Have a good cry. Then go back out and work twice as hard
Brandon Flowers (vocals): I think I cried that night [when Brandon’s first band – The Blush Response – ditched him, upping sticks as one, moving to LA in order to progress their career]. These people who were everything I knew, everything I knew about guitars and chord changes and songwriting, were leaving me. So it was really hard. But it really made me go out and search for new horizons. It was a long search, but in the end it made me more determined.
Don’t spend your life building castles in the sky
Brandon: With my first band, we spent a lot of time plotting out our own success. We talked about being on the cover of NME and all that. It got down to the level of how we were going to annoy all the people who had laughed at our plans. All the people that made fun of the stuff we were listening to, we were going to leave a stack of the magazines we were on the covers of at their doorsteps, that sort of thing. But with The Killers – no. We didn’t sit around much. We were down to business from the start.
Economic downturns produce good bands
Dave Keuning (guitar): When I met Brandon, for about a year it was just me and him in the band. Our first phone call was just before 9/11, and we started practising right around 9/11. I got fired just before then, because the store I was working at wasn’t doing any business anyway. But then after that event it was so hard to get a job, ’cos business went down the drain.
I remember my last pay cheque, I just kept it in its entirety in the bank and somehow managed to scrape by – living off ramen noodles. It wasn’t easy at all, but it was a blessing in disguise, because it allowed me and Brandon to spend lots of time together – writing songs, working on ideas, coming up with a name and a feel for the band. Having that time turned out to be a huge blessing.
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of a car chase
Dave: In the early days, we toured in a van, and for some reason we wanted to wash it. We were somewhere in Canada, putting it through a carwash. There was a sign that said, ‘Do not put your car through here if it is bigger than this.’ And it was way too big and broke a part of the carwash.
Then we tried to back out and broke it even further. The carwash manager came out shouting ‘Stay there!’ We said ‘OK’. And then we drove off – floored it. He had some kids chase us with a car. Our manager, Ryan, was driving; he cut out into traffic and he just barely made it – on a yellow turning light – just enough to screw the people behind us. It was exciting.
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Treat your digestive system with respect
Ronnie Vanucci (drums): Before we played Glastonbury the first time, we were really excited about the show. Then I ate this dodgy chicken burger. I immediately felt funny. Immediately. By that afternoon, I was firing at both ends. You’ve got the biggest gig of your life and you have to pause to vomit between songs!
Imagine your career’s on the line but you feel like maybe you would trade your career for a little bit of feeling good – maybe if you stopped shitting your pants. I think I went into a Zen state during that show. Nothing has ever been as hard since…
Always do a headcount when you get back on the bus
Ronnie: That was a nightmare date, because we managed to leave Dave at the service station on the way in. Tourbuses are big, and he’d left his phone onboard, so he had no way of contacting any of us. It took us an hour before anyone realised he was missing.
Vegas isn’t what it used to be
Ronnie: I was always interested in music, and my parents seemed to notice that and encouraged it. My mum used to work in the clubs – and this was back in the heyday of Vegas, when everybody who worked there knew everybody and everybody took care of everybody, so it wasn’t that uncommon to be able to bring your kids into a 21-plus event.
You never had to pay for a meal, you got to see shows, you could meet famous people. I could go down and watch – and sometimes hang out with – Motown artists as a 10-year-old kid. These incredible musicians would just be playing small club shows to fill in their schedules. It was a good time. But Vegas has changed in the past 10 years. It’s expanded so much – now, it’s all overrun by corporate policy and big money.
Mike Tyson makes an invaluable prop when accepting an NME Award by videolink
Ronnie: Mike’s a good friend of ours. He’s cracked a couple of skulls for us – people who owed us money. So we all thought, ‘Who do we get to put the fear of God into people?’ We said, ‘Hey listen, Mike, we’ve got another job for you…’ We met when we were having a meal in the Asian quarter of Vegas.
We were all hoarding the karaoke space, then in walks Mike Tyson. Anyway, you could just tell he was up for a bit of karaoke. He just had that look in his eye, y’know? So it was kinda love at first sight in a way. Me and Mike did ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ by Whitney Houston, and then afterwards, we shared a plate of Asian delicacies. All of that is true.
Did You Know?
*Brandon once used a Ouija board and developed a fear of the number 621, which relates to his birthday, June 21.
He remains convinced he is going to die on that day.
*Before he was in the band, bassist Mark Stoermer had a job as a medical courier – delivering body parts for transplant surgery.
*Ronnie Vannucci’s parents met when Ronnie’s mum was hitchiking through Venezuela – and his dad picked her up.
*Singer Brandon Flowers has a reputation in Las Vegas for being the best garden pea grower on the west coast of America. He developed a profound passion for pea-growing after finding a sachet of pea seeds as a child growing up in Utah.