The Killers’ Brandon Flowers says he’s been waiting nearly half his life for a chance at a sophomore slump.
“I’ve had this pressure since I was 12 years old,” affirms Flowers, 25, whose Las Vegas-based band sold more than 5 million copies worldwide of its 2004 debut album, “Hot Fuss,” and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart last week with fi rst-week sales of 315,000 copies of its successor, “Sam’s Town.”
“I never knew if I was going to make an album, but I felt the pressure of doing the next album and understood it at an early age. And I really think we need to get rid of the negativity of things like that. Bands don’t need to be under that pressure.”
The Killers, however, most assuredly were. With hits such as “Somebody Told Me” and “Mr. Brightside,” “Hot Fuss” indeed kicked up a fuss in the music world as well as debates between critics and other musicians about the merits of the quartet’s unabashedly ’80sinfluenced sound. It had plenty of champions, as well as a sizable embrace in the U.K. — where “Sam’s Town” debuted at No. 1.
But there were naysayers as well, some put off by the plethora of bands that came in the Killers’ wake (the Bravery, the Rapture, Panic! At the Disco) as much as by the group itself.
“A lot of the (stuff) that happened in the ’80s wasn’t really that cool the first time it happened, and now all that crap is coming back around again,” says Incubus guitarist Mike Einzinger. “I’m like, ‘Wow, it wasn’t cool the first time,’ y’know?”
But Flowers — who took his own swipes at groups such as Panic! and Fall Out Boy, which he subsequently recanted — says he and bandmates Dave Keuning, Mark Stoermer and Ronnie Vannucci Jr. take such smack in stride.
“We got turned down from a lot of record labels,” he recalls. “One of the first labels that turned us down, one of their excuses was I didn’t have any sex appeal and I wasn’t a star.
“That’s a blow to you when you’re in a band and you’re excited and record labels are actually looking at you. It felt like a setback. But it also taught us that not everybody is gonna love us, which was valuable.”
The Killers still got enough love to put heavy expectations on “Sam’s Town,” which the group recorded with producers Flood and Alan Moulder, whose credits include Depeche Mode, U2, Smashing Pumpkins and more. The group hit the studio well aware of the trap a second album could fall into.
“People want what they wanted from the first album,” Flowers notes, “but then if you do it too much like the first album, they’ll complain. And if you change it too much, they’ll complain.”
Ultimately, he says, the Killers went for “a no-holds barred” approach.
“We did what comes naturally for us,” he says. “I think we pushed it a little bit. We took a little bit of a step toward a new direction, but we didn’t lose the pop sensibility that we had. I think that will keep us in people’s hearts.”
There’s no question, however, that “Sam’s Town” is a bigger sounding album than “Hot Fuss.” Declaring the latter “too cluttered” in hindsight, Flowers says the band drew inspiration this time from the anthemic sides of U2 and Bruce Springsteen and from conceptual works such as the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
“We didn’t sit down and A-B this song to that song or anything like that,” he explains. “We just wanted it to be — I hate saying ‘musical journey’ ’cause it’s a cliché, but that’s really what we wanted.
“We wanted to create a place where you entered ‘Sam’s Town’ and you stay there for a little while and you leave, and it has a melancholy effect when you leave. You feel sad about it, almost, ’cause you had such a great time being there.”
The world’s point of entry to “Sam’s Town” was its first single, “When You Were Young,” a charging, full-bodied rock track that became the Killers’s first-ever No. 1 song on the Alternative/Modern Rock radio charts.
“It felt special right away,” Flowers recalls. “I had the first verse and the first chorus on the first night we had that song, so that gave me a good place to go from.
“For the band as a whole, this is our favorite song on the album. I think it’s perfect to lead off and to be the first representation of ‘Sam’s Town.’ ”
There’s more to come, of course. The Killers have already shot a video for the next single, “Bones,” with director Tim Burton. And tour plans stretch well into next year, including a larger-scale assault on North America after the group’s current theater run.
“Nobody knows what’s going to happen,” Flowers acknowledges, “but it’s a success to me already. We feel like we made a great album; it could sell 100,000 albums, and I’m still so proud of it. It’s like my baby boy or something. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.”
The Killers perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (October 17th) at the State Theatre, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are sold out. Call (313) 961-5450 or visit
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