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The Killers: ‘Mr Brightside is like Happy Birthday now. That song plays itself’ | The Killers

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How bored are you with Mr Brightside? TopTramp

Ronnie Vannucci, drums: That song plays itself. There is this reciprocal magic that happens between us on the stage and people watching us. And it just goes. It’s like if you sing Happy Birthday and you don’t think. It’s just Happy Birthday now.

Brandon Flowers, vocals: I really don’t get bored of it. I’m able to feed off of the excitement of somebody who’s there, hearing it for the first time. I still get a thrill. My concern is that it’s going to turn on us and there’s going to be a backlash, but it just keeps growing.

RV: It’s waiting for Weird Al [Yankovic].

BF: Oh my gosh.

RV: Then it’ll be over. What did I just do?

The cadence of your songs doesn’t usually follow an expected pattern. It’s as though you write stories set to music instead of melodies with lyrics. How do you make your songwriting so unique? somekindofmysterious
BF: Sometimes there is a blueprint for rock’n’roll and pop. If you get trapped inside it can be dangerous. Our last record, Pressure Machine, was written largely lyrics-first. We had never done that before. It gave us so much freedom in the studio because, if you weren’t loving the direction a song was going, you could put a whole different suit on it.

Brandon Flowers performing with the Killers at Reading festival in 2023. Photograph: Chris Phelps/www.chrisphelps.com

Pressure Machine is an incredible album of pathos and power. In the hypnotic, romantically twisted, cop-kills-a-violent-husband Desperate Things, what does the line “she laughed it off like lemonade” mean? McScootikins
BF: For me, it’s self-explanatory. I’m going to just let that person interpret it however they may.

RV: There’s a [American record producer] Rick Rubin quote I’m going to paraphrase: it’s always better to leave an interpretation than an explanation.

If you hadn’t become rock stars, what careers paths might you have taken? SrnestSemingway
BF: I have no other skill set. I would’ve been happy as a valet parker on the Strip [in Las Vegas]. Uncles and cousins did that kind of stuff. I love the hustle and bustle of earning tips and feeling that wad in your pocket grow. So that was sort of my dream.

RV: I was in college with a double major in music performance and music education. So I would probably be in jail.

Have your views of Las Vegas changed over time? Will you ever do a residency at the Las Vegas Sphere? Journalomar and GrazAlarm
BF: You can take the boys out of Vegas, but it will always be a part of us. When we were kids, it was a small town. For a while it was the fastest-growing city in America. I was lucky enough to see U2 at the Sphere. Absolutely we would be open to doing something like that. It would be a big undertaking, but it would be a blast.

Brandon, is your pink jacket in a museum along with Geri’s dress, Noel’s guitar and Kylie’s gold hot pants? TurangaLeela2 and MrSOBaldrick
BF: Somebody needs to ask for it. It’s just sitting in a closet in my house, waiting to be asked …

Ronnie, being the frontman is a bit like being the boss. Was it hard for you guys early on, with Brandon being the youngest in the band by five years? I imagine there is a steep learning curve? larki18
RV: Well, the dude was gifted … I’m going to talk like he’s not here. He’s naturally an introverted person, but when you turn the mic on and give him a platform to do his thing, it feels very natural. Twenty-two years later, he’s still this shy dude, but he’s progressed into knowing his place and perfecting it. It’s cool to see him still grow. We’re all still growing. Apart from me, I’m just stagnant and lame.

Brandon: I think you’re one of the last great showbiz entertainers. Do you think, back in the day, you’d have enjoyed being more of an all-round singer/film actor/TV host? staypositive
BF: The way that Johnny Cash, Marc Bolan and Dean Martin did it was pretty impressive. I think Ronnie and I could tag team.

Do people still think you are a British band? MrSOBaldrick
RV: [Does English accent] We are British, man! What you on about?

BF: We still get the odd person who isn’t aware that we are Americans. We didn’t expect to have that confusion at all. We wanted to make sure everybody knew that we were American on the second album. That’s why Sam’s Town is the way that it is.

RV: You guys haven’t lost it. There are people coming up from Britain that still wow us. I don’t know if it’s the nursery rhymes you guys teach your kids, or if it’s just the celebration of music. You have such a wonderfully small, tight-knit country. It seems like the colour is pumped up a little bit. The contrast is just a little more. There’s more zeal for life and celebration. You always have songs to go along with that.

BF: What do we look forward to when we come to the UK? Curry! The Hairy Bikers on TV. I can watch those guys cook and talk to each other for ever. I watched the Great British Baking Show [Bake Off] in the US with my family. There’s something about the light in the tent that makes me homesick for England. This season is not a great season, if anybody cares for my opinion. It’s a little bit of a letdown.

