The Killers: 10 years of unashamedly killer tunes

Brandon Flowers defends his epic rock ahead of his band's 'Best of' album and reveals what happened when he met his hero, Morrissey

On a baking hot Saturday afternoon in a Las Vegas rehearsal facility, Brandon Flowers seems to have forgotten why we're here. While the rest of The Killers and their crew loiter in the cavernous space beyond a curtain, and I sit patiently next to him on a sofa, the band's frontman is eagerly leafing through a book I've brought him.

“It's gotta be pretty good, huh?” he says distractedly as he paws through Morrissey's Autobiography. “So it's from his mouth… must have been working on it for a long time… sh*t,” says the 32-year-old with something like awe. “It's big. Damn. It's cool… Trying to see if there's any pictures I've never seen… His mom was pretty…”

Of all the British artists who impacted on the young Anglophile American, it's Morrissey who looms largest. Yes, schoolboy Brandon, the youngest of six in a blue-collar family, was mad for New Order, The Cure, Oasis and the Psychedelic Furs – likes that probably marked him out from his peers in small-town Nevada and Utah, presumably set him apart from other members of the Mormon faith, and indubitably helped form the sonic bedrock of the band he founded with guitarist Dave Keuning in Las Vegas in 2001. But it was Morrissey who most shaped Flowers. When a teenage Brandon, then a busboy in Caesar's Palace, once cleared his hero's table, it was like touching the hem of the master's robe.

Now, a decade since The Killers released debut single “Mr Brightside”, Flowers – happily married father of three young sons – is his own kind of rock idol: the devout, family-friendly, clean-cut, ambition-hungry singer with a band who have sold 20 million albums. And now it's “Best of…” time. With characteristic bravado, it's called Direct Hits.

“The initial idea,” says Flowers, finally looking up from Moz's prose, “which maybe was better, was Cream.” Come again?

“It was my idea,” he smiles before emitting a burst of his “yuk-yuk”, gasping laugh. “It was a play on the fact that we put out a B-sides compilation called Sawdust. And so it made sense to call the ones that were our best Cream.”

Flowers is a man with a canny sense of image – he fastidiously checks and approves all the photographs released of him. For his band's 15-track career highlights package (which includes two new songs) he had an album sleeve in mind, one involving the Hoover Dam and a reservoir of cream. But no graphic designer could come up with a visual that met with his approval. Then he was shown an image of a target. It fitted in with his idea of direct hits – a concept congruous with how Flowers writes his big, rousing songs: he wants to target his audience, hard.

When You Were Young(er): The Killers (David Keuning, Ronnie Vannucci, Brandon Flowers and Mark Stoermer) back in 2006 When You Were Young(er): The Killers (David Keuning, Ronnie Vannucci, Brandon Flowers and Mark Stoermer) back in 2006 “Yeah, we try,” he grins, his blinding white teeth amplifying that matinee-idol swagger. “We've never been shy about that. I'm just cut from the cloth that I'm cut from. And I'm getting better at accepting that. Because sometimes I'll get frustrated with myself, 'cause I know I could take more time, and I maybe could write better songs – and I maybe could write more avant garde or arty songs,” he says, acutely aware of those critics who deride what they perceive as bombast within his band. “And I just tend not to do that!” he adds, laughing again.

“But that's definitely what we do – we shoot for bullseyes when we get together.”

There's no room on Direct Hits for “Wembley Song”, the bespoke homage Flowers wrote before The Killers played the English national stadium this past summer.

Aside from the novelty of a song that name-checks the unglamorous London borough of Brent, the witty, heartfelt song was notable for both its roll-call of previous Wembley headliners (Queen, Madonna, Elton John, and so on) and for its pithy summation of The Killers' UK-fomented success. “'Mr Brightside' had you scratching your head/ When you heard we were from Vegas and you were positive we were from Sheffield or Camden…” Flowers sang on it.

“Oh yeah, that was definitely what people in England thought,” he tells me now, saying that early British listeners were sure his singing accent originated close to home. “All the reviews [of the first singles] mentioned that I was maybe hitting some of those 'r's a little softer than I really do when I speak. But that's just because I was so used to singing along to British music as a kid – so when I sang, that's the way it came out.”

