The Killers come home a bit wiser - and primetime players

Las Vegas City Life
September 17, 2004

There are different levels of cool in the music world. The personal cool that covers like a dust cloud. The new band cool that reeks of garage sweat and comes with its own set of dreams. The local band cool that bubbles up with a few actual fans rather than just friends. The hot-shit-"It"-band cool of massive hype and critical praise. The crossover cool that hits when more than just hipsters start paying attention. In the last couple years, the Killers have worn them all during their rise from the Boston Bar & Grill to Bumbershoot - which just depended on the group's mood and the number of mentions in England's New Music Express.

But no matter how many fabulous parties the hometown boys have taken in or massive shows they've played, nothing could have bought the Killers the cool they'll get in December when they hang with a nerd named Seth Cohen. See, the group just finished shooting an episode of "The O.C.," which is set to run during pre-holiday sweeps. Now the Killers are primetime cool.

"If it was the Killers playing some birthday party at the Peach Pit, we wouldn't have done it," says drummer Ronnie Vannucci. "But it was written into the script that the Killers were playing at a club, which is what we already do. We just didn't want to compromise anything. We're not about to start doing Miller Genuine Draft commercials or anything."

An "O.C." gig is a far cry from playing for Nat and the 90210 gang back in the heady days of Brandon. Now a spot on the Fox drama is like getting the seal of approval from the high priest of music geeks. Cohen, played by sensi-nerd Adam Brody, has championed groups like Death Cab for Cutie and the Shins so much its affected both their bottom line, and surprisingly, their indie cred. A few well-placed shots of a band playing somewhere among all the bickering and jealousy is a thumbs-up to a few million kids.

Vannucci didn't know that when the Killers' A&R man pitched the idea to the band. "We've been on the road too much to watch TV," he says matter-of-factly. In fact, the group had barely heard of the show. But after a read through of the script and some reassurances from producers, the band decided to play TV star.

And really, filming the show was just another moment in the string of rock-star weirdness that has surrounded the band since its debut, Hot Fuss, has become an iPod essential. According to Vannucci, all those standard clichés are true: the glad-handing industry dudes who smile smarmily, the fawning fans that want to touch you, the odd tour-induced disconnect from reality. Days blur like a cute groupie after a fifth of gin. It's a challenge to not drown in it all. Of course, Vannucci and the rest of the Killers are thankful for the success; it's not only what the group wanted, but also, in a way, what the group expected from the day the band plucked its name from that New Order video.

But it's also a hell of a lot of work. Whenever Vannucci says the word whirlwind, it comes out like he's just finished running a marathon. And he talks about the business side of things - namely, decisions about everything from T-shirts to the band's website - as an annoying distraction that takes away from the one thing the group really cares about: the music.

"It's all been really fast and really superficial," Vannucci says. "You just try to keep grounded, but you don't ever get back down to normal."

And for Vannucci normal does not include hanging out with TV stars - though, it seems to be more common as of late, considering some of the sightings at recent gigs. Even so, when the cast started coming up to the band on set to ask for autographs, that was just too much. "They came up to us with CDs for us to sign," he says with a laugh. "I was like, 'Oh, come on, you're on TV.'"