“We never make anything happen. We just hope!”, The Killers
One of the first interviews you ever did was with Billboard in 2002. Ronnie, you say, “We’re ready to do whatever it takes to make people love us.” Do you remember feeling like that?
Ronnie Vannucci: Yeah, I still feel like that! Who would join a band and not want everyone to like them? When I think about it now I realise we’re lucky that we get to we get to please ourselves first, but people also like what we do. So far…
Brandon Flowers: I think it’s actually easier to say you don’t care, but we’ve always been pretty brave and honest.
As a band you took it right to the wire with this record (both laugh out loud) – you tested your nerve. Did you always know something great would come out?
R: In some ways, it always happens like that for us. Great things tend to come from pushing yourself to the limit like that. It doesn’t feel great while you’re doing it, but when you get to the top of the hill it’s a wonderful feeling.
B: We never make anything happen. We just hope!
What record first made you want to be a musician?
B: I know that Hunky Dory made me commit to being in a band.
How did it find you?
B: Well, I didn’t graduate from college but I took two classes at Community College and one day I was driving home across this overpass above the 95 freeway and Changes came on the Classic Rock station I was listening to. I’d never heard it before and at first I thought it was Bob Dylan just because of the way he sang the verses. So I hunted it down and found the album. The strange thing is I knew the bands I loved – like Morrissey and Depeche Mode and Duran Duran – were all influenced by him but I’d never sought Bowie out. That was really enlightening for me.
R: It’s a similar story for me. I was in the truck as a little kid and I heard Damn The Torpedoes by Tom Petty and I thought he was Bob Dylan too. I can really remember being in Vegas and it was so hot and the stereo was loud and I was drumming on the side of the truck. Even before that, when I first heard American Girl, I just freaked out. At that moment I couldn’t decide whether to play drums or guitar, but I knew I had to do something. It was a totally pulverising feeling.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
R: We don’t get much advice! We should actually ask more questions ourselves. I’d have liked some advice from Elvis. We all need someone older and wiser around.
B: I had some from Neil Tennant. I was feeling strange performing and knowing people have seen me do certain moves before. Those moves came originally from improvisation, but if they work I tend to keep them. Neil told me not to worry about it and that I should stick with what the people want to see.
Is there a signature Flowers move?
B: I don’t know if I really have one!
R: Oh, there are a few that I see every night. I don’t have any favourites – I don’t try and do them!
Finally, the question on all our minds… What’s your favourite noise?
R: A snare drum. Oh man, I love that noise!
B: I don’t know! If I was from, like, Newcastle I’d have a great answer for you! It would make everyone laugh. But I’m from Henderson, Nevada. Actually, there is one – I just love the sound of quarters hitting the metal plate in a slot machine.
Battle Born: Track By Track
FLESH AND BONE
B: We had the song pretty much done then Steve Lillywhite came in to assist. He suggested this new Motown-influenced section.
R: It turned out to be really great…
B: It’s like a weird left turn to Detroit, but it’s awesome! We wouldn’t have done that without him.
R: It’s my favourite bridge in all Killers tracks.
B: I wanted to do a bridge like Metronomy, but it ended nothing like them at all!
R: That was our springboard back into this way back in 2009. Brandon had a chord sequence that we were playing with before a gig. The show was shitty, so we retreated to work straight after and that’s when we got the kernel of Runaways.That was exciting, it got us in line. The direction felt right.
THE WAY IT WAS
B: We had Daniel Lanois come to town for a few days and we did so much together. I’d had the chorus kicking around for a few years and the band came up with the verse and it all just worked. It was very quick.
R: Dave had this instantly cool guitar line that just fused everything together.
B: It’s a true bridge in that one, too. A real middle 8!
HERE WITH ME
B: Phew! That’s a tender moment in Killers history!
R: That one has two bridges. And people say we’re not adventurous!
B: It’s a big song – it goes over really well live. It’s a real song – it’s legit.
A MATTER OF TIME
R: You know when archeologists do these digs and uncover artefacts like bowls and sabre tooth tiger teeth and jawbones? A Matter Of Time is us doing that, digging into our history, going back to my garage. We still have that DNA in us and it was cool to find that without looking for it, it gives credit and validity to what we were doing in a hot garage ten years ago and we’re still driven by that.
DEADLINES AND COMMITMENTS
B: That made it onto the record at the last moment! It comes from a Bob Seger song called Against The Wind – it’s one of the best songs ever written – and the words just came out of me as I sang. It has a very special feel to it.
R: It has a bass solo too. And Rototoms. That’s a first for us!
MISS ATOMIC BOMB
B: That was done early on and dismissed by one of the producers. There you see we’ve had the positive and negative sides to producers on this record. A producer can be wrong! And this one was very wrong! That song holds its own. We’ve played it live and people who don’t even know it yet love it. I love the imagery, we don’t mind being associated with Las Vegas and the desert. We actually embrace that.
R: When we got back together we had these writing sessions where we’d take a month and work every day. Rising Tide was the first complete song that came from those sessions. We put it on the back burner and forgot about it and then unearthed it again later.
B: It’s such a cool song, it sort of plays itself.
HEART OF A GIRL
B: Daniel Lanois was really involved with this one, he perfectly caught a moment in time. We sat in a circle eyeballing each other and that song didn’t even exist an hour before that recording was was made.
R: Sometimes lightning strikes…
FROM HERE ON OUT
B: That’s like a new side to us. It’s a breath of fresh air, a short song!
R: That track’s like a nutrition bar and it’s one of our collective favourites. All the dudes in the band love this one.
B: That was written the same time as Here With Me, we wanted to write ballads. I love our shows, but Killers gigs are like an assault for an hour and a half every night and it would be nice to go on more of a journey. We wrote the lyrics with Lanois at his crazy Gothic mansion in Silverlake. He’s like a spiritual gypsy – it’s fun to sink in with him and let it all happen. I love the feel of it.
R: It’s a totally arresting song for me. You put it on and you go somewhere else for a few minutes…
R: Ah, the album closer!
B: We did a song for Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie, a track by The Raspberries called Go All The Way. It has these crazy vocal arrangement on the choruses and we would sit and listen to them over and over again trying to work out what the dude was doing. So we took that idea and put it on the end of Battle Born.
R: There’s a lot of singing on there!
B: There is! So much more than we’ve ever done before…