COVER

Brandon Flow­ers and his Killers band­mates ex­plore PTSD and mas­culin­ity on Won­der­ful Won­der­ful

The Georgia Straight - - Contents - > BY JOHN LU­CAS

SKOOKUM Fes­ti­val head­liner Brandon Flow­ers talks about the fu­ture of the Killers and what he has in com­mon with Alice Cooper.

On the sur­face, there wouldn’t ap­pear to be that much com­mon ground be­tween Brandon Flow­ers and Alice Cooper. In his ’70s hey­day, shock-rock pro­gen­i­tor Cooper em­bod­ied all that was de­praved and evil about rock ’n’ roll, singing ten­der paeans to necrophilia and de­cap­i­tat­ing baby dolls on-stage.

Flow­ers, on the other hand, has a sort of clean­cut nice-guy im­age seem­ingly at odds with his sta­tus as the front­man of one of this mil­len­nium’s big­gest rock bands. Heck, in 2011 the guy made a video at the be­hest of the Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints with the ti­tle “I’m Brandon Flow­ers and I’m a Mor­mon”.

When the Straight con­nects with Flow­ers via tele­phone, the 37-year-old mu­si­cian is at home in Park City, Utah, en­joy­ing some much-needed down­time in a sum­mer that has been packed with tour dates. He re­veals that he and the man born Vin­cent Furnier ac­tu­ally aren’t as dif­fer­ent as they may seem—and not just be­cause Flow­ers fronts a group called the Killers and Cooper’s fourth LP with his own band was ti­tled Killer.

“We share a lot in com­mon, ac­tu­ally,” says Flow­ers. “We were both raised in the desert, we both en­joy golf, we’ve both worn eye­liner—he’s worn more than me.”

Cooper fa­mously spends as many as six days a week on the links at the Ari­zona Bilt­more Golf Club in his home­town of Phoenix. Flow­ers is less ac­tive in that depart­ment—thanks in large part to an on­go­ing is­sue with his shoul­ders—but there was a time in his youth when he looked set to fol­low in the foot­steps of his cousin, pro golfer Craig Bar­low.

Then, as rock ’n’ roll leg­end would have it, Flow­ers’s ca­reer path was changed for­ever when some­one stole his golf clubs and he turned to mu­sic in­stead.

That’s turned out pretty well for him. Since form­ing in Las Ve­gas in 2001, the Killers have re­leased five well-re­ceived stu­dio al­bums and have toured the world nu­mer­ous times. The band first broke big in the U.K. and has ar­guably had its great­est suc­cess there, with all of its LPS hit­ting the top spot on the Of­fi­cial Al­bums Chart. The most re­cent one, Won­der­ful Won­der­ful, was the first to match that state­side by reach­ing No. 1 on the Bill­board 200.

Flow­ers has said that the lyrics on Won­der­ful Won­der­ful are among the most per­sonal he has ever writ­ten, with songs such as “Rut” and “Some Kind of Love” delv­ing into the child­hood trauma and on­go­ing strug­gle with PTSD faced by his wife, Tana. Else­where, Flow­ers uses the re­cur­ring mo­tif of box­ing (most no­tably on “Tyson vs Dou­glas” but also on “Run for Cover”, which namechecks leg­endary heavy­weight champ Sonny Lis­ton) to ex­plore themes in­clud­ing en­durance and dis­il­lu­sion­ment.

Won­der­ful Won­der­ful came out al­most a year ago, but Flow­ers says he has no dif­fi­culty tap­ping into the emo­tions that shaped some of its most af­fect­ing songs, even af­ter per­form­ing them on-stage night af­ter night on tour. To keep things from get­ting too heavy, he says, the band has re­ally been lean­ing into its more crowd-pleas­ing fare, in par­tic­u­lar “The Man”. A strut­ting slab of bom­bast that neatly strad­dles glam rock and elec­tro-fried disco, “The Man” is Flow­ers’s wink­ing look back at the cock­sure days of his youth.

“It’s in­hab­it­ing this per­son I was, or this con­cept of what I thought a man should be when I was 15, when I was ig­no­rant,” he notes. “I’m still learn­ing, and I’m still be­com­ing that man that I want to be.

“It brought a lot of lev­ity to the record and a whole new el­e­ment to the live show,” the singer con­tin­ues. “We usu­ally pair it with the song ‘Some­body Told Me’, and the spirit of it sort of over­flows into that song as well, and it’s a nice mo­ment, in­stead of this earnest­ness for two hours.”

THE VER­SION OF THE BAND that has been tour­ing in sup­port of Won­der­ful Won­der­ful could per­haps be called Killers 2.0. Of the core four-piece, only Flow­ers and drum­mer Ron­nie Van­nucci Jr. have hit the road this time around. The of­fi­cial line is that gui­tarist Dave Ke­un­ing has taken a break to spend time with his fam­ily while bassist Mark Sto­er­mer has gone back to col­lege. The two are still con­sid­ered mem­bers of the band, but their spots are cur­rently be­ing filled by long-time tour­ing side­men Ted Sablay (gui­tar) and Jake Blan­ton (bass).

Flow­ers in­sists that it no longer feels strange to look around the stage dur­ing a Killers con­cert and not see Ke­un­ing and Sto­er­mer.

“In the be­gin­ning it did, but we’ve al­ready done 115 shows now,” he notes. “So, all those anx­i­eties are kind of over now. The way I’ve al­ways looked at it is that it’s my job to sing, whether they’re there or not. I still have a job to do, and of course in a per­fect world they would be gung ho about tour­ing and be up there, but they’re not. My dream still lives. My dream’s still alive, man.”

As for what the fu­ture holds, Flow­ers in­di­cates that Ke­un­ing “is still fig­ur­ing it all out” and points out that Sto­er­mer re­mains very much an ac­tive pres­ence within the band, his ab­sence from the tour bus not­with­stand­ing.

“Mark con­trib­uted a lot to the record and is more ex­cited about be­ing cre­ative in the stu­dio, and you can’t fault him for not lov­ing tour­ing, and so if that works out, where he can come in the stu­dio, of course he’s wel­come, and right now we’re plan­ning on it,” the front­man says.

Mind you, Flow­ers ad­mits that he’s not sure if there’s a Killers record on the im­me­di­ate hori­zon or if he’ll re­vive his solo ca­reer. The singer has re­leased two records un­der his own name—2010’s Flamingo and 2015’s The De­sired Ef­fect. Per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, both have topped the U.K. al­bum chart, which strongly sug­gests that there are in­deed many peo­ple out there ea­gerly await­ing a new Brandon Flow­ers LP.

“I made those solo records so that peo­ple could have breaks in the band,” Flow­ers states, “and so with this new con­fig­u­ra­tion and this new un­der­stand­ing, it seems like it’s cre­ated a world where we can put more Killers records out. But also I’m re­ally proud and happy with my two solo records, and I miss per­form­ing those songs too, so I’m a lit­tle bit torn at the mo­ment.”

If the mu­sic thing doesn’t work out, Flow­ers re­turn­ing to the world of golf is prob­a­bly out of the ques­tion, all things con­sid­ered. If Alice Cooper hap­pens to call, how­ever…

“He’s asked me be­fore,” Flow­ers says. “I’ve had shoul­der prob­lems and I haven’t been able to golf as much as I want to. But I would like to golf with Alice Cooper one day. I hope I can get my shoul­ders back to a place where I can play with­out pain, and I will take Alice on.”

Ladies and gents, you’re look­ing at The Man.

The Killers headline SKOOKUM at Stan­ley Park on Septem­ber 9.

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