The Killers Interviewed: "We Tried To Sound Like MGMT!"
, October 31st, 2008 11:21
Our Man In Washington Mark Russell catches up with one of the biggest indie bands on the face of the earth and talks to Brandon Flowers about success, fatherhood and trying to write like The Arctic Monkeys and MGMT
They sell whizz but they're not wizards. They smoke pot but they're not potatoes. They've got soul but they've not qualified for the Seoul Olympics. Yes everyone's favourite Las Vegan indie rockers The Killers are back with their third studio album Day & Age which is set for release on November 24. The album sees them take a step back from the classic rock direction they took for their sophomore effort Sam's Town and back towards the new wave/electro pop of Hot Fuss that made their name originally. The album, which was trailed by a single 'Human' last month, was recorded with Stuart Price who recorded the Thin White Duke remix of 'Mr Brightside' and produced 'Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf' and 'Sweet Talk'. But anyone waiting to hear their collaboration with Elton John will be disappointed as that track 'Joseph, Better You Than Me' will be released as an Xmas single in December and isn't on the album. It was my pleasure to catch up with Brandon Flowers, frontman of the group, recently.
Tell us about the new album Day And Age…
Brandon Flowers: "I’m not saying this is some kind of “pamphlet for my generation”, but you always try to capture your surroundings and what’s going on right now. So it needs to be universal. There are questions asked. I think it’s implied in the songs that I feel what we’re losing is… humanity. The way we now connect with each other through electronics, we’re missing out on hugs and kisses…that’s part of it. We don’t seem to be as…romantic. And that’s important.
“I find that if you write too much about what’s going on on your block, that doesn’t always resonate with everyone. It’s almost as if there’s got to be some vagueness about it. Yet there’s always one sentiment that comes through with us: no matter what we set out to do, it ends up having an element of uplift, or transcendence.”
What made you shy away here from the anthemic epics of Sam‘s Town and lean back to the electro-pop of Hot Fuss?
“This is just what came out. It’s not contrived in any way. I kind of woke up one day and it was like…you can try and chase U2, or….it just didn’t seem natural. I mean, I think we still can be the biggest band in the world. But maybe we were falling into traps - getting the producers and photographers U2 had. That’s unhealthy. This is more instinctive.”
Has the breakneck ascent to stardom rattled you in any way?
“It has been quick, but I’m still able to write openly. I do obsess over the lyrics, that’s why they take so long, but I’m real happy with them. There’s been more space between albums than last time, and I feel ready. Although - I’m still on a high from Sam’s Town. And having a baby and everything. Now, suddenly - I’m back! It’s very surreal. I don’t think the four us can quite comprehend it. But it’s all great, as long as the songs keep coming, and affecting the senses, I think we can do it.”
We should be grateful you’re not writing about the pressures of touring…
“This was written all over the world…in Panama, Vegas, London, Budapest. For 'Spaceman' I was looking for a mixture of 'Space Oddity' and 'Rocket Man'. 'Losing Touch' is one of my favourites - that one’s so good it doesn’t feel like it’s our song! It’s just so concise; it’s really mature song writing. Everything in it does what it’s supposed to. 'Neon Tiger' - ha! I was trying to write like MGMT. And it’s nothing like MGMT, it never turns out that way. With Sam’s Town I was trying to write a song like the Arctic Monkeys and of course it’s nothing like them. It turned out to be this big boisterous thing. But that’s cool. It’s actually a good tactic, I guess. 'All These Things That I’ve Done' was me trying to do Lou Reed! I imagined him singing the chorus, really throwaway….”
You’re admirably open to admitting your fondness for “classic rock” and stuff (The Cars, Dire Straits) that steps outside the critically permitted Dylan/Young/Nirvana axis…
“Well, that’s something that this album does well. There are things that are seen as uncool, but that everyone loves. Secretly, even cool people love them too. There was no shame in covering Dire Straits or Kenny Rogers on Sawdust. In fact maybe it was courageous. We’re here to break down those barriers. Just get into it or get over it! We need to have more fun. Otherwise it’s not worth it. Anyway, a strange melting pot of influences is very American, isn‘t it? I guess we are a strange, confused group….”
Your Mormon religion and family seem to unnerve the press…
“There’s a song about my mom and dad on the album. It sounds cheesy telling you. But it’s an attempt to come to grips with the fact that they’re getting older. I’m quite young for them - I was a mistake, heh heh. They’re in their mid Sixties, and my dad is my connection to…the pure America. Yes, I pray every day. It’s like a love letter I guess. I see what’s happening now with the kids, and…it was just simpler back then. There’s so much junk now.”
Are you more jaded or more enthused than when you started out?
“Well, this is our heaviest and most light-hearted album at the same time. It’s more fun than I’ve ever had, which is amazing. But then also…I’m getting older too, and seeing things differently. I think I might even be getting smarter. Ha! Or at least I’m able to articulate things better. I think it’s a well-rounded album, a journey. I’m a sucker for scenes in movies where the strings come in and tell you you’re supposed to cry - that stuff gets me. That element’s in a lot of our songs. I love mythology. Fantasy is fun. It seems like it’s dying…"
Have marriage and fatherhood changed you?
“We were together four years before we got married, but having a baby changes everything. I’ve become…not selfless, but…a lot less selfish. Everything I do now has a purpose and the focus is for him. It’s awesome. He just started walking, and holding his hand while he’s walking in a public park is so cool! We’re like any other bumbling parents doing our best. I look around and it’s a miracle that all these people you see walking around every day have gone through that process and made it. It is, it’s a miracle!”