The Killers bassist Mark Stoermer recorded Another Life, his debut solo album, while the band took an extended hiatus in 2009. They had just finished touring in support of their third record, Day and Age.
The album – a set of polished, thoughtful country rock tunes with a touch of his band's new-wave production style – are the first songs Stoermer ever wrote on his own. (You can hear "Everyone Loves the Girl," a highlight from the album, above.) Rolling Stone recently caught up with Stoermer to chat about striking out on his own, as well as the Killers' progress on writing and recording their fourth album, which is expected to be finished sometime this year.
You’ve been playing in the Killers for a decade now – how did that experience inform how you made this solo album?
It was a completely different approach to anything I have been involved in with the creative side with the Killers, because with the Killers I never wrote the lyrics or the vocal melody, and I never sang, obviously. Usually, if I’d come up with something, it was a riff or a chord progression or maybe an instrumental melody that was applied to a collaborative effort. So, this was the first time where I was able to tell stories and have complete control over the whole thing. I never even wrote lyrics or complete songs before the band. If I took anything from being in the band I learned partly how to write songs. I think I learned a lot from being involved in the process. I applied a little bit of that to my writing. But this style is very different, because it’s just me and everything is more storytelling based.
What kind of stories did you want to tell?
It’s a combination of things that are going on in my life, things that I was thinking about. I guess real stories, but in a way that meant something to me and maybe connects with someone else if they hear it. When I was writing these, I didn’t know if I was going to even put these out, it started out just as demos, and I didn’t even know if it was going to actually sing it or anything. It was really an experiment from the beginning, just something I was doing with my time off.
When you started off doing this, were you writing it with the Killers in mind, or did you always intend for this material to exist outside of the band?
Some of it started towards to the end of the Killers touring, like in a hotel room with a laptop or like a Dictaphone. And just getting rough ideas, but I didn’t know where it was going. I think the majority of the songs were written when we finally took off from touring in 2010, the first like three or four months. At first, I guess, that was always a possibility, but it wasn’t my main focus, I was just writing to write. Then it got to the point where I decided to write more lyrics and apply stories to them.
I hear a lot of country influence on this record. Was that something you were going for here?
I grew up with it on the radio, like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson and stuff like that. I started listening to more Hank Williams probably the last few years. I don’t know, it’s there. It’s not my main influence as a whole, but there are definitely country artists that were always there in my life probably when I was a kid, just kind of seeping into my brain.
At this point, everyone in your band except for Dave Keuning has made a solo album. Are you guys planning to come back together as a band soon?
Yeah, we’ve been working on a few songs since last May. We did 12 shows last year. We were playing old songs, and we’re in the studio right now writing and recording. We go back and forth – sometimes we're writing, and sometimes we're recording. It’s been kind of a slower process than usual because it’s taken a lot to get back into the swing of things and to try to figure out what we’re about, because we’re all different people now that we had the time off. But it’s coming along. What we’re doing this year is trying to finish the new record.
How has the experience of writing your own songs from top to bottom influenced the way you work with the band now?
It’s hard to say, it possibly did in subtle ways or like in the back of my mind. But when it’s the band – it’s a "when something’s not broke, you don’t need to fix it" kind of thing. On one hand, I’ve written songs top to bottom, but I’m trying not to change the approach too much. We all have our roles kind of with what we’ve done before and it’s worked. It’s a true band where we work things out even if someone else wrote the majority of the song sometimes. But I don’t think that’s really changed when the four of us get together too much. That’s probably for the better. I think we all evolve, and you apply what you learn to a point, but at the same time we all have a role in that group anyway.