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Q&A: Brandon Flowers

The Killers frontman on his gambling jones, his time with Axl and why he’s not a good comedian

Brandon Flowers, The Killers

Brandon Flowers of The Killers performs at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards, August 31st, 2006.

John Shearer/WireImage/Getty

MANY OF THE THINGS BRANDON Flowers says come back to haunt him. The Killers singer, 25, recently took a swipe at Green Day, which has caused headaches for him and his record label. And while recording the Killers’ new album, Sam’s Town, Flowers frequently trumpeted how dope he thinks the record is. “I came out with my big mouth,” he says. “And I feel bad for my band, because they’ve got nothing to do with it.” So Flowers – who takes Killers criticism like a knife to his heart – was taken aback when the Sam’s Town reviews poured in: a mix of good, bad and ugly. It was hard to top their debut, the hit parade of Hot Fuss, but as their world tour presses on, Flowers is seeing their new songs take hold. “There’s something to be said about a song that’s so catchy that the first time you hear it, you love it,” says Flowers, phoning in after a gig in Cologne, Germany. “But there’s something more long-lasting about these new songs. And there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t see, looking into the audience, the songs growing on them more and more.”

Sam’s Town was mixed loud. I can’t even listen to it on my iPod at full volume.
Maybe we’re going deaf, but we like it that way. The guitars are turned up on this album. And Alan [Moulder, co-producer, along with Flood] – he’s used to working with the Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails. Guitar-hero stuff.

And your voice is definitely more alive than on Hot Fuss.
I think it sounds better, yeah, but that could just be because I’ve been singing every day for the past three years. I love it. We didn’t use too many vocal effects. On the first album, we used auto-tune, and I didn’t even realize what was going on with these machines and the computer. I was adamant about not using it this time. You really hear what my voice sounds like, for the first time.

You recorded Sam’s Town at a studio in the Palms Casino in Vegas. How much did you gamble in the process?
I have an addictive personality, so I worry about getting into poker too much. And being from Vegas, most of us have a family member with a gambling problem. But I like the occasional turn of the roulette wheel, or a little blackjack. I think I lost a couple of hundred bucks during the making of Sam’s Town.

“Read My Mind” is another Killers classic. How did that song come about?
We had a song called “Little Angela.” But one cool thing about Alan and Flood is that, even though it was intended to be a B side, it was taken very seriously. So we’re playing the song and, looking through the glass into the control room, I could tell Alan was upset. When Alan and Flood argued, they’d go out into the hall, and it really felt like Mom and Dad were fighting. I heard Alan say, “We’re trying to make ‘Peggy Sue’ [into] ‘With or Without You,'” which came as a blow because he was basically saying my lyrics weren’t good enough. So I started singing different melodies, and in two hours it was a whole new song. I think it’s the best song we’ve ever written.

You recently slagged Green Day in the British press. Was what you said taken out of context?
It has caused so much unnecessary drama. I said it a long time ago; I don’t know how it crept up. It wasn’t taken out of context, really. The point was, if they’re so punk rock, why don’t they make their DVD in Washington, D.C., instead of in England with a bunch of English kids singing, “I don’t want to be an American idiot”? Do it in front of the White House or something.

Tim Burton had never directed a music video, but he did your new one for “Bones.” How did that happen?
I’d been kicking that song around for two years. I loved it to death, but it was old, and I thought it might end up as a B side. But [bassist] Mark [Stoermer] had this idea to put brass on it, and it just brought it back to life. The trumpets reminded me of Oingo Boingo – growing up, I was a big fan, still am – and Danny Elfman was in Oingo Boingo, and he does the music for Burton films. A light turned on. We couldn’t believe he said yes. It’s so great. It makes you feel like a kid when you watch it.

How’d Axl Rose end up introducing the Killers at the VMAs?
It was an honor. A few days before it happened, we met him at a party in L.A. after our gig at the Troubadour. And he wasn’t sure if he’d make it to New York. The reason, he said, was that he’d “just come back from London, where they had all these black cabs, and I just can’t get my head around it.”

Which makes no sense, of course.
He’s a strange man, but he’s cool.

I noticed during the show in New York that you kept talking to guitarist Dave Keuning. What do you guys chat about?
In New York we’re usually scared to death. And I don’t have anything to say to the crowd. The whole “entertain us” Nirvana line is true – people want that. It’s like you need to be a great songwriter and a comedian. Which sucks for me, because I’m not good. I feel like it’s real boring for them to watch. So me and Dave talk about DVDs, apples, bananas….

Seriously, though. Give me one example.
We were in Vegas, and Dave messed up the first five songs. On “When You Were Young,” he broke a string. He was hitting wrong notes – I don’t know where he was. I walked over to him and asked him if he’d be joining us on the next song.

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