Local band The Killers looks back
to '80s bands that didn't suck
"A lot of people think '80s music is a horrible thing," says an
exasperated Brandon Flowers, The Killers' 21-year-old vocalist. "I
mean, if you're labeled a '70s-styled band, that's okay. But when
you say '80s? I don't know--people have a weird thing about it."
Words from a man who was 3 when Kajagoogoo stormed the charts.
Nevertheless, Flowers has a point: Sounding like Led Zeppelin--or
rather, re-creating their sometimes overwhelming masculinity--is
still more acceptable than musically borrowing from the Greed
Decade. However, The Killers' version of the '80s has less to do
with Aztec Camera and "The Politics of Dancing" and more to do with
The Smiths and The Cure. If anything, The Killers take cues from
bands like The Faint and Cursive, who quote the '80s on their way to
making new, interesting music.
This process began for The Killers last August, when guitarist
Tavian Go began jamming with musicians who had responded to the ad
he placed in a local alt-weekly. Eventually, the band's future
singer Flowers--who'd recently left an all-electronic synth pop band
on account of discovering David Bowie and Oasis--decided to give
rock 'n' roll a shot.
"Basically he was the only normal person who called," says the
25-year-old Go. "I had one guy who called and wanted to do something
along the lines of Three Doors Down, Tool and Staind--who I hate.
Then Brandon sent me an e-mail saying, 'I'm 20 years old, I'm
heavily influenced by Bowie and Oasis and you seem like the only one
in there who seems close to what I'm into.'"
After writing a couple of songs that went nowhere, Flowers and Go
penned "Mr. Brightside." While simple in structure, the song
features Go's repeating guitar riff, the drum/bass rhythm section of
Dell Neal and Buss Bradley, topped off with Flowers' charismatic
vocals, the rough equivalent of ex-Specials singer Terry Allan
singing in the hypnotic, cyclic manner of Underworld's Karl Hyde.
You're in the chorus before you know it, and despite the disc's poor
production quality, the song stands out as the best four minutes in
recent local music history.
The Killers strive to make their live concerts equally worthwhile.
Though the band members look scared before playing, everyone
switches on like a light once the performance begins.
"When we play, we trying to approach it more as a show," says
Flowers, whose live antics include dancing, pacing and placing his
hands on his hips while singing. "I'd love it if it were just about
the music and things like that. But it's not anymore. It's just not.
It bothers us when people are like that. `Oh, it's just about music;
we're gonna get up there in our T-shirts and jeans and do it.' But
it's not. You want to give people a reason to come out on Saturday
night and see you."
The Killers also embrace aspects of glam-rock fashion, wearing
glitter and eye shadow. In a city where every third motorist proudly
adorns his or her vehicle with that pissing Calvin sticker, isn't
this vaguely androgynous approach, well, dangerous?
"It makes people maybe unsure," says Go. "There are standards that
we're not completely in. But it's not like we're an L.A. band, like
Orgy, who look like girls."
Adds Flowers: "So far, people have been really good about it. No
one's called me a faggot or booed me off the stage--yet."