The Killers - Biography
By Marcus Kagler
Where other indie bands champion their street cred by defying the alluring glitz of the music industry, The Killers were tailor made to embrace all things glamorous and populist. Let’s put this way: after The Killers debut album, Hot Fuss (2004 Island) garnered 5 Grammy nominations and sold over 5 million copies worldwide, the band built a brand new studio inside the Palms Hotel and Casino in their hometown of Las Vegas. Extravagant? Absolutely, but the Sin City quartet wouldn’t have it any other way. Appearing in 2002 at the height of an 80’s alternative revival, the band single handedly homogenized the sheen of 80’s synth pop with solid stadium rock anthems and rode the sound all the way to the bank. In a little under a year, The Killers went from Vegas nobodies to one of the biggest bands in the world. Before they even released a second album the band was on the bitter receiving end of a public backlash due to massive overexposure and the widely covered egoistic statements of, then 22 year-old, frontman Brandon Flowers. When the band returned in 2006 with the sophomore full length, Sam’s Town (Island) it seemed The Killers had successfully cultivated a love/hate relationship with the press but that didn’t stop them from topping the international charts yet again. The Killers, like their British counterparts Coldplay, have been consistently candid about their desire to supersede U2 as the biggest band in the world…and if they keep churning out multiple radio hits per each multi-platinum selling album they might just succeed.
After Brandon Flowers was booted from his previous synth pop outfit, Blush Response, the vocalist and his obsession with British 80’s alternative rock joined forces with like- minded guitarist Dave Keuning. The duo quickly knocked out the track, “Mr. Brightside”, setting the template for a sound that bathed in their anglophile influences while remaining distinctly their own. The songwriting pair subsequently enlisted drummer Ronnie Vannuci Jr. and bassist Mark Stoermer to fill out the line-up and christened themselves The Killer, as homage to a lyric from the New Order (also a huge influence on the band) song “Crystal”. After gaining buzz worthy notoriety in Las Vegas the band attracted the attention of a Warner Bros. representative who passed the group’s demo to the UK based Lizard King label (currently known as Marrakesh Records). Lizard King signed the band and issued the UK only limited edition “Mr. Brightside” single. After the single became a respectable left field hit in Britain the band signed a worldwide deal with Island Records and began working on their debut full length. Due to a strong publicity push Hot Fuss was a commercial success almost as soon as it was released but the massive worldwide radio rotation of the singles “Smile Like You Mean It”, “All The Things That I’ve Done”, and “Mr. Brightside” catapulted The Killers to instant international fame. Confirmation of their success came in early 2005 when the re-released single for “Somebody Told Me” shot to #3 on the U.S. Billboard charts. Subsequently, Hot Fuss remained in the Billboard Top 200 for an impressive 50 weeks.
The Killers cavalier attitude with the press also kept them in headlines, especially after Flowers instigated a media war with fellow label mates and 80’s dance rock revivalists The Bravery, whom the frontman consistently derided in several high profile interviews, for taking advantage of The Killers hard won popularity for their own gain. Ultimately, the press war with The Bravery tainted Flowers image as a controlling ego-manic, an image the frontman seemed to actively cultivate after unleashing similar verbal attacks on Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz. Yet the negative press couldn’t compete with The Killers interstellar album sales. After nearly a year of touring the band went right back into the studio with longtime U2 producers Flood and Alan Moulder. Where their previous effort revolved around the glitz and sheen of Las Vegas, Sam’s Town was more politically conscious and sonically grandiose. Flowers public image, however, evolved from egocentric rocker to full blown pariah after the frontman proclaimed Sam’s Town to be one of the best albums of the past twenty years before it was even released or reviewed by critics. Sam’s Town ultimately sold over 8 million copies worldwide, spawned the hit single “When You Were Young”, and garnered two Grammy nominations despite a lukewarm critical reception and Flowers increasingly negative media persona.
The Killers spent the better part of 2007 on a highly successful international tour, only releasing the b-sides and rarities compilation, Sawdust (2007 Island) and the Product Red benefit single “Don’t Shoot Me Santa”, which raised funds and awareness for the AIDS crisis in Africa. Flowers also attempted to perform damage control with the media by publically apologizing for his defamatory remarks toward The Bravery and Fall Out Boy, and has since kept a relatively low profile with the press. The Killers are currently recording their third full length album, which Flowers has described as a return to the dance-rock of Hot Fuss, with British electronic artist Stuart Price (aka Thin White Duke/Jacques Lu Cont) producing. In late March of 2008, The Killers announced they would be debuting new material from their as-of-yet untitlted third album at the 2008 Reading and Leeds Festivals.