The Killers’ frontman Brandon Flowers talks to JOHN MEAGHER about fatherhood, Irish connections, advice from Bono and adjusting to life on the road without two founding members
At the height of the Killers’ early success, around the time of second album Sam’s Town, Review interviewed Brandon Flowers in Brighton. The band had played an electrifying show the night before, but the next morning the frontman was subdued. The contrast between the passionate performer who had 10,000 people following his every word and the shy Mormon struggling to make small talk in the bland hotel room could hardly have been greater.
Today, he’s on the other end of a phone line, chatting happily about life on the road and the demands of being a father of three young boys. He cuts a very different figure and you have to pinch yourself to believe that anyone could be this relaxed, shooting the breeze with a journalist on the other side of the world, just a couple of hours before going on stage in Perth, Western Australia.
“It took a lot of time [to become the consummate frontman],” he says, with what sounds to these ears like a Southern drawl. “It wasn’t something that came completely natural to me. I’m obviously a student and a sponge and a thief and I’ve always been attracted to the great frontmen like a lot of people. I’ve taken what they’ve had to offer and funnelled it through my weird life in Las Vegas, and that’s kind of how I came to become what I am.”
He says he had an awakening in his mid 20s, after the Killers’ startling electro-rock debut, Hot Fuss, was released. “I fell in love with people like Bruce Springsteen and it showed me another road, another avenue, that I could take. So it was powerful to me to realise that I share things in common with him and I ended up falling in love with that [way of conducting oneself ] and of music that spoke to me and my life — and it’s nothing to do with debauchery. He’s almost ‘clean’, if you know what I mean. The light went on for me — that’s really who I am.
“I fell in love with music at 12 or 13, listening to stuff like the Cars and New Order and David Bowie and it was strange to have it happen again when I was 25.”
He says Springsteen’s example has helped him juggle the demands of being a parent with fronting a globally popular band. “I’ve been lucky. There are the foundations put in place by my parents — I have that going for me right away. But in the beginning, when I started to make music, I didn’t know what it meant to be a successful rock ’n’ roller or pop star and the only examples I have are these people that are mythologised or idolised and often lived lives that weren’t conducive to having a healthy family. But now I know that I can be in a band and be a father and not go down a debaucherous road. And Bruce lit the way for me.”
Flowers has also looked to other clean-cut rockers, including Bono who helped him come up with the title of the closing track on latest album, Wonderful Wonderful. “I sent Bono an email and the subject was ‘Have All the Songs Been Written?’ He told me he thought it would be a great title. But it’s something that I was thinking about when I was writing the songs on this album and it’s something I still think about? Are there still great songs to write?
“It’s been 60 or 70 years of great songs, and what’s left to be said? That’s something you wrestle with every time you go into a recording studio. And, of course, there are still great songs that
You can connect with a loved one over other people’s songs, but I never expected it would happen with one of my own
have yet to be written. We just have to be inspired by all those great songs of the past — hell, I even wrote a couple of them myself!”
Wonderful Wonderful has attracted generally good reviews and it’s widely thought to be the band’s most personal album to date. Flowers says he was inspired by difficult periods in his life and of the challenges faced by his wife of 13 years, Tana, when she suffered depression so dark in 2015 that she considered ending her own life.
“There’s a song on the album, ‘Rut’, that I’m really proud of and writing it helped me to become more compassionate and have more empathy for my wife,” he says. “We had some really intimate moments when I was working on that song because I was checking that she liked each line I wrote and I’d run any changes by her. You can connect with a loved one over other people’s songs, but I never expected it would happen with one of my own songs.”
Somebody told me: Flowers says Bruce Springsteen was his role model on how not go down a debaucherous road