If you could go back 20 years to when it all first started, what advice would you give yourselves? Kimmoss1982
BF: We had high hopes. Every band does. But we had nearly given up. Imagine what it’s like to go and play for the head of Sony, the head of Island and the head of Warner Brothers in America and all of them passing. So were given this indie deal by a small label [Lizard King] in England. We all got passports and were genuinely excited that at least we were going to get this trip to England out of it because it seemed like it was over. The NME wrote a positive review of a show that we did in the Dublin Castle [in Camden, London] and it changed the trajectory of our lives. So, being here, talking to you and looking at this list of 20 songs [from the new compilation album Rebel Diamond] is amazing. We’re really, really proud of these songs.

The Killers in 2004
The Killers in 2004

You recently halted recording sessions for the band’s eighth album because you considered the songs to be too similar to material recorded earlier in your career. Can you provide any pointers as to what your future material might sound like? VerulamiumParkRanger
BF: The album that we, for lack of a better term, scrapped, was not because it was like anything recent. We just felt we were going down a road that wasn’t as appealing to us as it was when we started. So we decided to stop. We were very honest about it. I don’t think people tend to be so honest when they make these kind of decisions.

RV: It was in Boston, right before a gig, we discussed it and Brandon was just like: “I dunno.” I was like: “I’m so glad you said that.”

BF: What’s funny is there’s nothing wrong with the songs. The songs are great. I guess it’s a style, a bit of a substance issue, the complexion of the songs.

RV: We didn’t get the explosion of confetti we were hoping for.

You’re one of the very few bands of the 2000s indie era that’s still going, making new music, and still seem to like one another. Why have you survived where others have fallen by the wayside or imploded? laurasnapes
RV: It’s a lot of luck. We are surprised by it. We did the NME tour [in 2005] with Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand. We just feel incredibly grateful and lucky. Where we come from, we’re – I want to say blue collar, but we didn’t wear collars. We’re just working dudes from Vegas, so I think we’ve been gifted this opportunity. We all feel like this is a gift. This is not something that’s handed out, so we should respect that.

The Killers release Rebel Diamonds on 8 December, and tickets for the Rebel Diamonds tour in 2024 go on sale the same day


How bored are you with Mr Brightside? TopTramp

Ronnie Vannucci, drums: That song plays itself. There is this reciprocal magic that happens between us on the stage and people watching us. And it just goes. It’s like if you sing Happy Birthday and you don’t think. It’s just Happy Birthday now.

Brandon Flowers, vocals: I really don’t get bored of it. I’m able to feed off of the excitement of somebody who’s there, hearing it for the first time. I still get a thrill. My concern is that it’s going to turn on us and there’s going to be a backlash, but it just keeps growing.

RV: It’s waiting for Weird Al [Yankovic].

BF: Oh my gosh.

RV: Then it’ll be over. What did I just do?

The cadence of your songs doesn’t usually follow an expected pattern. It’s as though you write stories set to music instead of melodies with lyrics. How do you make your songwriting so unique? somekindofmysterious
BF: Sometimes there is a blueprint for rock’n’roll and pop. If you get trapped inside it can be dangerous. Our last record, Pressure Machine, was written largely lyrics-first. We had never done that before. It gave us so much freedom in the studio because, if you weren’t loving the direction a song was going, you could put a whole different suit on it.

Brandon Flowers performing with the Killers at Reading festival in 2023
Brandon Flowers performing with the Killers at Reading festival in 2023. Photograph: Chris Phelps/www.chrisphelps.com

Pressure Machine is an incredible album of pathos and power. In the hypnotic, romantically twisted, cop-kills-a-violent-husband Desperate Things, what does the line “she laughed it off like lemonade” mean? McScootikins
BF: For me, it’s self-explanatory. I’m going to just let that person interpret it however they may.

RV: There’s a [American record producer] Rick Rubin quote I’m going to paraphrase: it’s always better to leave an interpretation than an explanation.

If you hadn’t become rock stars, what careers paths might you have taken? SrnestSemingway
BF: I have no other skill set. I would’ve been happy as a valet parker on the Strip [in Las Vegas]. Uncles and cousins did that kind of stuff. I love the hustle and bustle of earning tips and feeling that wad in your pocket grow. So that was sort of my dream.

RV: I was in college with a double major in music performance and music education. So I would probably be in jail.

