The Nevada rockers released their first Greatest Hits compilation – titled ‘Direct Hits’ – in November 2013. It was a big step for a band only four albums into their career. The 18-song compilation featured two brand new songs – ‘Just Another Girl’, which saw the band reunite with longtime collaborator Stuart Price, and ‘Shot At The Night’, produced by M83’s Anthony Gonzalez. Legendary Killers frontman Brandon Flowers was kind enough to pen us an exclusive, revealing track-by-track for the record delving into memories of the past:
“I remember being in the studio, recording the demo but still writing the lyrics. I was procrastinating, and that’s why the second verse is the same as the first one, but it just stuck. What strikes me about it is how powerful that song still is, and the second verse is still as powerful as the first one, every night. There’s just something about it. It’s a moment.”
Somebody Told Me
“This song really brought out the band’s strengths at that time. I was 20, 21, and just trying to write about what I was doing and seeing in these indie nightclubs in Vegas. I was listening to Pulp and David Bowie, trying to channel all of that stuff. It’s one of Mark’s greatest moments on the bass, too. It’s a really great collaboration.”
Smile Like You Mean It
“It’s more melancholy, but it really translated to a lot of people. It was very personal to me, and that’s one of the things that’s amazing about music – we all bring our own meaning to songs. It was quite a sophisticated song for where we were at that time, I think.”
All These Things That I’ve Done
“When that one was cooking I was really into U2’s ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’. I thought that was an amazing comeback for them, and I was blown away by how many great songs were on that record. There’s an earnestness, spirit soul to U2, and I was trying to channel that. I wanted a song that stood up to those songs. We also took the bassline from a David Bowie song called ‘Slow Burn’, from ‘Heathen’, although enough time has probably passed now that I think he probably won’t sue us!”
When You Were Young
“We’ve been guilty of having a lot of chords in our songs, and there’s not anything necessarily wrong with that, but there’s something great about simplicity. ‘When You Were Young’ is just one progression which repeats, with a couple of small variations, but it was instantly powerful and once I heard it, I came up with the melody and the title within 20 minutes. It was one of those exciting moments that you read about, and I’ve been lucky enough to be part of it a few times. This was definitely one of them. Live, it took a huge load off my shoulders too – there was a lot of pressure on us when ‘Hot Fuss’ did so well, and that song was just a total relief! I knew that song had something about it, and I’m thankful for it every night. It kept the fire in us, it kept the ball rolling.
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Read My Mind
I love ‘Read My Mind’. Every producer is different, but they’re all leaders. That’s why we enlisted Flood and Alan Moulder for ‘Sam’s Town’ – they were two guys who had a huge amount of experience and had worked on a lot of records that we loved, and this was where their experience and leadership came into play the most. We had a different song called ‘Little Angela’, but it just wasn’t ‘Read My Mind’. My melody was a little too much like ‘Mrs. Robinson’, the lyrics weren’t great, and Alan had the balls and the courage to tell me – he said ‘Let’s keep this template, and write a different song over it.’ So the song was born out of us jamming that old song, and it grew from there. When we play it live, you can tell it means a lot to people, and that’s definitely one of the songs that attracts people to the band.”
For Reasons Unknown
“We wrote it on the road, while we were touring with Louis XIV. It was written really quickly, and it’s got a real urgency about it because of that. We recorded it live, and I’m playing bass on it – that’s the only song on any Killers record where I play bass.”
“‘Human’ was controversial within The Killers way before it was controversial to the rest of the world! It caused some problems within the band. Not to throw anybody under the bus, but it was pretty much me and Dave against Mark and Ronnie for a little while. We were standing up for the song. For me, it was a reaction to the criticism of ‘Sam’s Town’. That’s not to say it’s just a bubblegum pop song – it’s pretty subversive, and I’ve always thought of it as being very Bowie. But I specifically went in a certain direction with that song, and Stuart Price’s production is amazing on it. Dave’s guitar part, too – it’s genius, and I think it’s kind of gone under the radar, because people don’t realise it’s a guitar! It’s a really imaginative and unique guitar part.”
