Brandon Flowers: The Killer Inside

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The halls of the Gramercy Park Hotel are dark and discreet. They lead to rooms swathed in lush, sensual tones of moss and sapphire and crimson, the latter a predominate color that naughtily insinuates that a red light is illuminating the suite. Into this bohemian enclave – which feels like an upscale house of ill repute circa 1900 – walks squeaky-clean Brandon Flowers. Fresh-faced, his hair neatly combed, and dressed in neatly pressed pants and shirt, The Killers frontman surveys the room before elegantly planting himself down on a velvet chair.

“The other night, I was with some guys in the Rose Bar,” he says of the dive bar-turned-cocktail lounge downstairs, which has hosted everyone from Babe Ruth to Bob Marley. “And we all ordered tea. They didn’t have any, so we left. That’s gotta be some sorta first here.” He giggles to himself.

In a sense, his predilection for tea over, say, Stoli is the reason Flowers is here today. A few years back, when his band was touring behind its second studio album, Sam’s Town, the singer had a revelation: “I stopped going to parties and writing in my hotel room at night. It frees up a lot of time – it’s amazing! You wake up, you feel better, and you’ve got more time in the day!” Thus (slowly) begat Flamingo, his solo album that was originally meant to be a Killers album, before his bandmates decided to take an indefinite hiatus. “The afterparties and things were the only times we ever hung out. So it put a distance between us,” he explains in his quiet, flat voice, each word spoken deliberately. “It’s not like we don’t like each other, but there’s something lacking there. I’m hoping the space we’re taking now is going to bring something fresh.”

Flamingo, for which he’ll tour, isn’t the radical departure you’d expect from a frontman cultivated in the early naughts who’s bent on sowing his oats (see Interpol’s Paul Banks and The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas). But it is something different: an exploration of redemption and love in Las Vegas. “This probably shows its face because of my [Mormon] religion and that growing up there kind of prepared me to be in a band,” he says.

The project sounds like a Killers album that makes accessible excursions into crescendoing pop (first single “Crossfire”) and roots (“Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts”) and even gospel (“On the Floor”). “It was going to be this grand thing, with heavy vocals and chants,” Flowers says, adding that at another point it was going to be synth-driven. “But it didn’t turn out that way. You just can’t make that happen.”

His greatest motivator turned out to be his insecurity. Flowers wanted to impress the top-shelf producers recruited for the project: Stuart Price, who worked on The Killers’ past two albums, Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam), and Daniel Lanois (Bob Dylan, U2). Notes Flowers of the latter: “[‘On the Floor’] was actually sort of written for Lanois. I knew that he was a fan of gospel music, and he was two days away from coming to Las Vegas. So I thought I better get something cooking.”

There is also a wistfulness to much of Flamingo, which perhaps comes from the recent passing of Flowers’ mother after a long battle with brain cancer. There is a long silence during which Flowers remains impeccably composed. “I don’t know if I recognize the impact [of my mother’s death] as well as maybe someone familiar with what I’ve done before does [pause]…I guess,” Another pause. “It’s inevitable that anything that happens to you is going to show itself in the music. Like, ‘Playing With Fire’ is about me leaving the nest. It was a big deal for my parents, and that was a big deal for me, too. I was very excited to be free, but I was also scared.”

In a sense, he’s still that same kid. Admits Flowers, “I was a little freaked out that this break [from The Killers] might be longer than a year, but…” He stops himself short, looks up, then smiles politely.

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drinks with | the xx

Drinks With: The XX