Earlier today, The Killers released their monumental seventh album, Pressure Machine. The Vegas-native foursome are objectively one of the biggest rock bands of our generation, regularly packing out stadiums around the world like they were casual theatre gigs. But in the early months of 2005 – riding hot the heels of their game-changing debut, Hot Fuss, the June prior – they were still the “ones to watch”. They were the epochal “buzz band”.
On the other side of the ring were Scottish indie-rockers Franz Ferdinand, who’d also cracked the mainstream with an ’04 debut (theirs self-titled). The two bands essentially shared a fanbase, with similar styles, aesthetics and approaches to their artistry. So, naturally, the OG BLUNT team had a genius idea: what if they could somehow go two-for-two and get Franz Ferdinand’s vocalist and bassist – Alex Kapranos and Bob Hardy, respectively – to interview The Killers? They could have the sensations of 2004 go head-to-head with the sensations of 2005!
Lo and behold, that’s exactly what they did! Like, to a T: the tagline for BLUNT #39 was literally, “The sensations of 2004 go head-to-head with the sensations of 2005!”. To ready ourselves for a leap straight into the Pressure Machine, we’re headed back to the halcyon days of ’05 to see what Kapranos and Hardy had to ask 3/4 of The Killers. Come join us!
VS. THE KILLERS
The clash of pop rock titans! Alex Kapranos and Bob Hardy of Franz Ferdinand give a good old-fashioned grilling to the new sensations of 2005, The Killers. By Rob Fitzpatrick/IFA.
When your aunty starts telling you about “this great new band” she’s heard, you know it’s gone to another level. It happened to me last year when Franz Ferdinand roared out of Scotland with the brilliant single “Take Me Out” and a solid debut album. Franz Ferdinand were the fresh hit of last year, scoring every New Kid On The Block accolade going, rocking my Aunty’s I-Pod almost non-stop, and clean sweeping all the awards pools at year’s end. By that time, Hot Fuss, the debut by Las Vegas foursome The Killers was already out (it was released in June). However, like any organic rags-to-riches story, the buzz took time to build, and now, almost a year later, The Killers are the undisputed hit sensations of 2005.
The Killers – Brandon Flowers (vocals/keyboard), Dave Keuning (guitar), Mark Stoermer (bass) and Ronnie Vannucci (drums) came out to Australia in December last year for a brief 4-date blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em visit and ever since have seen sales go off the Richter scale. Hot Fuss hit Number One on the ARIA chart in February, and at the time of writing was still hovering in the Top Ten. It’s sold Platinum here, and by the time you’re reading this will have spent around 30 weeks in the Top 40. They’re even my aunty’s new favourite band! And with singles the calibre of “Mr. Brightside”, “Somebody Told Me” and “Smile Like You Mean It”. it’s no bloody wonder.
Like Franz Ferdinand, The Killers love an eighties revival. Though they formed on different sides of the globe, both Franz and The Killers are leading a surge of rock acts taking cues from the pop of that era. They are taking it to the masses, which is heartening, not only to coattail-riders like The Bravery or Kaiser Chiefs, but to anyone who likes to see rock music infiltrating the mainstream that’s not Linkin Park or Nickleback.
To bring this pair of current pop rock titans together, Blunt asked Franz Ferdinand’s singer/guitarist Alex Kapranos and bassist Bob Hardy to jot down some tough(ish) questions for us to pose to Brandon Flowers, Dave Keuning, and Mark Stoermer of The Killers.
This is what went down…
Do you see yourselves as a pop group?
Brandon: No! We’re a rock ‘n’ roll group who have a pop feel. It’s in our blood, we write catchy songs. We’re not afraid of pop songs, but that doesn’t make you a pop group. As far as I’m concerned, anything that’s ever been a hit, even old Ozzy, is a pop song. So, in that context, we’re a rock group who writes pop songs.
Dave: I think we are [a pop group] sometimes, and sometimes we’re a rock group. We’re neither one all the time.
Mark: In some ways we’ re trying to bring rock back to the pop format; or the other way around. In the last twenty years the pop and rock worlds have split so much, but in the 60s, 70s and 80s rock bands always wrote pop songs. The Beatles, The Stones, The Cure all those bands. Now it’s seen as uncool and the mainstream has become sterile. There’s no substance in pop now. We hope to bridge that gap and bring heartfelt, quality, intelligent songs back to the mainstream.
Is there a Las Vegas scene, or did you develop in a vacuum?
Dave: There is a scene, but it’s small and very negative. We got no support at all from local press. If you can get 40 people you are a superstar. And it’s hard to find places to play; it’s frustrating. It’s all metal there, but we were so different we stuck out.
Mark: The scene is very small and it has to compete with so much. Why go and see some local band when you can see Seigfried and Roy! Musically, a lot of bands there are ten years behind, so we broke out and did our own thing. We grew our own thing. We played coffee shops, transvestite bars, anywhere that wasn’t normal.