“We’re always making demos, and on our way to South America, we had a few days off so we went to the rainforest in Panama. On the plane on the way there, I was humming the verse, and I couldn’t wait to lay it down and we made a demo with Ted, our touring musician, in the hotel room in Panama. That demo probably isn’t that different from the final version.”
A Dustland Fairytale
“That song is me not being completely able to let go of ‘Sam’s Town’! I wanted to – I wanted to go in a new direction, and there were a lot of new sounds on ‘Day & Age’, but on that song, I was really holding onto the last record. I still love ‘Sam’s Town’, and you can really hear it in the words and sentiment of that song. It’s more like an extension of ‘Sam’s Town’, and not a reaction to it. It’s one of the more personal narratives I’ve written, and it seems like the more personal I get, the more the fans respond and grow attached to the song.”
“It was started on the road. I did a version with Stuart and my solo band, but there was always something missing, so we brought in the freight train – Vanucci, Stoermer, Keuning, Brendan O’Brien and Steve Lilywhite. Another hero on that one is Alan Moulder, and his mixing job. The song wasn’t living up to its full potential until he mixed it, and it was nice having him emerge onto the scene again. If people feel there’s something familiar about it, it’s probably because of that. It’s a powerful song, but it was either brave or stupid of us to let it be the face of the last record – the content isn’t what you normally hear on the radio, and we felt like we were maybe taking a chance, but we made the right choice.”
Miss Atomic Bomb
“We worked with so many producers on ‘Battle Born’, and a couple of them didn’t like this song. It was sort of put on the shelf until I heard it again when I was going through demos at the end of the record. I loved it and I wanted to pursue it… so we pursued the hell out of it! It’s a companion to ‘Mr. Brightside’.
The Way It Was
“With 20/20 hindsight, this song probably should’ve been a single. That’ll probably be what’s written on its headstone! When we play it live and Dave’s riff starts, it’s magic. We all love that song, so that’s why it’s on here.”
Shot At The Night
“It’s very of-the moment, and it’s classy. It’s not sleazy, and that’s something that I like about it as well. I wrote it in Australia, on the Battle Born tour. It’s pretty different from what’s on ‘Battle Born’, so I’m still kind of getting used to it! But I’m glad it’s spearheading ‘Direct Hits’, because that’s what we are – we’ve never stuck to just one thing, because that’s just stifling. I’m proud of that. There’s 50 or 60 years of rock music out there, and we love so much of it. So it’s another flavour for us. I love it, I’m really excited about it.”
Just Another Girl
“We did this one with Stuart Price, who’s become like my brother now: we work well together, and I’m always impressed with his musicality and his taste. It’s in a different vein from ‘Shot At The Night’, it’s more of a narrative. You’re ‘in’ the song in a different way.
Mr. Brightside (Original Demo)
“I remember making the demo, and I was naive to everything. We passed the demo out, and I remember a girl who worked at one of the record stores in Las Vegas said to me, ‘Oh, Mr. Brightside, that should be your first single.’ That word had never even occurred to me before. It was way farther down the road than where I was in my headspace at the time. But something came to me when I heard her say that. I knew I had to sort of man up, to get my head in the right space!”
When You Were Young (Calvin Harris Remix)
“I don’t know much about remixers, but I know Calvin is one of the heavy-hitters, and he chose this song to remix. It’s strange to meet these people who you read about or you see on billboards, and they tell you about the impact that ‘Hot Fuss’ or ‘Sam’s Town’ had on them, and he was a big fan of those records.
“In this climate that we’re in, or whatever you want to call it, people pick and choose songs, and I think in the confusion of that process, they sometimes don’t know about certain songs. This is one that we’re very proud of and that we love, so we felt it would have more of a chance if we put it on the record.”