Over the solo phase and stadium- ready.
BRANDON Flowers, front man of Las Vegas’s least throwaway export The Killers, recently read an article about U2’ s The Joshua Tree.
The premise was how most bands who want to play to the masses now live in the shadow of the landmark 1987 album.
Flowers, who was six when the U2 album was released, has made no secret of aiming for U2- size popularity, helped by the U2- sized rock anthems he likes to write.
But geographically, he has a ‘‘ strange relationship’’ with The Joshua Tree and the desert- friendly plant it was named after. ‘‘ In a way, every band since The Joshua
Tree lives in the shadow of that record,’’ Flowers says.
‘‘ I literally live in the shadow of joshua trees. I’m reminded every day of that album, I drive past those trees every single day. I probably think about The Joshua
Tree every day when I see them. I don’t know that it’s good for me. It’s a little bit depressing.’’
Flowers’ ambition is undeniable. In 2008, when The Killers ( pictured) wanted to wind down after five years of a relentless tour/ album schedule, Flowers had other plans.
Burdened by a ‘‘ creative explosion’’, he released a solo album, Flamingo, and toured it throughout 2010.
‘‘ What am I going to do?’’ he said. ‘‘ This is something I’ve spent seven years honing and crafting. I don’t want to take two years off.’’
His bandmates splintered in various directions. Drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr formed his own band, Big Talk, and toured with them.
‘‘ It felt like the pressure was off,’’ Vannucci says. ‘‘ It felt like karaoking with your drunk friends. It did what it did.’’
During the downtime, Vannucci and Flowers sang The Killers’ When You Were
Young at a warm- up show – Vannucci on guitar, not drums. Flowers also learnt from his solo period. ‘‘ I didn’t realise how many mid- tempo songs I had on my solo record,’’ he says.
‘‘ I’m so used to the freight train we have.
I had to figure out a different way to get the crowd going. It was fun though. It was a little bit more free . . .’’
Battle Born, the fourth Killers album, bypasses most of those pesky mid- tempo moments for some stadium- ready anthems. It is a saxophone- free zone.
‘‘ The last record ( 2008’ s Day and Age) was done really quickly,’’ Vannucci says.
‘‘ It was playful and experimental. Then we realised there’s not a lot of guitar on here . . . It’s nice to have some rock back.’’
The Joshua Tree ’ s producer, Daniel Lanois, is one of five producers on Battle
Born. The band say it was simply due to the fact no one producer was available to work solely on what became their longest recording period to date. ‘‘ Unnaturally long,’’ Vannucci notes.
Luckily they now have their own studio – also called Battle Born – in a nondescript business area in Las Vegas.
‘‘ If you’re going to be in a band for any length of time it’s a wise investment,’’ Vanucci says. ‘‘ We see it as more of a clubhouse than a studio.’’
Another benefit of Flowers’ solo career was his work with a vocal coach. ‘‘ I had to learn some tricks,’’ he says. ‘‘ And it helped me with this Killers album. I’ve been working on singing higher, getting more comfortable up there. Not a lot of people get it right.’’
Vanucci starts to talk about the state of music. ‘‘ I hear some of the s--- that’s on the radio, I see Saturday Night Live performances and think what is going on? And we’ve only been away for a couple of years. So I’m very much looking forward to returning for us to make our mark, that indelible reminder.’’
Flowers shuts down any line of criticism of other bands in anything other than vague terms, noting new rock bands aren’t writing enough memorable songs. He is no longer the headline machine, slating other bands he felt beneath him.
‘‘ We’re done slagging,’’ Flowers says. ‘‘ It’s nice to not do that any more.’’
Flowers is happy to talk about the people he loves. Like Mark Knopfler – The Killers have covered Dire Straits’ Romeo
and Juliet in the past – Flowers’ love of Bruce Springsteen often gets confused with his Knopfler- isms.
‘‘ I came across Dire Straits later on in life. Which is another strange thing in my story. Most people figure out where they’re headed out early on and stick to that. I had this weird renaissance in my mid- 20s, all this s--- I’d never heard before. Like Dire Straits.
‘‘ I knew Money for Nothing, but I didn’t know Mark Knopfler was a genius. I had no idea. Now I do. He’s added into the pot. With The Cure, New Order, The Smiths, Springsteen and everybody else. They’re all different, but that’s what makes us what we are I guess.’’
(Universal) out now