Exploding out of Las Vegas in 2003 with their mammoth debut single ‘Mr. Brightside’, The Killers have become one of the biggest bands of this century. We’ve taken a look at the rise of the US rockers – in quotes – starting with their chest-beating 2004 declaration, “We’re trying to establish our own thing” following the release of debut album ‘Hot Fuss’. They succeeded too.
Brandon Flowers reflected on their humble beginnings playing small venues in Las Vegas before being signed: “I was always dreaming”.
As their star rose, they were quietly self-assured: “It’s good music. If it makes you smile and dance that’s OK. If it touches your heart that’s even better.”
In their very first appearance in NME, we accused them of sounding a little bit like Shed Seven. They didn’t take this kindly, later saying, “I have no idea who Shed Seven are. If we sounded like Shed Seven, they would have sold three million records and we probably would have heard of them”.
They played their first Glastonbury set in 2004 in the New Bands Tent: “I remember we were trudging through the mud, and we watched a little bit of Keane. It was the first time we’d been introduced to wellies.”
The Killers had a brief spat with The Bravery back in 2005: “People compare The Bravery to The Killers and The Bravery are offended. I took offence to that. I mean, we sold them our van, they use our press people. We’ve done nothing but open doors for them.”
Flowers wasn’t fazed by the success of ‘Hot Fuss’ and being nominated for three Grammy Awards in 2005. “I always prepared myself for the limelight”.
After being propelled to fame, in 2005 the band were only looking forward: “I think we’re all realising how big this thing is now. How this madness isn’t going to end.”
Having hit the big time, they had to accept the uglier side of the industry, telling us, “It is unbelievably rare to meet a nice band. Everyone is an asshole! There’s a certain kind of band that is really scared by us and what we do.”
Flowers explained that he didn’t buy into the indie attitude from the start: “I’m proud that I’m on Island Records. I’m happy that as many people as possible will hear our music.”
He was also confident their music would be popular across the board: “The Killers have a universal appeal. I hope it never goes away.”
“I’ve got this fire in me… I want to write better songs than everyone else” – Brandon Flowers’ competitive streak began to emerge as the band continued to gain popularity.
“Music isn’t as good as it used to be, and it could use a little more competition.” Following a year that saw them take Best International Band at the NME Awards and play at Live 8, The Killers started to up the ante.
The band were originally picked up and signed by British indie label Lizard King Records, with their first single premiering on Radio 1. “We owe everything to Britain,” said Flowers.
True to that, they were described as “Britain’s own American band”, with Brandon admitting, “We’re absolutely influenced by your music”.
Although they declared that they believe America is “still the land of opportunity”.
After another mammoth release with ‘Sam’s Town’ in 2006, they didn’t let the fame go to their head: “Life would be miserable if we went around listening to what everyone said about us and taking ourselves too seriously.”
Although they did let some of their eccentricity out: “We are tightrope-walking, skydiving wizards.”
2007 was another year of big live dates, with the band headlining Madison Square Garden. They also headlined Glastonbury, Flowers wearing a flamboyant gold suit for the set: “For the life of me I don’t understand why more people don’t wear sequins.”
The Killers continued their climb throughout 2008, picking up Best Band and Best Track at the first NME Awards USA. Their rider grew with their fame: “We’re talking about bringing in chimpanzees as party favours, just like ‘Hey check out my monkey’. There’s been talk of bringing in some helium tanks, vitamin D milk, you know: shit that really puts a party together.”
The release of ‘Day & Age’ in 2008 saw the band move in a different direction: ‘For those of you with incontinence, this album’s not for you”.
2008 also saw the band play a headlining set at Reading and Leeds festival, announcing: “We’re here to steal some souls, break some hearts, shake some meat, break some bones.”
Continuing his love affair with Britain, Flowers praised the UK festival scene. “I don’t think America has adopted its festival kids yet… it really should do, because it’s a celebration of people, but we’re too busy thinking about terrorism and hamburgers. Give us another 100 years.”
Although they played the same slot as them, The Killers remained in awe of their co-headliners Rage Against The Machine, keeping their modesty in check: “We know we’re still babies.”
Though they weren’t always so reserved: “I really do believe the world is better with The Killers in it.”
Beginning in 2008, the band set out on the Day & Age Tour, hitting every continent except Antarctica. “I never understood the cool factor you get for not making people happy. We get to make the songs we want to make, but when you’re onstage you’re a performer, and it feels natural to want to please.”
Raised a Mormon, Flowers spoke of how important his religion is to him in 2005: “I’m happy with it. As far as I know I do have morals because of my religion, but I might just as easily had them without it.”
Flowers hasn’t shied away from talking political either: “I’m in the middle with my beliefs, like everyone else… I know as a singer in a band I should veer towards the left, but I don’t. I’m definitely an optimist… and I’d be on board if someone could find a solution.”
The band hit a hitch in 2009, when they encountered a protest against them topping the bill at Coachella: “There was a petition to stop us playing Coachella. They can fuck off!”
When it comes down to it, what makes The Killers great is they’re all about the music, man. “We set out to make music that we liked, but also to make music that affects people. Music affects me deeply. There are so many bands who write bullshit, and I don’t know how they can play it every night without being embarrassed.”