The Killers: Out of the desert, into the Spotlight
July 9, 2004 By Shane Roeschlein 

There are bands on the outskirts of town (hypothetically) that are doing things differently than the bands that live in the town. On the one hand, you’ve got the typical, predictable radio fare that inspires little or no rising of the brows—or stomping of the feet, for that matter. The Killers is a band from the outskirts—Las Vegas to be specific—a town that is built around entertainment. A place pop stars go when the days are number and the tough get older and the checks are more lucrative. It’s a town that has had little or no effect on the world of contemporary music unless, of course, we’re talking about the days of the Sahara with Sammy and the rest of the crooners in the Rat Pack.

These days, Vegas is part Disneyland, part hotel row, and all glitz and glam. A town that could destroy one man’s or woman’s fortune in as little as 20 minutes—or a town that can build a multi-million dollar theater for someone like Celine Dion. What you never hear is, ‘This great new band from Vegas, they’ll be on TRL this week,’ or, ‘Tonight on Jimmy Kimmel Live, we’ve got musical guests, The Killers.’”

Wait, strike the latter comment, The Killers have been on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and a handful of other late-night shows, brandishing their keyboards, lilting vocals and intricate guitar harmonies. The Killers hail from Las Vegas, Nevada, a desert way station four hours (on good traffic days) away from the epicenter of the pop music and movie world of Los Angeles.

The Killers are made up of Brandon Flowers (keyboards, vocals), Mark Stoermer (bass), Ronnie Vannucci (drums) and Dave Keuning (guitar). Recently, had the opportunity to speak with Dave about his band, where he got his start and how difficult it is to play gigs in the City of Entertainment.

Dave says he began playing the guitar when he was 14. “I took some guitar lessons, and when I was a sophomore in high school I had never had been in any high school band at all, so I decided to try out for the jazz band because they have guitar in that. I got in! So I was in jazz band for three years. This is back in Iowa—the rest of the band [members] are from Nevada. Actually, our senior year we won state championship. It was quite an honor.”

Now a handful of years later with a lot of exploring under his belt, Dave is one part of the most buzzed about band since the Strokes when they dropped their first record. The Killers music toes the line between rock and roll and ’80s new wave, and has a penchant for sensible rhythms and tasteful guitar melodies. Brandon sings in a false British accent, adding an interesting element to their sound that has brought comparisons to Oasis having a luncheon with Duran Duran while being waited on by U2’s, The Edge.

Dave’s experience in school music had a subtle influence on his playing. He says, “Well, [it] probably [had] more [of an effect] than I’m aware of. Mostly I learned a lot of chords because jazz is full of chords that aren’t usually used in AC/DC-type music. It taught me a lot about 9th and 7th and dominant 7th and diminished chords. It taught me how to read sheet music also, but I don’t have to read sheet music for The Killers, obviously. It just made me a little bit more aware of chords and how they work together.”

“Somebody Told Me,” the first single off of their first release Hot Fuss (Island Records) is a danceable, fun, high-energy, hook-laden masterpiece. If you haven’t heard it on your local radio station yet, change the dial. The four members of The Killers met at various times in the couple of years leading up to their much-deserved recognition and subsequent signing to major powerhouse, Island Records.

“About three or four years after high school, I moved there (Las Vegas) and dropped out of college and didn’t really know what to do with my life. So I thought, if I just move out there for maybe a couple months and just check it out, maybe I’d figure something out. I was always into exploring. It was more about curiosity than anything else. I ended up staying there and meeting some people who I became friends with. I met Brandon after about a year of living there. I had lost my job and had a lot of free time on my hands, so I put an ad out in the paper, and he was looking for a guitar player and found me, and we just started writing. It took us about another year and we met Ronnie and Mark. We were playing gigs with another drummer, and those guys came to one of our shows and approached us. We started playing together, and it was a perfect fit.”

Dave’s influences range anywhere from U2’s The Edge to Aerosmith’s Joe Perry. His guitar work on Hot Fuss reflects a well-rounded player who is well versed in the use of effects and using effects tastefully. Currently, The Killers are hitting the road to promote their album, Hot Fuss—sharing the stage with Ratatat and The Evening.

Thanks Dave!