The showman

Timesonline


Brandon Flowers is rock's dandiest dresser. From silk scarves to a jolly good brolly, the Killers'front man tells Simon Mills it's all an act

Anyone who saw him strut his glittery stuff at Glastonbury this year, or swagger, kohl-eyed, across the stage at Live 8, will know that Brandon Flowers, lead singer of the Killers, is an altogether different, and very exciting, kind of rock star. He might reference the dandyish Dior style of that other dark pop star of the moment Pete Doherty but Flowers is on no car-crash career track. After all, there aren't many rock stars who know how to handle an umbrella. I mean, really handle an umbrella. The droogs from A Clockwork Orange manhandled them in menacing style, and Ian Dury had one that doubled as a rhythm stick, but these days, brollies speak more of gentlemanly conduct and histrionic chivalry than rock'n'roll. But in the hands of our young American, all gussied up in his favourite tweedy English finery, the umbrella becomes a swaggerer's foil, a rock star's rapier. Brandishing it like a Savile Row Zorro, he cock-walks through the studio as if on some imagined catwalk.

Teetotal, Flowers was born a Mormon, is married already at 24 (sorry girls), and in his former life harboured hopes of being a golf pro. What makes him fabulous, apart from his songs, is his glorious dandyism: ''You'll always hear bands saying that it's all about the music,'' he says, in a break in between poses. ''And they're right, of course. But the way you look is a big part of it too. When someone mentions the Beatles to me, the first thing I think of is those cool grey suits and those boots. Iconic imagery has always been a big deal for me.''  

Flowers hails from Las Vegas, and it's that edge of showmanship that marks him out from the current, mostly Brit, rock'n'roll scene. ''Vegas is a rock'n'roll town,'' he says. ''It's exciting, decadent and crazy. It's beautiful and colourful. A lot of local people stay away from it, but I love hanging around on the strip. Theres always something new to see. When one building is demolished, they build another one more outrageous than the last. I mean, in what other city in the world would they do that?''

Like Vegas itself, the Killers sound has an arid, overexcitable raw glamour that is pure Nevada. The band are casino where Morrissey is bingo, they have the strip where Oasis had Burnage, pink neon where Pulp had the vapid, dishwater glare of white streetlamps.

And it's in Flowers's look, too - he knows that the black brolly completes his style of pinstripe drape coat, windowpane check shirt, lace-up shoes and ... ''What did you say you call these again?'' he asks, pinching at his Burberry check trews. ''Strides,'' comes the reply from our stylist.''Strides,'' repeats Flowers, like a first-year language student. ''Strides,''he says again. ''I really like that.''

Flowers, you see, is a details man, a coltish clothes horse, and a dedicated Anglophile to boot. You want a few examples? When he first met Killers' guitarist Dave Keuning, he made sure he was wearing Hush Puppies. ''Because Oasis wore them''. He pronounces ''tomato'' like a Brit. His favourite golfer is eccentric Jesper Parnevik, mainly because the player is sponsored by Swedish designer J Lindberg and Flowers wore Lindberg to his Hawaii wedding. ''A beautiful white J Lindberg tux,'' he says proudly.

His new wife, Tana Munbkowsky, an impish, bright-eyed blonde who works for the US designer Betsey Johnson, chips in with some more stories. ''When we came to London, Brandon insisted on eating at a Pizza Express because he had read that The Edge always eats there. On our first date, he took me to an all-night record store, and quizzed me on different artists -everything from Bowie to the Smiths and Leonard Cohen. I passed when I told him I had the import version of a Bowie album.'' Tana's mum, incidentally, warned her daughter that a man of 24 who still sleeps on a Morrissey pillowcase might not be perfect marriage material.

I grew up in an era when Nirvana and Korn were the big things,'' says Flowers. ''All my classmates were into them, but they sounded like trash to me. No tunes, no melodies, no style.'' So, looking for musical alternatives, he tapped into his brother's collection: the Cure, the Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen. And then, significantly, Oasis.

Pleased to be an outsider, and forcibly alienating himself from the mosh-pit lummoxes at his school, Flowers listened to this spartan, disaffected, heroically miserable music not caring about the fish'n'chip reference points. ''I thought I understood it all, but I probably didn't.'' So, in true Vegas style, unable to experience the real thing, he invented his own bedroom version of Madchester instead. I created a world for myself that was a kind of virtual Manchester. I wore the clothes and walked the walk. Of course, it was nothing like the real Manchester, which was something of a disappointment to me when I got to visit it.''

While working as a bellboy in a second-rate Vegas hotel, Flowers saw an Oasis gig, and that was it for him. He hooked up some guitars, and the Killers were born.

The tunes would come in time, but Flowers dealt with the wardrobe issue almost immediately.''I was always into jackets [blazers] with jeans and vintage T-shirts, but then the beloved Strokes came along.''And franchised the look? ''Well yes, so I had to find something else. I chose a more dandy kind of route.''

According to Tana, the eye make-up thing has been a controversial point for stiff Americans. ''But it was no big deal for me. My mom had boyfriends who were into the Cure and wore eye make-up.'' Tana's Mum, by the way, is 42.

Trying on a nice dogtooth Kilgour number, Flowers tells me about Live 8. ''The first thing I thought about was the outfits. Much more so than what songs we would be playing. I saw those white wristbands, and decided that we'd go all white. Unfortunately, it turned out other acts had the same idea. Madonna came on before us and stole the show as far as white clothes were concerned.'' No matter. Flowers already had his post-gig ensemble sorted.

I had this nice pink Dior jacket, but I was sweating so much that it ended up a weird purple colour,'' he sighs. ''Rock'n'roll is very hard on your clothes, you know.''

 

 

 

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