Have your views of Las Vegas changed over time? Will you ever do a residency at the Las Vegas Sphere? Journalomar and GrazAlarm
BF: You can take the boys out of Vegas, but it will always be a part of us. When we were kids, it was a small town. For a while it was the fastest-growing city in America. I was lucky enough to see U2 at the Sphere. Absolutely we would be open to doing something like that. It would be a big undertaking, but it would be a blast.

Brandon, is your pink jacket in a museum along with Geri’s dress, Noel’s guitar and Kylie’s gold hot pants? TurangaLeela2 and MrSOBaldrick
BF: Somebody needs to ask for it. It’s just sitting in a closet in my house, waiting to be asked …

Ronnie, being the frontman is a bit like being the boss. Was it hard for you guys early on, with Brandon being the youngest in the band by five years? I imagine there is a steep learning curve? larki18
RV: Well, the dude was gifted … I’m going to talk like he’s not here. He’s naturally an introverted person, but when you turn the mic on and give him a platform to do his thing, it feels very natural. Twenty-two years later, he’s still this shy dude, but he’s progressed into knowing his place and perfecting it. It’s cool to see him still grow. We’re all still growing. Apart from me, I’m just stagnant and lame.

Brandon: I think you’re one of the last great showbiz entertainers. Do you think, back in the day, you’d have enjoyed being more of an all-round singer/film actor/TV host? staypositive
BF: The way that Johnny Cash, Marc Bolan and Dean Martin did it was pretty impressive. I think Ronnie and I could tag team.

Do people still think you are a British band? MrSOBaldrick
RV: [Does English accent] We are British, man! What you on about?

BF: We still get the odd person who isn’t aware that we are Americans. We didn’t expect to have that confusion at all. We wanted to make sure everybody knew that we were American on the second album. That’s why Sam’s Town is the way that it is.

RV: You guys haven’t lost it. There are people coming up from Britain that still wow us. I don’t know if it’s the nursery rhymes you guys teach your kids, or if it’s just the celebration of music. You have such a wonderfully small, tight-knit country. It seems like the colour is pumped up a little bit. The contrast is just a little more. There’s more zeal for life and celebration. You always have songs to go along with that.

BF: What do we look forward to when we come to the UK? Curry! The Hairy Bikers on TV. I can watch those guys cook and talk to each other for ever. I watched the Great British Baking Show [Bake Off] in the US with my family. There’s something about the light in the tent that makes me homesick for England. This season is not a great season, if anybody cares for my opinion. It’s a little bit of a letdown.

If you could go back 20 years to when it all first started, what advice would you give yourselves? Kimmoss1982
BF: We had high hopes. Every band does. But we had nearly given up. Imagine what it’s like to go and play for the head of Sony, the head of Island and the head of Warner Brothers in America and all of them passing. So were given this indie deal by a small label [Lizard King] in England. We all got passports and were genuinely excited that at least we were going to get this trip to England out of it because it seemed like it was over. The NME wrote a positive review of a show that we did in the Dublin Castle [in Camden, London] and it changed the trajectory of our lives. So, being here, talking to you and looking at this list of 20 songs [from the new compilation album Rebel Diamond] is amazing. We’re really, really proud of these songs.

The Killers in 2004
The Killers in 2004

You recently halted recording sessions for the band’s eighth album because you considered the songs to be too similar to material recorded earlier in your career. Can you provide any pointers as to what your future material might sound like? VerulamiumParkRanger
BF: The album that we, for lack of a better term, scrapped, was not because it was like anything recent. We just felt we were going down a road that wasn’t as appealing to us as it was when we started. So we decided to stop. We were very honest about it. I don’t think people tend to be so honest when they make these kind of decisions.

RV: It was in Boston, right before a gig, we discussed it and Brandon was just like: “I dunno.” I was like: “I’m so glad you said that.”

BF: What’s funny is there’s nothing wrong with the songs. The songs are great. I guess it’s a style, a bit of a substance issue, the complexion of the songs.

RV: We didn’t get the explosion of confetti we were hoping for.

You’re one of the very few bands of the 2000s indie era that’s still going, making new music, and still seem to like one another. Why have you survived where others have fallen by the wayside or imploded? laurasnapes
RV: It’s a lot of luck. We are surprised by it. We did the NME tour [in 2005] with Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand. We just feel incredibly grateful and lucky. Where we come from, we’re – I want to say blue collar, but we didn’t wear collars. We’re just working dudes from Vegas, so I think we’ve been gifted this opportunity. We all feel like this is a gift. This is not something that’s handed out, so we should respect that.

The Killers release Rebel Diamonds on 8 December, and tickets for the Rebel Diamonds tour in 2024 go on sale the same day

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