Rock world makes a ''Hot Fuss'' over the Killers
Oakland Tribune
Tom Lanham
August 27, 2004

RODNEY Bingenheimer is excited. The Hollywood scenester and KROQ DJ -- the subject of the recent documentary "The Mayor of the Sunset Strip" - sits quietly in an empty San Francisco nightclub watching the young Vegas outfit the Killers run through a soundcheck.

But study his face, and you can see that the man who introduced California to David Bowie over 30 years ago is excited about a band again. "You can just feel it with these guys," he whispers.

Soundcheck finished. Frontman Brandon Flowers recognizes Bingenheimer and strolls over to shake his hand.

"Your group is gonna be huge -- I've seen this type of thing happen before," the DJ says, while Flowers turns crimson.

The singer respects such wisdom. Flowers' list of vocal influences is equally reverent: Jim Croce, John Lennon, Morrissey and Oasis mouthpiece Liam Gallagher, whose ribald Vegas appearance at the Hard Rock Cafe two years ago moved Flowers to form his own quartet.

Bingenheimer makes his prediction for the Killers, then departs. Flowers, 23, pauses to take it all in.

"Rodney likes us," he says. "I'd heard that he did, but I wasn't sure. Very cool. Looks like we're gonna hit the big time after all."

To be fair, almost every review of the Killers' addictive "Hot Fuss" debut (Island) is a rave.

There's something unique in songs like "Mr. Brightside," Somebody Told Me" and "All These Things That I've Done." Guitars swell like "October"-era U2, basslines propel a la vintage Peter Hook, and melodies haunt with the ghostly aggression of some '80s New Wave classics. Wrapping it all up in a memorable bow is Flowers' singing voice, a smooth trill that brings his sleazy Vegas character studies to tragic life.

"Bands used to make albums like U2's, huge uplifting efforts that could change your life," Flowers says. "But we don't hear those kinds of records being made anymore, so we decided to make one ourselves."

Flowers is beginning to get the idea he's succeeded. And, ironically, from a town not typically associated with launching alternative rock outfits.

What was it like, trying to be creative in Las Vegas?

"You know, outside of the strip it's pretty normal," he says. "But it is difficult staying normal in Vegas. You go to high school with girls who say 'Well, when I get outta high school, I may as well strip.' ... But there are good girls there. I got a good one. She's a manager at Urban Outfitters."

But temptation was everywhere. As a bellhop for the Western- themed Gold Coast Inn, Flowers (who attended the Oasis show in his bell uniform) was frequently called upon to perform rather unusual services. He worked the A-shift, 6:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and regularly made about $60 a day in tips. But, he shrugs, he could've made more.

"I was propositioned quite a few times, but I declined. And a couple of times it was with a couple of women -I'd get the call at my bell desk ... But I never did it."

Another regular bell desk request: "Condoms. People would call down and ask me to bring condoms to the rooms, so I'd go to the gift shop and buy their condoms." Truth be told, Flowers adds, he witnessed a few orgies that way. But once he saw Oasis, everything changed. The next day, he set out to find a guitarist -- like-minded Dave Keuning -- and he didn't stop until the Killers lineup was complete.

Thanks to Flowers' fascination with U.K. artists, the band naturally came out sounding British. Rather than ditch his hotel gig, he used the position to his advantage. "My big thing when I started writing songs was, if I had an idea, I'd call Dave's phone and leave a message, from my phone at the bell desk," he says. "I used that bell phone to call in many ideas. I loved doing that, and I still do it sometimes -- ring up, leave melody, lyrics, everything."

Flowers also wants to clear up another misconception: He doesn't gamble, thanks to a good moral upbringing. He adds, "Plus, at the hotel, I saw miserable people who'd come from L.A., and they were just pathetic. So I learned from watching them."

If Bingenheimer's prognostication comes true and the Killers skyrocket into the pop stratosphere, Will Flowers relocate to less cruel climes?

No, Flowers smiles. "I love the desert. I always thought that I'd wanna live in England, because I had this fascination with Manchester, Oasis and New Order. But when I finally went to England on tour for a few weeks, all I kept thinking was 'I wanna go home.' I love my home."