From Q Magazine Dec 2004



Lethal Weapons
It isn't easy being the Killers. They have more enemies than Tony Soprano and their girlfriends cheat on them.

WHEN IN EUROPE, Killers singer Brandon Flowers changes his brand of cigarettes. Stateside he goes with Marlboro Lights, but since landing in Paris he prefers the more art-house smoke of something called Davidoff Gold.

There's a languid, eyes-shut puffing that befits the new brand as he explains this in a Paris restaurant. And there are other hints of Europhilia, too. He has started saying "tomato" in an English accent. And then there's this as dessert arrives: "You know what I love right now?" he asks. And then he sings, "Dry your eyes, mate." Flowers does a perfect, "My old man's a dustman but I've also spend some time in the Midlands" Mike Skinner impersonation.

Las Vegas' the Killers have come to Paris to launch their album Hot Fuss, which has already sold 250,000 in the UK as well as 500,000 in their homeland. Because Las Vegas is a monument to global town planning envy, the Killers have grown up around gigantic simulations of Europe's architectural wonders. It's just that the ones in Vegas are filled with fruit machines and roulette tables. Seeing the real thing blows their minds.

"We've got a Rome and a Paris and even an England in Vegas," explains Flowers, who used to wait tables in a replica Venice with gondolas sailing past.

"The real buildings are really dark and sombre...they have real history," adds drummer Ronnie Vannucci. "In Vegas, all the people in the pyramids are drinking frozen margaritas."

THE KILLERS ARE an unlikely but enticing prospect, verging on the enormous impact that a band with the soul of Morrissey and the wardrobe of Duran Duran might rightly expect. Formed in Vegas barely two years ago, their sound was catalysed by Flowers's and guitarist Dave Keuning's love of classic British pop, from T. Rex and David Bowie to the Smiths and New Order. As the Strokes and the White Stripes held sway, the Killers were initially turned down in the US by Warner Brothers, but then signed by UK indie Lizard King. Their second-ever show outside Las Vegas was at the Dublin Castle in London in September 2003. Like the Scissor Sisters before them, they have made it over here before attracting the attention of audiences back home.

Their success is all the more strange given that, after several years away, Brandon Flowers returned to Las Vegas, aged 16, set to become a professional golfer. He had no ambitions in music until he met a caddy at the golf club who liked the Smiths and they formed a synth band Blush Response.

The band moved to Los Angeles and Flowers didn't want to go. What's more, after seeing Oasis perform in Las Vegas, Flowers decided guitars would give his musical ideas more muscle. Dave Keuning had moved from Pella, Iowa, to avoid being drafted into his dad's central heating and plumbing business and met Flowers through a small ad.

"He was wearing Hush Puppies, I remember," says Keuning with a wry smile. "He said Oasis wore them."

Back then, Flowers was emotionally in a bad way. He had recently called at his girlfriend's apartment to pick up a tie for work. He noticed that her car was touching bumpers with another car, a common romantic game in Las Vegas, he says. "I knew she was screwing someone else."

A few nights later he went to an English pub in Vegas and saw her with the guy.

"I guess I should have done something but I'm not a violent person. But it really affected me. I would physically throw up... jealousy is a terrible, terrible experience."

At his first rehearsal with Keuning they wrote Mr Brightside, an intense, roily, graphic tale of sexual jealousy and their debut UK hit. "I wouldn't be here if we hadn't written Mr Brightside. I have no regrets. And they've split up now, so I hear. She knows she fucked up."

The Killers thrive on adversity and there is none quite like trying ot get served in a Parisian restaurant.

Ronnie Vannucci, the college-educated percussionist and former Las Vegas wedding photographer, makes friends easily with his big amiability. Gigantic bassist Mark Stoermer doesn't drink. Or talk. The only job he's ever had apart from this was part-time, delivering blood and urine samples to hospitals. He has a droopy, messianic face, like Jesus shortly after hearing what crucifixion is all about.

Dave Keuning is "the pissy one", according to Vannucci. Essentially the result of an ill-advised genetic experiment involving DNA from Jim Morrison and former Stereophonics drummer Stuart Cable, he is by turns chirpy and avuncular, but then in the manner of someone gulping a test tube of smoking potion, he can turn snarky and unpredictable and get very angry about little things. His attempts to secure a bottle of Coca-Cola made of glass rather than plastic quickly develops into an implacable enmity between two nations.

At 23, Flowers is five years younger than the rest. Girlishly pretty, he checks his look in spoons and mirrors a lot. He's charming but wary, carefully listening to his own quotes and imagining them in print.

"I grew up thinking that people were watching me," he says. "I know that makes me weird but it's who I am. I like people watching me."

It is not just Frenchmen bearing hot plates who hate the Killers. Since their heady ascent, other bands have tried to beat them up.

Canadian hipsters the Stills, for example, seem to have taken an immdiate dislike to them, refusing to make friends backstage, and, according to Vannucci, "being assholes."

"Bands want to pick fights with us," says Flowers. We're not New York cool, we are proud to have a pop element to us."

Flowers thinks the Killers are the best band in the world apart from U2. And they have supporters, too, mostly legendary. Elton John, also in Paris this week, has invited them on to a French TV show, where he will pronounce them his favorite new band. Morrissey has had them support him on several dates now, though they sniff that he has not yet deigned to say hello.

"But he did mention us onstage, which he never usually does," says Flowers beaming. "We cling to that nugget."

HOURS LATER, IN A Paris creperie, something incredibly gay is going on. Ronnie Vannucci has shown an image on his mobile phone to a waiter, who has baulked with a "Zut!" and an "Alors!" and swayed back into the kitchen with a tower of plates tottering on his arm. The waiter is all too ready to share his experiences. Vannucci has just flashed him a picture of himself in the shower showing his cock. Vannucci says he doesn't know why he did it.

Meanwhile Flowers puffs on a Davidoff with queenly daintiness and relates how his father once caught him dancing in his bedroom to Erasure. "He just said, Ya like that kinda music huh, son? and walked out," he says, face falling into his hands.

Flowers knows that he can seem if not a fully fledged friend of Dorothy, then someone on cheeky pouting and winking terms. Take the chorus that goes, "Somebody told me/You had a boyfriend/Who looks like a girlfriend/That I had in February of last year."

"I'm not gay. I can't even be bothered to start some kind of intrigue about it," he says. "Bowie could nurture that sort of mystique, but this is an age where everyone knows everything about you in 10 seconds."

Considering their Las Vegas origins, the Killers are not big drinkers or gamblers or devotees of sin. But they are interested in the dark stuff, as evidenced by a macabre new track they have jammed in Paris entitled Uncle Johnny Did Cocaine.

When Flowers was 15, his Uncle Johnny became convinced that aliens were coming through his TV trying to steal his sperm. Eventually he decided the only way to protect his reproductive juices was by shooting himself in the testicles. He missed, but was rushed to hospital with a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Flowers is very happy with the opening line he has just written: "While everybody else refrained/My Uncle Johnny did cocaine."

The next night, the band face the French media at a special showcase gig at Le Reservoir, a tiny club near La Bastille. It's a gorgeously decorated place but, it must be said, a bit like the Killers. The walls are distressed and old and painted with what look like ancient frescoes and murals. But can it be the real thing when the ceiling is no-frills brown plasterboard?

"It's just too easy for people to think, Oh, they're from Vegas so they must be shallow and fake," Flowers has said earlier in the day. "But I would say the opposite. We formed a band and did things in the face of everything around us. There was no one like us in Vegas or even in America. We gambled and that's the only thing that comes from our hometown."