The lead single from Brandon Flowers’ second solo venture ‘The Desired Effect’ premiered on Radio 1 tonight and it’s a percussion-led, atmospheric epic signalling the start of a new chapter in The Killers’ frontman’s career. Produced and recorded with man-of-the-moment Ariel Rechtshaid between Battle Born Studios in Las Vegas and Rechsthaid’s lair in California, ‘Can’t Deny My Love’ possesses the stadium sound only a man who has Wembley under his belt could bravely push out for his solo project. It was written by Flowers with long-time drummer friend Darren Beckett and features talk of running to the hillside in the lyrics, pulverising synth lines from Brandon and Rechtshaid and classic keys that recall the ambition of ’80s Kate Bush pop belters.
Forthcoming album ‘The Desired Effect’ is due on May 18, the follow-up to 2010’s ‘Flamingo’. It contains published lyrics – a first for Brandon. “I’m more open to bearing my soul this time, more confident,” he tells me. “Now that I have a few albums under my belt. I feel I’ve evolved.” Sat among some backstage haystacks at The Bunkhouse Saloon in downtown Las Vegas this past Saturday where he launched this new era to a small hometown crowd, he cuts a hungry if not nerve-wracked figure. He praises his partnership with Rechtshaid, revealing the nitty gritty behind a give-and-take relationship that pushed him into uncomfortable territory. “Fights and hugs and laughs, we had it all,” he recalls. “It was nice to have the confidence in Ariel the way I did. I needed it. That’s something that comes with age, when I realise I can’t do it myself any more.”
‘Can’t Deny My Love’ seems to be about an elephant in the room: “What’s going on in your head now, maybe something I said/I know that you’ve been living in the past.” Where other tracks on the record are about fictional characters, ‘Can’t Deny My Love’ is from Brandon’s perspective as he explores unquestionable affections for something or someone: his wife, his three kids, his fellow Killers, or perhaps music itself. “I don’t do this as a vanity project. I just perform and write songs and wanna keep doing it.” Delivering the track live for the third time with a muscular falsetto that just keeps getting better, Flowers points out at the crowd, coaxing them to join in. Of course, they don’t yet know the words but you can sense this radio-friendly power rock being as raucously received as some of The Killers and ‘Flamingo’ favourites he sandwiches in and around three newbies this evening.
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“I had a lot of fun. I was more nervous than normal,” he says, unable to sit still. “I thought the response to ‘Can’t Deny My Love’ was great. But then we did ‘Dreams Come True’ [the title for the album’s opening track] and I thought, ‘Shit, did I make the wrong choice on the single?’ ‘Dreams Come True’ felt like a hit out there!”
It’s exciting to talk to a frontman teeming with huge aspirations for a new album, displaying the boyish excitement of a musician starting from scratch. “Oh yeah, this album’s different. It’s different, alright!” Ariel Rechtshaid tells me he didn’t feel Brandon was complacent with The Killers, just looking for new avenues. “I saw The Killers play a show while we were working and he was truly loving what he was doing. I just think once you’ve done something so well for four records, and you still have the fire inside, you’re bound to try a new approach. He has so much music pouring out of him.”
That fandom for 80s pop rock has resulted in a record containing guest spots from the likes of keyboard legend Bruce Hornsby and Danielle Haim on drums, plus a thrilling sample of Bronski Beat’s ‘Smalltown Boy’ on ‘I Can Change’. “It took a long time to track Jimmy Somerville down for his permission,” he chuckles. “Longer than you’d think! Haha!”. Together with the new track, he’s also announced live dates which take in a UK tour, including a headliner at Brixton O2 Academy in London (May 21). The album artwork uncannily resembles his hero Morrissey, another frontman whose prolific passion for creating drives him to continue.
“I’m not necessarily looking for a new audience. I’m definitely not catering to my audience either. I just love these songs. That’s the most important thing. I’m not jumping on a bandwagon. Ariel was really able to bring things to the now. My sound was stuck in 1978 and he brought it into the future.”
Ariel Rechtshaid wasn’t just helping Brandon achieve new heights in the studio. He’s inspired his video direction too. The ‘Can’t Deny My Love’ video has been teased on Brandon’s Facebook and website with snippets resembling some sort of twisted Indiana Jones by night. “Ariel got me more into Kate Bush than I had been before. He showed me the video for ‘Cloudbursting’ or ‘Cloudbusting’… whatever… Kate had the idea of adapting a story to a video. I have this book of Great American stories and I read one called ‘Young Goodman Brown’ and felt like the story worked with the song.” The video stars Richard Butler of the Psychedlic Furs and Hollywood actress Evan Rachel Wood and will premiere shortly.
Brandon plays Webster Hall in NYC tomorrow night (March 24) and will be sticking to a similar set. ‘Flamingo’ will be the main focus again, peppered by Killers favourites and the odd new track. But you imagine ‘Can’t Deny My Love’ will pick up a growing fanbase as he brings it to more audiences – and soon enough he’ll be playing everything off ‘The Desired Effect’.