Brandon: But we played alongside a lot of unsuitable bands. We’d get thrown in between nu-metal and rap metal bands. It was weird, but people talked about us. had lip-gloss on. Or there was glitter, there were songs that made you think. People didn’t know what to think. We developed a following faster than anyone else. Within a year we had 200 kids coming to every gig and that’s a big deal in Las Vegas.
Why do you sound like you do?
Dave: I don’t know how we sound! We all had mixed influences, but there was lots of stuff we all liked. We all loved U2, Depeche Mode, The Beatles, Duran Duran and that left a mark. go through phases of having a new favourite band every month. I have a couple of weird ones I love that the others can’t stand, like Tortoise. The first four albums are amazing. Actually, me and Ronnie love them.
Mark: It’s the sum of everything the four guys in the band grew up with; all the influences, all the good and bad things.
Brandon: No effort made to sound a certain way; there was no plan. The first thing we ever did was “Mr Brightside”, so it was pretty set on. At the time I was what we had going really into David Bowie…
That’s fairly obvious from “Mr Brightside” – we’re surprised his lawyer’s didn’t call up.
Brandon: Well… Yeah! It wasn’t trying, it just came out. It’s the same for everyone in the group. The only thing we tried to do was not sound nu-metal. Although, we don’t have any nu-metal in us.
“I never got to see Nirvana and I really regret that. I’m from Iowa and they came through once and I had a ball game to play so I thought I’d catch ’em next time. Six months later he (Kurt Cobain) was dead.“
What’s the first record you ever bought?
Brandon: The Cars’ Greatest Hits. I was12. What a day!
Mark: Public Enemy’s Yo! Bumrush The Show. I was given other records as a kid, but when was ten years old and just getting into rap bought it and it really appealed to me. In some ways it sums up what I’m into. It has pop sensibilities, but it’s left-of-centre too. love the noises on it too. It’s atonal and dark, but very mainstream.
Dave: Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It was so big that me and my brother both had a copy and my mum wrote “Dave” on mine so we wouldn’t fight about it. It’s one of the best albums ever. He’s weird, no one iS disputing that, but God he made some great songs. Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad and Dangerous are a string of four, genius albums. “PYT” and “ Man In The Mirror” are my favourite tracks.
What do you not agree on?
Mark: Brandon and Dave are big Pet Shop Boys fans, while me and Ronnie aren’t. like Mars Volta and 50s and 60s jazz, like John Coltrane that I know Brandon can’t stand. He loves pop songs and melody. love pop songs too, but also like it when music can make you feel things for no reason. I like it when music can make you think, when it surprises you, probably more than the other guys.
What did your grandfather’s do for a living?
Mark: Wow! That’s weird. My paternal grandfather was an engineer. He built rocket launch pads and stuff. My maternal grandfather was a transport driver in the US military. But he also had his own dry-cleaning business.
Brandon: My maternal grandfather sold cars and my paternal grandfather worked in a grocery store as a produce man.
Dave: One is into heating and air-conditioning, as is my dad. I was supposed to do it, but I didn’t have the knack. I know my dad would love it if I came to work with him one day, but it’s working out pretty good so far doing this. Maybe twenty years from now. My other grandfather was a painter.
Are there any look-a-likes in the band?
Mark: Everyone thinks Dave looks like Val Kilmer, although think that’s a stretch. People say Ronnie looks like Andy Kaufman or George Bush. I get Dave Gilmour a lot. Brandon never really gets one.
Brandon: I don’t look like anybody. Dave looks like Val Kilmer, especially in Alexander. Mark looks so much like Dave Gilmour it actually scares me. He also looks like Jesus. Ronnie has a few. He does George Bush, Chevy Chase, the bass player from Nirvana and Andy Kaufman.
What can you cook?
Mark: Not much. Toasted cheese sandwiches is about it. Dave: Does frozen pizza count? I can make pancakes – the ones where you add water. I make ramen noodles too, but I’m sick of them too. Even if I was dirt poor I wouldn’t eat them again. went through an egg sandwich phase too. 33 cent bread and eggs – cheap but every day for 18 months? Bad idea.
Brandon: We have this thing called “Sailboats” (laughs). You take biscuits – not cookies, but like dumplings all the white meat from a cooked chicken and make all these little patties from the raw dough and you stick them full of chicken and cheese and roll em into a ball. Make a ton of ’em, cook em for a few minutes in the oven and make or buy cream of mushroom soup, put the little things on the plates and cover them with the hot soup (laughs out loud). That’s my signature dish!
If you could back in a time capsule to any gig in history, what would it be?
Brandon: I would have liked to have seen The Smiths when they toured Strangeways Here We Come, or some late period Beatles shows even though there really weren’t any.
Mark: The (David Bowie) Ziggy Stardust farewell tour of 1973. Or The Who around Who’s Next?, when (Keith) Moon was still alive and (Pete) Townshend was still jumping around.
Dave: I never got to see Nirvana and I really regret that. I’m from Iowa and they came through once and I had a ball game to play so I thought I’d catch ’em next time. Six months later he (Kurt Cobain) was dead. I didn’t even score. only played two minutes.
Featured in BLUNT #39 – May 2005