Features > Artist of the Month > October 2006
The Killers


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   Last November - after performing more than four-hundred gigs, and selling more that five million copies of their blockbuster debut, Hot Fuss - the Killers thought they'd take a well-deserved break. "We were going to take a few months off and have fun in the sun," says singer Brandon Flowers. But just two weeks after they got home to Las Vegas, the Killers - drummer Ronnie Vanucci, guitarist Dave Keuning, bassist Mark Stoermer, and Flowers - were back at it, breaking ground on their follow-up masterpiece, Sam's Town. "We realized that we'd been touring so long that we had to get going," says Flowers. "I grew up reading about bands that put out, ten albums a year. And I have this fascination with being prolific, and it just sucks because the music business is so different now. So we recorded as fast as we could."

   The theme of "things sucking because they're different now" - as a result of the sad demise of our old-fashioned American values -- is at the heart of Sam's Town. There is a whimsical thread that runs through the album: On songs like 'For Reasons Unknown", 'The River Is Wild" and the album's lead single, "When We Were Young" (which is killing at radio) Flowers writes about simpler times. "I was a mistake," says Flowers, laughing about how old his parents were when he popped out. "When I look at my dad, or through my dad's eyes, it's weird to see how messed up things are getting. But through him I've learned a lot about values that used to exist, and I think those show their face on the new album." And while Hot Fuss - which spawned massive hits like "Somebody Told Me", "Mr. Brightside", "Smile Like You Mean It" and "All These Things That I've Done" was cobbled together from demos, with no story arc, Flowers calls Sam's Town a cohesive set - a concept album, if you will. "Nobody makes albums like that anymore," he says, proud of the results. The critics agree: In their fall record preview, Rolling Stone calls Sam's Town "a luscious piece of nostalgia that gets better with every listen," and adds, "it's on the right side of the divider between retro and timeless." British music mag NME says that on Sam's Town,"The Killers reject their mantle as The Best British Band to Come From the U.S., and stake their claim to the less confusing title of The Best Band To Come From Anywhere, Ever."

   Armed with songs that they'd written on the road -- like "My List," "Why Do I Keep Counting?" and "Bones" (for which Tim Burton recently directed his first-ever music video) -- the Killers entered their Vegas rehearsal space to write. In just three weeks they created an arsenal of potential album cuts, and, as Vegas' prodigal sons (and the most beloved band to ever rise out of the Nevada desert), the Killers got the virgin run in the brand-new, studio in Vegas' Palms Hotel & Casino. "There have been a lot of live albums recorded, but this is the first studio album made in any casino," says Flowers. "We thought we deserved that title." With legendary producers Flood and Alan Moulder (who had previously combined their talents on U2's Pop, and the Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness) at the helm, the band was inspired to new musical heights. "The songs are smarter, musically and lyrically," says Flowers. "And Mark, Ronnie and Dave are better players now. I think we sound really strong and confident." While working on a track called "Little Angela", the production duo wasn't satisfied. "We could see them through the glass in the control room, and I could tell that Alan was upset," says Flowers. "I heard Alan say, 'We're trying to make 'Peggy Sue' into 'With or Without You.' That was a real blow to me because he was basically saying my lyrics weren't good enough to match the production." Flowers rewrote the lyrics and came up with a stronger melody. A new song, "Read My Mind," was born. "It was a thrill to have that whole thing come out of Alan getting upset," says Flowers. "It's the best song we've ever written."

   With all of their accolades - five Grammy nominations, two Moon Men from MTV's VMAs, and -- and rave reviews for Sam's Town streaming in, the Killers are still out to prove. They're the first to admit that their musical journey has just begun. And what better place to go than Sam's Town, named after real-life casino that sits directly between Flowers' hometown of Henderson, Nevada, and all the bright lights of Las Vegas. "Sam's Town [was/is] on the very edge of Vegas," says Flowers. "It was always exciting to get there, because you knew you were finally getting somewhere. You were almost in Vegas. I think it's a good representation of where we are now."