The Killers

By Alexander Laurence

The Killers debut album, Hot Fuss, is the hottest American record of the year so far. We no longer have to leave it up to the English to satisfy our musical palette because we now have the Killers. They combine a love for British music, with showmanship and killer hooks. The Killers are Brandon Flowers (voice/keyboard), David Keuning (guitar), Mark Stermer (bass), and Ronnie Vannucci (drums). This bunch met in Las Vegas two years ago, after Brandon left his previous band. They recreate the feeling and emotion of New Wave, while saying something absolutely new.They are well dressed and the bass player looks like Jesus Christ. These guys are what the doctor ordered. I spoke to Ronnie Vannucci the day their record was released. The Killers will be playing in New York City soon.

AL: I just saw you guys play at Weenie Roast 2004 just a few days ago. That was good. You went on at about 5pm.

Ronnie: Oh yeah. That was hotter than hell. We loved it. The sun really shone on us that day. We are still cutting our teeth with things. It's good that we can get a good spot on the main stage. We do what we do with every show. It may sound cheesy but we give it our all. We hope people enjoy it. It is a battle being in direct sunlight.

AL: Brandon's face was projected on the screen quite often. He looked like he was sweating a lot.

Ronnie: Yeah. It's pretty hot up there.

AL: You grew up in the suburbs of Las Vegas? How has that influenced the band?

Ronnie: Yeah, if you can call it that. It's a strip in the middle and houses that surrounds it. I don't know if growing up there has influenced us in any specific way. Las Vegas has established itself with any music scene. You have to rely on what is happening in neighboring cities like Los Angeles. That is where people used to think they needed to go to prove themselves or make themselves known. I think that it comes down to having good songs. It doesn't matter where you live.

AL: When did you meet each other?

Ronnie: About two years ago. David and Brandon met through an ad. I met them at a gig. They had been The Killers a few months before I joined. They didn't have a solid lineup. I joined and then we found Mark. We decided that we had to get really serious. We knew we had to practice every day and write songs.

AL: How many shows have you played back then?

Ronnie: We played a few local shows. We have played a shitload of shows in La Vegas. But our first connection with the outside world was when we went to England in September 2003. It is all still pretty new to us.

AL: You went over to England first before playing any big tours in the United States?

Ronnie: Yeah. Our first tour was in England. We had played New York City and Chicago when we were still unsigned. We did a few things here and there, but England is where things started for us.

AL: What sort of shows did you play there?

Ronnie: At first we were playing shitty support acts at no name clubs. Then we got better supporting gigs. People saw us play and thought we were a good band. Things started to happen very fast.

AL: When did you record the album?

Ronnie: The record is half demos. We made a demo first. That led to a single for an indie label in England. That led to an EP and an album. We had a lot of songs recorded already. When we thought about putting the album together we kept a lot of the original demos because they all had certain spontaneity to them. Half of the songs we recorded before we ever went to England.

AL: You made a self-released EP when you played that first tour?

Ronnie: Yeah. It was a four song EP of the demos. It was released through Lizard King who was our label in the UK. When we did the album we remixed the songs. It was a limited edition. It created enough static to make some waves.

AL: When you worked on the final album, did you work with a producer?

Ronnie: We worked with Jeff Saltzman. We gave him credit. But we constructed all the songs and mostly did everything ourselves. We had a guy recording for us. We gave him producing points for recording us.

AL: Did you do live tracks or how did you go about recording the album?

Ronnie: Yeah. No recording was more than three takes. That is what I meant by the spontaneity of the record. We weren't trying to make a big record. We just tried to write some good songs and play good and try to make it the best we could. We were just recording songs over the course of a year when we had time. The original demos turned out to be so good that we kept them.

AL: Did you do a lot of overdubs and vocal doubling?

Ronnie: No. There wasn't a lot of production involved. It is almost like a live show or rehearsal. We would like to work in the studio for a few months. We could see where that takes us. Maybe we will do that with the second record.

AL: How do you write songs in the band?

Ronnie: Each song is different. Some songs will come from all four of us. Someone will make up a melody or a line. Some songs Brandon brought in. He had the songs and the changes all written already. It was all there. Some songs had maybe two of us working on it. Brandon and I worked on "Believe, Me Natalie" together. Brandon and David had written "Mr. Brightside" before Mark and I were in the band. We are a band most importantly and we work on all the songs together eventually. It makes it fun because the creation of every song is so different.

AL: Brandon writes all the lyrics too?

Ronnie: Yeah.

AL: What does he write about in his songs?

Ronnie: All I know is half of his songs are half-fiction and half-autobiographical. The songs are about different subjects. If you wanted to know about anything specific you would have to ask Brandon.

AL: There is a lot of romantic longings in the songs. It's a make out album?

Ronnie: You think so? There is some romantic stuff in there. That description would belong to us.

AL: I was reading the NME. They compared your band to The Smiths. Are you Smith obsessive like they say?

Ronnie: We are not obsessed with The Smiths. The Smiths were among the bands that all four members grew up with. Those were our generation's bands. Those were some of the first tapes we bought. Those were some of the first things we discovered for ourselves so it's personal. It's very easy for us to be in a room and make music because we have a common background.

AL: Some of these articles also mention U2.

Ronnie: Yeah. U2 is a wonderful band. I still really look up to them.

AL: What are some other bands that are definitely influences but people haven't pointed out before?

Ronnie: We are fans of British music, but we are also fans of American music. We like the Talking Heads, Blondie, and others. We also like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Strokes, and Interpol. We like Tom Petty, Tom Waits, and Lou Reed. We like music in general. We just don't listen to The Cure and The Smiths. That needs to be known.

AL: Does Brandon Flowers have a shrine to Robert Smith or Morrissey on his wall at home?

Ronnie: No! Hell no! Actually we did play some shows with Morrissey. We talked to him and he was positive. That was some good validation of what we were doing.

AL: What other bands have you played with that you liked?

Ronnie: We just recently did three shows with Yeah Yeah Yeahs. We were really stoked to be doing shows with those guys. There are some great bands in England that people should listen to like British Sea Power, The Black Velvets, The Departure, and Surfer Rosa from Norway. We really enjoyed playing with those guys. There is a band in London called The Glitterati. They just finished a tour with David Lee Roth. They are really good.

AL: The song "Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll" is on the UK album but not on the American issue. Why is that?

Ronnie: We decided that England would be more receptive to that song. We wanted to make the albums a little different.

AL: Have you seen any good movies?

Ronnie: We saw Harry Potter when we were in London. Daniel Radcliffe is apparently a fan of The Killers.

AL: He is obsessed with The Killers. I read that interview. I was shocked. He is supposedly the second wealthiest teenager in England. He could buy a bunch of copies of Hot Fuss and keep it in the charts all year.

Ronnie: Wow! Who knows?

AL: What are you up to this summer?

Ronnie: We don't have a day off until the middle of October. We are playing all the festivals except Reading and Leeds. We will be at Glastonbury, T in The Park, V Festival, Fuji Rock, and a few more. I don't know exactly where we will be for the next three months.

AL: When will you do a proper tour of the great American cities?

Ronnie: It starts in July.

AL: What is your favorite part about being a musician?

Ronnie: Playing live shows is probably the best for me. What is good about that is it's true for the most part. It's a true representation of who we are as people and musicians. We are out there naked. We are giving them a show. That is the best thing about music: going from a hot garage with some songs to a hot stage with people who enjoy the music.

AL: You are really a great drummer. It's like the second coming of Keith Moon.

Ronnie: Thanks. I haven't destroyed any drum sets yet.


