Since releasing their debut album Hot Fuss in 2004, the Killers have become one of rock’s biggest bands. Songs like “Mr. Brightside” and “When You Were Young” have ingrained themselves into the canon, and frontman Brandon Flowers has emerged as one of rock’s more compelling figures.
It hasn’t always been easy, though. The band’s most recent album — 2012’s Battle Born — received mixed reviews from critics and failed to produce a “Brightside”-esque anthem. Now, after spending the last few years working on solo projects and touring around a “Best Of” collection, the band came together to record Wonderful Wonderful, a new album that sees the Las Vegas quartet broadening their sonic palette and Flowers tapping into a more vulnerable place in his songwriting.
If there’s a through line to the record, it’s the idea of a comeback. And while the Killers never really left rock’s collective consciousness, it’s good to have them back all the same.
What was it like returning to the drawing board for this new project?
You get together and you’re sort of swinging in the dark. There’s no formula that is necessarily tried and true for us. You’re just waiting for something to knock you on the head or waiting to make that connection with something. We had weeks of failure, and then I came up with this song called “Rut” at home and brought it to the band and it instantly felt like a starting place for the record. It was sort of forced out of me, you know. I was coming up with nothing. I realized what I’m most familiar with is what I’ve been neglecting to really explore. So I finally decided to go there and get more personal with the writing. It saved me from this writer’s block that I was having.
When you’re writing a material for a solo album how does it differ from material you’re writing for a Killers album? Are those two different headspaces for you?
They’re becoming more similar. I’m really proud to be the singer of the Killers. I’m thankful for the work we’ve done. Making the solo records wasn’t because I needed to do something extremely different, it was just because Mark and Dave wanted to take longer breaks after tours. I couldn’t imagine not working. So I made solo records. Of course, there was less push and pull, and I gave up less on my solo records because I didn’t have to run anything by anybody and that whole democratic process was gone.
Do you have a songwriting process you typically follow?
We’ve had songs that I bring in on my own and have a pretty clear idea of what we’re aiming for and where we’re going to go. Then we’ve had those magical experiences where you sort of tap into the collective consciousness of the band and do something. That’s really exciting, to be a part of something like that. “When You Were Young” was sort of like that. The energy is incredible.
What was your experience working with producer Jacknife Lee like?
Our last album was a bit all over the place with producers. People were committed to things and we were getting people incrementally, when they had a few weeks off here and there. But this entire record was done with Jacknife. It was nice to have that foundation and to be on the same page as someone, for the most part.
How did you guys choose “The Man” as the first single?
It was the last song that we wrote. It’s not really a great introduction to the whole record sonically, but thematically it fits. It’s a strange time to be a rock band. We have introduced ourselves to people but we’ve been away for a while. I see “The Man” as breaking down the door to make room for these other songs to enter in. We’re really proud of all of the songs but you’ve got to sort of make an appearance and make an impact, and this was the song for that. It’s a pretty grand entrance.
One track that really stuck out to me was “Tyson vs. Douglas.” It may be the first Mike Tyson song I’ve found myself singing along to. What’s the story behind that one?
Mike Tyson was perfect and he was a Vegas figure, and it was just such an exciting thing. My dad was excited about him. My uncles were excited about him. That made me excited. I wanted to be in on it. I started to look up to him. I guess my view of the world changed when he was knocked out. I started thinking about other people, maybe it’s their musical heroes or their fathers or their teachers, what happens when somebody goes down. It comes full circle in the third verse. I have a son who is the age I was at that time and I realized that to him and to his to little brothers, I sort of am to them what Mike Tyson was to me. I just don’t want to go down.