The Killers have the kind of cool, snarly name that plenty of punk bands would, um, you know, kill for. And it’s actually kind of hard to believe that none of the other hip young hooligans—from the Kills to the Immortal Lee County Killers—nabbed it first, and it’s especially hard to believe because the Killers aren’t exactly the fierce, flea-ridden outfit their name might suggest. The dudes play golf. And wear blazers. And they’re even more un-killer-like with every second of their debut album, Hot Fuss, unless you’re fatally susceptible to sheer style.
But a suaver, gentler approach is just fine for the four young lads in this suddenly happening Las Vegas band. They’ve never made any pretense of kicking up a ruckus or revolutionizing contemporary music. As far as they’re concerned, there’s nothing wrong with playing radio-friendly rock, though their decision to take their glossy sound to the masses hasn’t won them any friends in their hometown.
“We were shunned and made fun of because we were obviously writing these big pop songs,” says the Killers keyboardist/singer Brandon Flowers by phone from his home, possibly while lounging on something plush. “And then it was like, ‘What, do you want to sign to a major label? Do you want to be a corporate whore?’ I can’t stand that mentality, and I couldn’t stand it even before I was in a band.”
Maybe it’s all those years of getting teased about being a corporate whore, but the proud pop played by Flowers and his mates does have a dark side, with songs that muck about with sinister themes such as jealousy and murder. And it’s not just because they were weaned in the land of showgirls and slot machines. Flowers admits he’s seen his share of seedy sights while working as a casino bellboy, but he can also wax poetic about how beautiful Vegas looks at night and in the rain. And when he relaxes at home between tour dates, he hits the links for some golf.
“It’s just kind of like a lesson that you learn when you see things like that,” he says about scary Vegas scum. “There is a lot of it that happens here, but you just kind of stay away from it.”
This wasn’t hard for Flowers to do. He comes from a family of golfers (a cousin is on the PGAtour, and his brother was pro), and since meeting mates Dave Keuning (guitar), Mark Stoermer (bass) and Ronnie Vannucci (drums) in 2002, he and the band stay out of trouble by practicing incessantly—even sneaking into theUniversity of Nevada Las Vegas‘ music department to borrow rehearsal space—and otherwise keeping to themselves.
Their indie peers in Las Vegas have resisted the charm of the Killers, but their slick Brit-pop-flavored songs gained them early support from London-based indie label Lizard King, and they’ve since flip-flopped the British Invasion.
“We’re doing it the opposite way, like how America loved the Stones and the Stones were playing American music,” Flowers says and laughs. “And now they really enjoy this American band that’s influenced by the Smiths and the Beatles and U2.”
Having already caught on across the pond, the Killers are just making waves here with Hot Fuss. First single “Somebody Told Me” is a bouncy screwed-up-love song with a sonic (and subject matter) debt to Blur’s gender-bending classic “Girls & Boys.” On the darkly glittering “Midnight Show,” Flowers sounds both ardent and agile, achieving a verve that evokes Simon LeBon over an edgy, synth-laden and guitar-scratched new wave rocker. And a joyous, glam rock spirit abounds in “All These Things That I’ve Done,” which builds from a sweet little number to a joyous pinnacle that finds a gospel choir taking up the coy chorus “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier.”
Such playful drama mounts to even greater heights during the band’s live shows, which Flowers aims to infuse with a bit of theater.
“I like to act out the songs a lot,” he says. “It’s kind of Ziggy Stardust. I really like that kind of stuff. It just gives it something more, I guess, than just ripping it and screaming it back at people.”