In the Studio: Killers Fight Back With "Stripped-Down" Third CD

August 12, 2008 8:45 AM ET

After four years of nonstop touring and recording, the Killers finally took some time off before beginning work on their third album — but frontman Brandon Flowers wasn't ready to relax. He wound up using the three months of downtime to write nearly 30 songs. "Everything is at stake on this album," Flowers says. "Everything. I live through these songs. People make such a big deal about the second album: 'Do or die.' But I feel like the pressure to produce something great will always be there. It's our job, after all."

The Killers' second release, 2006's concept album Sam's Town, was an overseas smash and sold 1.3 million copies in the U.S. — about half of their debut, 2004's Hot Fuss. But some critics pegged the album's stadium-rock sound as overblown. Flowers shrugs off those gripes — "Sam's Town was a giant success. That's a misunderstood truth" — but the Killers took a new approach on this album, which was produced by Madonna collaborator Stuart Price. "This record is stripped down in a lot of ways," says bassist Mark Stoermer. "Each instrument has its place, and things aren't clouding anything up. We're not trying to be bombastic. It's our most poppy record but also our most experimental."

The band debuted two new songs from the album, "Spaceman" and "Neon Tiger," at a surprise New York club show in late July. "Spaceman" is a tight, fast pop tune, with punky, guitar-heavy verses and a funky bridge with subject-appropriate spacey synth effects. "The spaceman says, 'Everybody look down,' " Flowers sings in the chorus. The midtempo "Neon Tiger" is more anthemic and synth-heavy, with Flowers singing, "Neon tiger, there's a price on your head/Never let them touch you." Other songs include "Vibration" (working title), which Stoermer describes as "a fun dance track," and "Goodnight, Travel Well," a seven-minute experimental epic.

As Flowers tells it, criticism of the band has only made it stronger. "We learned that you can't please everyone," Flowers says. "But we've got faith in what we do, faith in our fans and faith in the soon-to-be-converted."

Related Stories:
Review: Sam's Town
Review: Hot Fuss

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

More Song Stories entries »