Neil Howie spoke to Mark Stoemer of the Killers

2004 was an amazing year for The Killers. From meeting heroes like Bono and David Bowie to playing massive shows across America and Europe, they are fast turning into serious hero contenders.a

Their debut album 'Hot Fuss' recently went Platinum over here in England, while in America, where they've just completed a special tour with Franz Ferdinand, Keane, Snow Patrol and Modest Mouse, the record is edging ever closer to that magic million mark. As if that weren't exciting enough, they've also been nominated for three Grammy Awards, so what better way to start another brilliant year than with The NME Awards Tour? It finds the band joined by The Futureheads, Bloc Party and The Kaiser Chiefs for a gig at Rock city on Monday. 2005 then, even more exciting than 2004!

How does it feel to be part of this tour?

"It feels really great. It's so cool that we're on this tour and the fact we're the headlining band makes it even cooler. We're really looking forward to it and we're going to make it a show to remember!."

What should people expect from a Killers performance?

"I think we are a whole different thing live than on record. We bring a whole load of energy and we definitely try to make every performance something special. We're getting better and better right now, we've had a year of touring and it gets really exciting playing these shows. We're more raw, more brutal on stage. When we connect with the audience and they connect with us amazing things happen."

How have you developed or changed as a band over the last twelve months?

"In the live shows as much as anything. Through all the touring we've done we've learnt how to make a live show that really works. At first we were a little nervous and had to concentrate on what we were playing - now those songs are second nature and that means we can concentrate on making a great show. We've been thrown in front of huge crowds a few times now and it's always worked out so we're more able to relax on stage and that's made us a better live band. We've seen the ups and downs of this whole rock and roll thing too. The ups are really great, being able to do this as a career is fantastic, doing what one in a million want, what everyone who plays their guitar in a garage dream of. Being able to play your own music for people and meeting your heroes, we've met Bono, Elton John and David Bowie, is just awesome."

"That's surreal, two years ago these people were only in our fantasies! Now they actually know who we are and appreciate our music. But the downs can be bad - up until a couple of months ago we were still in a van. You hardly ever sleep, you hardly ever go home, in some way it's a mad way to live- most nights I sleep in a little coffin bunk on the floor of the bus - but it really is all worth it. I'm not complaining, you understand!"

What are the other bands on the tour like?

"They're great, I'm really looking forward to seeing Bloc Party and I really like that Futureheads record. It's gonna be great."

Will there be lots of rock and roll action on this tour?

"Not from us! Off stage we're one of the least rock and roll bands you could ever meet! We're right down to business, it's a bit of a clich?, but we really are about the music. It's such a hard thing to do and it's so much work that you need to rest or you'll get burnt out really fast."

Franz Ferdinand were in a similar position to you last year and they've gone on to be hugely successful, does that put the pressure on you?

"Sort of. But in America we're pretty equal. They've been selling a lot of records in the States, but we're catching up. We're doing really well in the UK, so, independent of their success, we always thought we'd be successful anyway. But it's great to see bands even close to what we're doing being successful. It's a positive sign."

What do you want people to take away with them from a Killer's show?

"We want them to come out of a show knowing they felt something and they were moved by the songs. We want them to feel good and to know they got something different than just what they would hear on the record. I guess it's a connection, a musical and personal one. But most of all, we want them to have a good night!"

You'll be stuck on a tourbus for almost a month, what will be the most difficult part?

"Sleeping on the floor, the bus jerking around, nine other guys around you at all times, the lack of privacy, everytime you look up seeing someone's ass sticking out of a bunk, so many things. But you get used to it."

You're going to thirteen cities on the tour, do you have particular favourites?

"I love London, of course! But that's easy. Nottingham is fantastic too, every time we go there it's amazing. All the audiences in Scotland are insane, Glasgow in particular, but we've not had a bad show in England yet, so we're really looking forward to this tour."

Do you have a secret, pre-gig ritual?

"Kind of a little one. We have a huddle and sometimes we'll talk about things that might have gone wrong the night before. We talk about what to do, what not to do, how important the show is. Other than that we just hang out and do our thing!"

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