It was late 2002. Brandon Flowers (yes, it is his real name) had been dumped by his one previous group, a synth-pop outfit named Blush Response, when he refused to move with the rest of the band to L.A. Cruelly ditched, but inspired by seeing Oasis play (incredibly, the Brothers Grim had made it all the way to Vegas in one piece) he saw that his life needed more guitars. When he clocked Dave Keuning’s small ad in a local paper naming that band as an influence – and what with Oasis not exactly factoring in the pasty Vegas music scene – he took it as fate that they should be together. “He was the only person to reply to my ad who wasn’t a complete freak”, remembers Dave, fondly. “He came over with his keyboard and we started going through song ideas straight away. I had the verse to “Mr Brightside” and he went away and wrote the chorus. That was the first song we wrote together and remains the only song that we’ve played at every single Killers show”.
So far so romantic, then. The early core of the band was cemented and their amazingly-previously-unused moniker appropriated from a New Order video. The premise of said promo was to represent the perfect band – with the greatest song as well as model good-looks and youth on their side - to represent Barney & Co. That band was called The Killers. “It gave me the ambition that our actual band should be as perfect as their fictional band,” says Flowers. And so began our heroes’ journey...
After trying out a couple of different bass players and drummers, Brandon and Dave met Ronnie Vannucci, a photographer at the Little Chapel of Flowers and student of classical percussion at UNLV, and Mark Stoermer, who was making ends meet as a medical courier (blood, urine, the odd body part – all glamour). In between these couldn’t-make-it-up day-jobs (Brandon, for the record, was a bellhop at the Gold Coast Hotel; whilst Dave garnered valuable training for his current all-the-ladies-love-an-axeman dilemmas whilst enjoying trysts with lady-shoppers at his Banana Republic job) the newly-complete Killers set to writing what we can assuredly state to be one of the most exciting debut albums you’ll have heard in a very, very long time.
Writing in 120 degree temperatures in the garage that became their rehearsal room provided a suitably intense hot-housing effect. And when they couldn’t get into the garage they’d use Ronnie’s spymaster knowledge to gain mid-night access to the facilities available at his University’s music school. “There was about 2000 sq ft of luxurious practice space complete with drum sets, marimbas, cymbals, pianos etc… So, for about a month or two we lugged a Marshall to sing out of, a Deville to play the axe through, a Bassman for the keyboard, a bass cabinet for Mark and I used the UNLV pep drum band set,” reminisces Ronnie. “Though I’d like to make clear that no instruments were mistreated during this time as we are, and continue to be, respectful, professional and, last but not least, resourceful musicians.”
It was during these pressurised sessions that The Killers began to live up to the expectations commanded by the roots of their name and wrote the bulk of the songs that were to comprise their debut album, the fittingly-titled Hot Fuss. Prolific writers, they were unearthing songs of jealousy and paranoia; tales about murderers, stalkers and Studio 54 AIDS victims; androgynous girlfriends and cuckolded boyfriends; and songs of ambition and the desire to rise above the everyday.
Word soon spread further afield about The Killers. The band came to the attention of London-based independent label Lizard King, and they made their way over to the UK for their first ever gigs outside of Las Vegas (for some of the band this was even the first time they’d needed a passport) and a limited edition release of “Mr Brightside” in September 2003. Those lucky enough to catch these first London shows came away pretty much unanimously enamoured (“A head-mashingly brilliant arsenal of tunes… Right now few bands are a safer bet than The Killers”, glowed NME), while the group’s subsequent appearance at New York industry fiesta CMJ in October saw a swarm-sized buzz surround the band and a worldwide (ex-UK) deal inked with Island Records.
From here, the boys set to work once more: touring the UK with British Sea Power; selling out their own headline shows, including a packed Valentines’ Day extravaganza at London’s ICA; playing with stellastarr** on a further support tour and, amidst all this, confidently self-producing their record, with final mixing expertise provided by the legendary Alan Moulder (U2, Smashing Pumpkins) and Mark Needham (Fleetwood Mac).
It wasn’t all plain sailing, of course – there were mishaps aplenty over the three months that the recording took. The band were rocked by an earthquake that propelled Ronnie from his drum stool during the recording of “Believe Me, Natalie”; they had to battle through fires in the Simi Valley to get to the studio to record “Change Your Mind” (which appears on the U.S version of the LP); oh, and they thought they were actually going to die when their plane hit an air pocket and started free-falling while on their way back to the UK for their gigs in December 03. But somehow they made it through, and here we are, with The Killers all set to release their debut album.
A Tale of Killers Present…
Hot Fuss features eleven nuggets of reel-you-in storytelling genius and musical nectar that belie the incredible truth that, when it’s released on June15th, chief songwriter and lyricist Brandon Flowers will still only be 22 years old. These eleven tracks span from the “very Vegas – like Ziggy came to town” first proper single release “Somebody Told Me” (which glided into the Top 30 in March 04); the aforementioned “Mr Brightside” - a tale of jealousy that depicts that moment in a relationship when you realise that your other half might be playing away and this thought takes up residence in your psyche feeding the worst fears and visualisations your imagination can then throw at you. You’ll find two-thirds of a murder trilogy (oh yes – don’t rule out the possibility of a future concept album) in “Midnight Show”, which starts off harking back to “Lipgloss” before veering into far darker territory than old Jarvis would ever have flirted with, in Pulp days at least, and “Jenny”. These two are connected by the story of a murder of a girl by her jealous boyfriend (“There was water involved,” says Brandon, cryptically, “although he didn’t drown her”). The first part of the trilogy, “Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf”, will, you can be sure, make an appearance at some point in the future. It’s a deliciously ambitious series that belies the band’s tender years, and they’ve already decided they’ll be calling on our favourite dark lord actor James Spader for the video…. Elsewhere, meanwhile: “On Top” celebrates where Brandon feels the band is at, while stalker’s tale “Andy You’re A Star" and “All These Things That I’ve Done,” a future smash hit if ever we heard one, saw Flowers realise his dream of using a gospel choir in their recordings. This choir – “Sweet Inspirations” - are best known for their work with Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, and Aretha Franklin. “It was such an amazing experience working with the choir in the studio that we decided to incorporate one into special live shows, including the the Spin Magazine show [at SXSW 04]," says Brandon
“Hot Fuss” is, to sum up, a triumph. A triumph that will see the light of day concurrently in the UK on June 7th, and June 15th in the U.S. It will be accompanied by a major touring as well as a prestigious appearance at California’s Coachella festival and closely followed in the UK by an appearance at Glastonbury at the end of June.
And as for A Tale of Killers Future…? Well, whatever it may hold, you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s going to be a blast.