers could be the band to push the New Wave revival into a broader spotlight, Keuning says, "It may be a little early to say. It's possible. Around the time we started the band, I heard about this whole New Wave thing and it was something that people wanted to have happen in a weird way. We came out and we were thrown into it."

Not that The Killers have a problem being associated with a bunch of other bands who, while borrowing heavily from the past, are actually quite good.

"I love that kind of music, so I'm not embarrassed in the least. But I think it's just a fad, and it's going to end in a few years, and I hope we're still around, because we're not a fad and our songs aren't going to get any worse because there are less bands to pick from."