If ever there was a time to fall in love with The Killers during the band’s 20-year existence, it’s now.
One week after the release of “Imploding the Mirage,” which Variety described in its review as “vintage Killers … perfect for singing emotively with an impassioned fist over the chest,” Brandon Flowers’ role as frontman comes with more responsibility than ever before, not the least of which involves being a responsible man in music. Earlier this month, the Killers conducted an internal investigation e after allegations of sexual assault were raised concerning a member of the band’s 2009 touring crew; the band found no evidence to corroborate the accusations.
Flowers’ lyrical lean towards the eternal and the band’s reliance on moody vintage synths feels more like the sonic stylings of The Weeknd on “Imploding the Mirage,” and then, suddenly, the booming vocals and grand, elegant signatures sweep the listener away to warm rock-pop environs. With another album in the offing for 2021 — utilizing the same producer-writer-collaborators from “Imploding,” Shawn Everett and Jonathan Rado — will we see a punctuation to the band’s recording career? Flowers keeps us guessing.
It was just announced that The Killers and “Jacques Lu Cont” remixed “Scarlet,” the Rolling Stones outtake from “Goats Head Soup,” dropping on Aug. 28. That tune sits firmly in the pre-glam era Stones. What made you want to do it?
Brandon Flowers: It’s a cool opportunity, something we’ve never been asked to do. And it’s the Rolling Stones, so we jumped on it right away. Our drummer [Ronnie Vannucci Jr.] is pretty savvy with recording gadgetry, but we figured we’d get some help from our friend Stuart Price — aka Jacques Lu Cont — and molded it into something different than what the Stones intended, but with our own spin. I’m excited.
What does it means to be a man in music in 2020? Do you feel a responsibility to be a role model, and how important is that to you personally and professionally?
It’s definitely at the forefront of my mind. I have three boys that I’m raising, four sisters, a lot of nieces, and female fans. I have always been around a lot of women. I’ve been close to women who have had trauma impact their lives, trauma inflicted on them by bad men… I had the good examples of the men in my life, an older brother and my dad. I’m carrying on what I learned from them and being a good example — that’s the best that I can do.
Was this thinking an evolution for you based on age and maturity or was it prompted by the #MeToo reckoning that all sectors of entertainment have faced in recent years?
I do think that it’s always been a part of me. Maybe I’ve been forced to apply my voice, given the opportunity of where the world is, sadly. The positive thing about it is that people are speaking up, and that changes are happening. Because I have had the experiences I had growing up, and have the forum though interviews, I like to use my voice for what I think is right.
All that and your music has a lyrical palette that sensualist without being sexist. Whether going back through The Killers catalog or just “Imploding the Mirage,” how do you fashion that tone? Are there goals you’re looking to achieve, or inspirations, real or fictional?
My first thought hearing you bring that up is Otis Redding. My dad listened to classic soul music constantly. That’s what I heard growing up. So as controversial things come up in pop music now — where it’s not cloaked in any mystery what people want to get across — and somebody like Otis, when he sang, “These arms of mine, they’re lonely, lonely from wanting you,” we knew what Otis wanted. He just said it in a beautiful articulate way. Combine that, maybe, with my religious side and that could be what you are recognizing in my lyrics.
You brought up religion. You don’t often weave your Mormon faith into the Killers’ music, but “My God” on the new album pulls the Divine into the equation. Comment?
Sure. This record, from the album cover featuring celestial-looking beings to thinking about eternal concepts, and two people becoming one, definitely has that. It made its way onto several tracks, “My God” being about perseverance. You don’t need to have a god for that. It’s just something that is part of my life, and showed its face on this record.
You’ve left your native Las Vegas, but there’s still a flashiness to the Killers sound that has long been its signature — that and those grandly arching codas. How did you manage to stick to those trademarks, use them, lose them, morph them and twist them into what we hear on “Imploding?”
Some things are just a part of your DNA. We never have to reach for that big sound. The word ‘absurd’ was thrown around a few times in regard to the new record.
They don’t understand. When Ronnie plays drums; Mark [Stoermer] plays guitar; I get to the microphone; and the keyboards are going; that’s what we sound like. That’s just who we are. There’s no roundtable discussion as to how big and brash we can make things.
Jonathan Rado and Shawn Everett produced and co-wrote most of the “Imploding.” How did they utilize those traditions you spoke of and bring you into fresh territory?
We love them. Rado, in particular, is a rock ‘n’ roll purist. Pretty much anything you would leave in the capable hands of a computer, Rado will kick against that. That’s helpful for the human element of the record. Shawn is on the other side, more of a mad scientist willing to experiment on anything. It was a great combination. They essentially joined the band.
Anything you can tell us about another album slated for 2021?
I have such a big mouth. I get excited about something and start yakking about it. Yeah, I do actually. I mentioned what The Killers sound like naturally before — we’re not going to kick against that, but we are going to show some restraint. We have already started working on that, stripping things back, letting the songs speak for themselves with the least amount of instruments possible. Lyrically, I’m interested in pursuing my experiences in a small town in Utah that I had growing up, and applying the wisdom I have learned as a songwriter all of these years.
Interesting. Last week, Variety ran an interview with The Roots’ Black Thought on the occasion of his new solo deal. He said of his longtime collective that, in many cases, Roots’ albums were as much a Black Thought solo album as they were a collective’s work. What you’re talking about with the next Killers album sounds very you. The Killers is a family, but, two of your longtime members are on a sort-of hiatus. As the family moves apart, do you see this as more of a Brandon Flowers project rather than a collective’s thought and deed?
That’s good. We’re just sort-of walking into those waters now. Last week, we were in a recording studio in Las Vegas. And I think finding a marriage of my vision for a record with them being able to contribute their gifts and talents would be a perfect union. We’ve come to a mature conclusion with this next record what it is going to mean to me 00 almost asking them if they can imagine this place with me. I’m looking forward to that.
You make it sound as if the next record could be a period on a long sentence… an endpoint?