“Wembley Song”'s lyrics continue to detail the love affair: “The seed was planted, you took us in like your own, we were bound by tradition, my how we've grown” – acknowledgement of the faith shown by the UK when “every” US label had rejected the band. That bedrock support, he admits, was mindblowing to the Las Vegas foursome, that was formed after Flowers responded to Iowan transplant Keuning's “musicians wanted” ad in a local newspaper.

“The reactions...!” he begins, recalling The Killers' opening quartet of UK shows, in September 2003, a year after bass player Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr had been hired from other Vegas bands, completing the four-piece's line-up. “Man, we were scared to death,” he whispers of their first gig, at Camden, London's Dublin Castle pub.

“There are gigs of ours you could ask me about, and I would have no clue about them. But I remember that gig – I remember everything about it. I was wearing a blazer I bought in Berkeley, California – we saw The Strokes had come out, and they looked perfect. And I was thinking: 'What have I got going on? The least I can do is go and try buy one of these blazers!' So I found one for a quarter, and I still have it. And it fits great,” this eager gym-bunny notes with evident pride.

Still, it wasn't an entirely auspicious debut. “I fell during ”Jenny Was a Friend of Mine“ – I just slipped! It was such a small stage, there wasn't room for anything. And it thought that was gonna be it,” he says with a rueful chuckle. “But we got a positive review in the NME, and I really attribute almost everything that we have now to that review. Every label in America that had turned us down was flying to Vegas after that.”

And, Flowers adds, the passion didn't abate as The Killers repeatedly toured the UK in support of debut album Hot Fuss (2004). “We had never been reacted to so physically and so emotionally – and so musically. It's part of your tradition over there. Mark would play 'Jenny Was a Friend of Mine', and in Scotland people would sing the bass line! We just don't do that over here! So it really boosted our confidence, and really helped us go everywhere else in the world.”


The weekend of our meeting marks the final show – a Las Vegas festival appearance – of the year-plus tour in support of the band's fourth studio album, Battle Born. But true to ambitious form they're barely pausing. British producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, The Rolling Stones) is flying in a few hours hence to record this year's Killers Christmas single (their eighth; all proceeds from it go to Bono's [Red] charity).

“It's a celebration of this decade for us,” Flowers says of their European trip. “Some people maybe wouldn't do so much for a 'Best of...' But I was introduced to a lot of music from bands' 'Best of's, from Elton John to The Cars to Otis Redding, Johnny Cash… So I want to promote it! I'm happy to have one.”

Over that decade, did he ever have a proper meeting with Morrissey?

“I met him one time, and we don't really talk about it!” he replies, hurriedly. “I happened to meet him when [Flowers's 2010 solo album] Flamingo was coming out, at [Los Angeles hotel] the Sunset Marquis, and we talked for a few hours.” He pauses. “How come we're talking about this? I've not talked about this!” he gasps, exasperated. “No! I'm not gonna talk about it!”

“You have to,” I say. “I gave you his book.”

“All I'll say is… ah… He knew Flamingo was gonna be No 1 in the UK – he's up on that stuff. I didn't even know it was gonna be No 1.”

We've established that he thinks Morrissey walks on water – but is Flowers really saying that he thinks Bigmouth is clairvoyant too?

“No, he's obviously looking at midweek charts and stuff. And I said, 'well, but I'll be lucky if I'm Top 20 in America.' And he said, 'but isn't England the only place that matters?' I think he understands that side, our beginnings...”

Did Moz impart any sage advice?

“Um, not necessarily… I'm divulging too much, I think… OK, he asked me why I did it. Why do I do this? And no journalist has ever asked me that. And I just fumbled over myself. I had no good answer. And 10 minutes later he would ask me again – 'why do you do this?'” Flowers laughs again. “That's probably the most philosophical, deep question. So now I find myself thinking about it more than I ever would have.”

And does he have an answer yet?

“No, I don't have an answer. And it's been three years…”

Did Flowers ask Morrissey why he did it?

“No!” he blusters with an “as if…” look. “He was in charge!”

'Direct Hits' is released on Monday

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth


Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee