bran­don Flow­ers

He prefers prayer to par­ty­ing, and fam­ily bar­be­cues to booze. But in ev­ery other re­spect Bran­don Flow­ers, the multi-mil­lion sell­ing Mor­mon front­man of the Killers, is the con­sum­mate rock star.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - by CRAIg McCLeAn

It’s the month be­fore the re­lease of the Killers’ sec­ond al­bum, Sam’s Town; two hours be­fore a home­com­ing gig at the Em­pire Ball­room in Las Ve­gas. the al­bum will go on to shift a hefty chunk of the band’s ca­reer-to­tal 15 mil­lion sales and win the four-piece two Brit Awards (Best In­ter­na­tional Group and In­ter­na­tional Al­bum). But right now Bran­don Flow­ers is talk­ing about Mor­monism, Coke and coke.

“A lot of peo­ple think polygamy is in­volved,” the front­man and main song­writer with the spring­steen­does-disco band is say­ing of his re­li­gion, “and it’s not. (Or that) you can’t drink Coke – that we think we’re gonna go to hell if we drink Pepsi. You’re not sup­posed to drink al­co­hol.”

I tell him I’ve seen him drink al­co­hol.

“I try not to,” he replies with a grin. But it’s dif­fi­cult for him, in ev­ery sense. “Bob Dylan said it best – you can’t be Jewish and be cool. And you can’t be a Mor­mon and be cool! But I’m try­ing my best!”

His job – lead­ing one of the fastest-ris­ing rock bands in the world – reg­u­larly presents him with moral quan­daries.

“I’m start­ing to get more com­fort­able with it. I’m a man and I’m at­tracted to women. You read about, and you have that fas­ci­na­tion with, the drugs. there’s a cer­tain level that we’re kinda ex­pected to de­baucherise (sic), I guess! It’s ex­pected of us, al­most.”

Chicago, Au­gust 2010. Flow­ers is three dates into his first solo tour in sup­port of his first solo al­bum, Flamingo. the are­nas, sta­dia and fes­ti­val-head­line slots to which the Killers are now ac­cus­tomed have been re­placed by the­atres. some of the band’s road crew are with him, but for the time be­ing he’s work­ing with new mu­si­cians.

“For the most part it’s like go­ing back­wards,” he ad­mits. “It’s weird get­ting these nerves that I haven’t had for five or six years. Nerves about play­ing smaller venues, peo­ple not know­ing the ma­te­rial ...”

Late last year, as the Killers ap­proached the end of the Day & Age tour – af­ter pretty much seven years of back-to-back record­ing, per­form­ing and trav­el­ling – Flow­ers de­cided he wanted to keep go­ing. He’d writ­ten a bunch of new songs while on tour.

His band mates told him to hop it, they were go­ing home, to do their laun­dry, watch tele­vi­sion, hang with their friends and fam­ily. Be or­di­nary, and sta­tion­ary, for a while.

Flow­ers took a scant four weeks off then ploughed on re­gard­less, record­ing Flamingo in Las Ve­gas and Los An­ge­les with a dream-team of su­per-pro­duc­ers: stu­art Price (Madonna), Bren­dan O’Brien (spring­steen) and Daniel Lanois (U2). then, tour time. He told his wife he was leav­ing her hold­ing the ba­bies, again.

“Yeah!” he says with the gur­gly, yuck-yuck laugh with which he says most things. “two tod­dlers, and an­other one on the way. Due in Fe­bru­ary. But,” he adds hastily, “I want to wrap this (solo tour) up by Christ­mas.”

For this slight but charis­matic, drop-dead-hand­some 29-year-old who can com­mand a sta­dium or fes­ti­val crowd with com­pelling ease, the laugh is a self-de­fence mech­a­nism. Al­most ev­ery sen­tence, no mat­ter how dark the sub­ject mat­ter, is de­liv­ered with a chuckle, or a pe­cu­liar gasp.

the same func­tion is per­formed by his in­ter­view pos­ture: ram­rod straight in his chair, arms folded tightly across his chest.

I’ve met him many times over the years and have only ever seen him re­laxed on­stage. to­day, even sit­ting on a leather sofa in his win­dow­less dress­ing room at Chicago’s Park West the­atre, his pos­ture is that of a man about to be wa­ter-boarded. still, for all his phys­i­cal stiff­ness, Flow­ers can’t help but spill. the baby of the fam­ily – he’s the youngest of six – and raised by his God­fear­ing mother with a strict moral code, he’s too nice not to.

On tour in Europe last sum­mer, the Killers had two tour buses. the “party bus” was dubbed Wel­come To The Jun­gle, af­ter the Guns ’n’ Roses song. Flow­ers’ bus was called James Tay­lor, af­ter the earnest, nonemore-gen­tle 1970s folky. there are, he re­ports, no such af­fec­ta­tions on this year’s more stripped-back solo tour.

“But I’ve grown tired of down­town Amer­ica,” he says in a way that man­ages to be both un­der­stated and bom­bas­tic, “and that’s where you tend to go on days off. so I’ve started to go to na­tional parks and camp­grounds on days off. And I’m bar­be­cu­ing. And in­stead of run­ning on a tread­mill, I’m run­ning out in na­ture.

“It makes it all worth­while for me. On the way here we went to Lake ta­hoe, and it was just beau­ti­ful. Went and did a hike. Jumped in the lake. It’s kinda like go­ing back in time. stuff that it seems like you only see in movies. And it’s been a breath of fresh air.”

this im­pulse, he ac­knowl­edges, has been of a piece with this vi­sion for his solo al­bum. the first Killers al­bum, 2004’s Hot Fuss, be­trayed teenage An­glophile and mas­carawearer Flow­ers’ love of the Cure, the smiths and Pet shop Boys. Sam’s Town saw them evok­ing the widescreen Amer­i­cana of spring­steen, Joshua tree-era U2 and their home state. Day & Age, pro­duced by stu­art Price, was again more dance/pop ori­ented.

With Flamingo, this son of the desert – raised in Ve­gas and in a Mor­mon com­mu­nity in deep­est Utah – wanted to re­boot him­self. to plug him­self back into the heart of the United states and its nearmythic archetypes. For this self­con­fessed old-fash­ioned twen­tysome­thing, he thinks the roots of Amer­i­can cul­ture, its coun­try mu­sic and pi­o­neer spirit, are lost in mod­ern mu­sic.

“Es­pe­cially in pop­u­lar mod­ern mu­sic. It seems so dis­tant. And es­pe­cially the meat and pota­toes of those songs – the sim­plic­ity of those songs is lost now to the beats and the bleeps,” he says with the weary dis­taste of an old codger.

Flow­ers grew up sur­rounded largely by cacti and desert. He loved the open space, the free­dom. But he also loved the lights and thrills of Las Ve­gas. He moved there when he was 16 and worked as a bell­hop in one of the ho­tel/casi­nos.

His en­dur­ing love af­fair with Ve­gas, its gam­bling and its vice, is re­flected in Flamingo’s open­ing song, Wel­come To Fab­u­lous Las Ve­gas (“co­caine and lady luck give us your dreams your heartaches and your sin”).

But with this fas­ci­nat­ingly schizophrenic rock star, faith is never far away. He says that he re­alised af­ter the fact that “there’s a lot of re­li­gious im­agery go­ing through Flamingo.”

Wholly holy prag­ma­tist that he is, he un­der­stands that any overt hint of God-squad-rock would com­pro­mise his band’s cool and, worse, their sales. But in a solo al­bum “maybe I felt free to be more open about it.”

“Yes,” he nods. “so it’s a strug­gle. I won­der if it’s le­git. But I can’t help but go for the good I guess. Es­pe­cially af­ter hav­ing chil­dren – I think, what kind of mark do I wanna leave? For the most part, that’s the per­son that I am. I think I’m a pos­i­tive and op­ti­mistic per­son.”

His mother died at the be­gin­ning of this year. He can­celled an Asian tour to be with her on her deathbed. It was the sec­ond time he’d had to can­cel a tour there. It was, he ad­mits, a wrench.

“I don’t re­mem­ber the ex­cuse last time. But this one was a good ex­cuse! It was a strange feel­ing to be in this po­si­tion – ‘I know I’m can­celling it be­cause I feel strongly about be­ing there with my mother. But she may not die.’ And I had that weight: ‘I’m hold­ing off money and pos­si­bly the ex­pan­sion of the band.’ the suc­cess of my band in Asia ba­si­cally was gam­bling (sic) on this. And I’ve got three other guys and a whole crew that are depend­ing on this. And I’m just mak­ing this de­ci­sion.”

so, in a ter­ri­ble way, he was wait­ing for his mother to die?

“Yes. You don’t want her to, but...”

He shakes his head. “It was just a weird set of pushes and pulls. But she did die dur­ing that time I would have been in Asia. so it was the right de­ci­sion.” Did he go on tour af­ter­wards? “Yeah,” he shoots back, in a man­ner that says, “of course I did.”

this, he con­ceded, was an­other rea­son that he had em­barked on what may have seemed like vain­glo­ri­ous folly: a solo al­bum, hot on the heels of three band al­bums and in the midst of the quick-fire ex­pan­sion of his brood. If he took his foot off the pedal and started chang­ing nap­pies, Flow­ers feared what the hia­tus might do to his beloved band’s mo­men­tum.

And to his cher­ished dreams of planet-rat­tling suc­cess.

“Its part of it,” he nods vig­or­ously. “I do feel like I’m car­ry­ing the Killers torch up there. And I’m bet­ter­ing my­self. And hope­fully I be­come a bet­ter front­man and a bet­ter per­former, hope­fully I can ap­ply that to the next Killers record. And we’ll just be all the bet­ter for it.”

Go tell it on the moun­tain: a rock mes­siah is born. – © the Daily tele­graph UK 2010 n Bran­don Flow­ers’ Flamingo is re­leased by Uni­ver­sal Mu­sic Malaysia.

Man of faith: ‘I’m a pos­i­tive and op­ti­mistic per­son,’ says Bran­don Flow­ers.

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