The Killers' Brandon Flowers The Exclaim! Questionnaire
With new album 'Wonderful Wonderful' out, the Killers frontman talks tour stories, Morrissey and tough reviews
Published Oct 04, 2017The road to Wonderful Wonderful, the first new album from the Killers in five years, was long and winding. In the years since Battle Born, members indulged in a series of side-projects before setting to work with producers Stuart Price and Jacknife Lee. After several false starts, they found the key to the future in the past; a tour celebrating the tenth anniversary of Sam's Town convinced frontman Brandon Flowers that the band's fifth album needed to be built around a common centre.
With bass player Mark Stoermer and guitarist Dave Keuning both bowing out of touring duties, Flowers seized the opportunity to make his most personal album to date, ruminating on modern masculinity and where he sees himself in that continuum as he moves from the swinging braggadocio of lead single, "The Man," to more tender fare, like "Some Kind of Love." "What I've come to find," he recently told Entertainment Weekly, "is it's really more about empathy and compassion."
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
If I went to a gig that I was fully invested in, that I was going to pay money for — and I was really receptive to spiritual experiences, you know, I wanted it — I had such a reverence for the singers. I was so excited to see people like Morrissey and Robert Smith and be breathing the same air and be in the same room as Dave Gahan, so every concert I went to in my teenage years was special to me. Now, it's changed so much. I'm the singer of a band and people aren't content with just being in a room with you anymore. It's not just an autograph, it's a selfie and you can't take it with the whole group, it's got to be everybody on their own. I once went to the Hard Rock because I heard Martin Gore was at the Circle Bar at the Hard Rock, and I went and just watched him. I just wanted to get a glimpse of him and his hair and see what kind of a jacket he was wearing. I guess I had a different approach to it all.
What have been your career highs and lows?
We've had a lot of boxes checked. In the early days it would have been getting a record deal, opening for Morrissey, having a number one record in England and things like that — those things were really exciting. We played Wembley Stadium on the last tour and that was something that every band dreams about. Seeing that realized is pretty indescribable.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
After we played the Electric Ballroom in London in 2006 I read the Rolling Stone review of Sam's Town. [The review reads, in part: "The Killers leave no pompous arena cliché untweaked in their quest to rewrite "Born to Run"— even though one of the reasons Springsteen's a genius is that he's never tried to rewrite "Born to Run" himself… They seem like they're trying to make a big statement, except they have nothing to say."] That's the meanest thing ever said to me after a gig I guess.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I think I'm consistent and I work hard, I think those are things that I like about myself. What I don't like about myself? I don't know. It's not something that I really dwell upon, but I could be less judgemental.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
I have three sons, so if they're off and I'm off, I'd spend it with them and my wife. Probably do something in the wilderness and also in the city. I like to mix it up. Some of my favourite days in my life are when I've gone on five or six hour hikes and then get back into town and go to Caesar's Palace for dinner or something like that. I guess I kind of like that contrast of being able to mix those things.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
I had a pretty big mouth in the early days. Elton John basically told me to stop it and keep my head down. That's how he said it. I think I eventually got there. Don't be drawing so much attention to yourself and let the songs do the talking. It took me a long time to do that; I don't know why, but it was the right advice.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I think of probably a lot of things that people think of. I think of Neil Young, I think of maple leaves, I think of my tour manager, he's from Toronto. I think of Will Arnett, I think of Coutts, my brother-in-law and sister lived in Coutts, AB for about ten years. Those are the things that come to mind.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
The Cars' Greatest Hits on cassette. Songs like "Just What I Needed" and "Tonight She Comes" — those were the songs that spoke to me at that age. Grunge was in full swing, and I just wasn't as interested in that music. I wasn't angsty enough. The Cars spoke to me. They spoke to my tenderness and my melodic leanings. I loved how they married keyboards with guitars — they just did it so well.
What was your most memorable day job?
I worked at a French restaurant inside the Aladdin Hotel (it's now called the Planet Hollywood Casino), called Josef's Brasserie. The famous chef Thomas Keller was his brother. I was a food runner and I loved the hustle of it all. Turning the tables over, getting the food where it belongs, knowing the table numbers and feeling the money stacking up in my pocket with tips and counting it at the end of the night, there was something satisfying about that for me.
What do you fear most?
I just don't want to die. I want to get a good 85 years in. I am grateful to be on this Earth. I think that this is an amazing time to be alive. There's so much of this Earth that I haven't seen and so many things that I want to do. I don't want my ticket to get taken too early.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
Sharing an elevator with Tom Waits at the airport and not being able to find the words to express what he means to me or what his songs have done for me. So I just said nothing.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
My mom was into it. She was fully supportive. She was scared of the snares that I could have fallen into — anybody would be worried about their kid becoming some kind of casualty but she was really supportive.
The Killers' album Wonderful Wonderful is available on vinyl through Umusic.