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Week 32 : Day 2 : LV Review-Journal article 2004

Article

Walking Tall from Las Vegas Review-Journal, 30th April 2004
by Doug Elfman.
- thanks stace!


Vegas' the Killers are breaking on two continents at once

Las Vegas has produced only three big acts in more than a decade of trying -- the rock band Slaughter, hip-hop's 702 and electronic music's Crystal Method.

But here come the Killers, a glam-rock, new wave band that has a single on the radio in England, an album called "Hot Fuss" coming out on Island Def Jam in June, and two music videos headed for rotation on MTV or MTV2.

The group has even earned a coveted, if early-afternoon, performance spot on Sunday's schedule at this year's premier American musical festival, Coachella, in Indio, Calif. (Coincidentally, Crystal Method is playing at Coachella a few hours after the Killers go on.)

"It is weird doing Coachella before we even have an album out, but it's also an honor," says Killers bass player Mark Stoermer.

The Killers are ambitious. They want to be world-famous.

"Yeah, somebody's gotta do it," says singer Brandon Flowers. "We love bands like the Strokes and things like that, but we want to take it -- not necessarily just mainstream -- but to a bigger level, even song-wise. I mean, the Strokes are great, but they don't have U2 quality, like stadium. And we're not really afraid to say, 'I wouldn't mind playing in a stadium with big songs.' "

The band has the good fortune to have great marketing aspects. Bandmates have had stereotypical Vegas jobs. Spin magazine referred to Flowers, 22, as an "ex-Mormon" who "did time as a bellhop at Vegas' trashy Gold Coast Hotel & Casino." A quote in Radar magazine has Flowers saying, "If I got a dollar for every time I was propositioned up to some (sexy mother's) room, I'd be a rich man."

Stoermer, 24, worked as a courier for a medical lab, so the band's official bio contains this quote: "It was a surreal moment picking up Mike Tyson's blood-streaked piss for testing."

And the band was discovered on the Internet, Flowers says, while explaining why it is not important anymore for Vegas bands to move to Los Angeles or New York.

"We actually were found by a guy at Warner Bros. by hearing our song on LVlocalmusicscene. He was interested in our name and ended up listening to 'Mr. Brightside,' and calling us up. So it didn't really matter" what big city the Killers didn't live in, Flowers says. That Warner Bros. executive took the Killers with him to Island.

The Killers didn't perform in public as much as some other Vegas bands, which are primarily into punk, hard-core screaming and rock.

Yet, Flowers says, "we were really different from other bands. And we weren't shunned as much as I thought we would be."

The Killers' debut album, with its old-school keyboards and post-punk makeup, sounds like a better fit for CBGB in New York. The band's music sounds ready for a 1980s-style John Cusack film. Bass lines power over a low strum of rhythm guitar in the vein of New Order. Flowers' choruses hark back to the Cure's Robert Smith's in a signature search for melodies that move a lot. If the Killers' song "Smile Like You Mean It" slightly echoes any song from music history, it would almost certainly be Echo & The Bunnymen's "The Killing Moon" from 1984.

The hype is loud. The Sunday Times of London compared the Killers to T Rex, "Ziggy"-era David Bowie, Duran Duran and the Psychedelic Furs. NME magazine likened the group to the Smiths, the Strokes and the Cure.

Flowers says the band got better by not playing live all the time, but by spending more time practicing and crafting songs.

"A lot of people just want to do and do and do, and play," he says. "And you might love Metallica or the Beatles or whatever, but you need to listen to what they're doin' and what's goin' on. You don't have to steal it, but there are ideas there."

Flowers says writing songs does involve mining influences, but it shouldn't be thievery: "It's just takin' what you like, and really just throwing it all together."

His band, even though it was an anomaly in Vegas, isn't all that strange, he says.

"A lot of kids -- they want to be a little weird and things like that. And none of us are really like that. I love pop songs," he says. "You can give me some weird, ugly chord change, and I'll turn it into a pop song. I can't help it. I just really love that stuff, and we just try to write the best songs that we can."

The band, he says, tries to perform with a team-minded humbleness.

"We're cautious. It's just a maturity thing that you won't hear in a lot of local bands. Dave, playing his guitar, has gotta know when (to say), 'I can't play right here, because they want the vocals to shine right here.' And (it's) knowing when to take vocals out."

Yet, Stoermer's bass does pop out more than David Keuning's guitar. Stoermer says he's taken it as a compliment to read all the comparisons the media have made to the band's new wave and glam rock. But in addition to hearing the Cure and Duran Duran in the Killers, Stoermer says he was inspired by bass players Paul McCartney and the Who's John Entwistle, who died in Las Vegas.

The Killers are legitimately Vegas. Three of the four Killers grew up here. Stoermer and Flowers went to Chaparral High School. Drummer Ronnie Vannucci went to Clark and Western. Stoermer and Vannucci played in the UNLV marching band; Stoermer played trumpet and Vannucci drummed. Keuning is the newbie, having lived in Las Vegas for four years.

Flowers says he doesn't know if he would be a different kind of musician if he had grown up elsewhere. But he did have a sort of musical breakthrough at a show in his hometown.

"A big one for me was seeing Oasis at the Joint (at the Hard Rock Hotel) when Travis opened up for them," he says. "I got a free ticket, and I only saw the last few songs. At the time, I was really big into keyboard music. And they closed with 'Don't Look Back In Anger,' and it just shook me. That made me really want to get a guitar player. And that basically led me to find Dave, and just (tone down on the) keyboards."

Stoermer says it has been exciting to break in England, headlining up to 500-capacity shows, and opening for Stellastar in the States.

But the band's sudden flush has put it the position of having to try to break big in two nations at once, he says.

"England's kind of taking off, and now we have to develop in America at the same time. A lot of other bands get to do one at a time," he says.

Stoermer says the band knows how other music labels signed Vegas bands over the past several years just to have them wither without national recognition.

"Everybody told us about that, and so far, it seems like a different story for us, knock on wood," Stoermer says. "We've gotten pretty good treatment up to now."

Stoermer hopes the Killers keep taking off and end up doing "something good for the music scene in Vegas," he says.

"When I was growing up," he says, "I always wanted a band to come out. And I feel lucky in that we're in it. We're putting out a good album. I hope other people feel the same."

Flowers says the excitement feels "unreal right now." And there has been no backlash, so far.

"We haven't had any negative press, yet."


Media Watch
The Killers are in the latest NME (Reading/Leeds on the cover)
The Killers are in Nylon magazine (August issue)

Awards Watch
MTV VMALA - vote Best International New Artist (Mejor Artista Nuevo Internacional)

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Comments

"Ex-Mormon," huh?

Looks like they didn't get their facts straight... unless Brandon used to really say that?