One year ago, Brandon Flowers was busting his tail as a bellhop at Las Vegas' Gold Coast Hotel and Casino. He's since traded in the brass buttons and goofy cap for a synthesizer and a mic as the glittery frontman for the Killers, the shimmering standard-bearers of the new new wave.
But it's not like his job stress has lessened any.
See, less than five minutes ago, Flowers turned on his laptop to discover "a really terrible e-mail" from the band's former drummer, claiming that he wrote their current hit single, "Mr. Brightside." Flowers — who genuinely sounded pained by the whole thing — tried to explain what happened in slow, careful tones.
"This guy who was in my band a long time ago is trying to sue us," he sighed. "We wrote 'Mr. Brightside' a long, long time ago, when we had a different drummer. He had nothing to do with it, but his wife is a lawyer, so she just sent a letter to our lawyer. Wow. You always hear about people coming out of the woodwork once you get big, but this is ... wow."
That's what happens when you go from being a fashionable-yet-unknown act from Las Vegas to a platinum synth-rock machine within one calendar year, with only one album under your belt.
That album, Hot Fuss, has steadily climbed up the Billboard albums chart based on the strength of the singles "Somebody Told Me" and "Mr. Brightside." And because of the Killers' success, they've not only become popular lawsuit targets, but they've also kicked off an industry-wide signing binge not seen since the glory days of grunge. Basically, each and every act with some makeup and some synthesizers is getting boatloads of cash from major labels. And that, too, makes Flowers' head hurt.
"Look at a band like the Bravery. They're signed because we're a band," Flowers said. "I've heard rumors about [members of] that band being in a different kind of band, and how do you defend that? If you say, 'My heart really belongs to what I'm doing now,' but you used to be in a ska band. I can see the Strokes play or Franz Ferdinand play and it's real, and I haven't gotten that from the Bravery. I think people will see through them."
And it doesn't stop with the lawsuits or the imitators. There's also the issue of the video for "Smile Like You Mean It," the third single from Hot Fuss. The band shot the clip in England, and, well, Flowers isn't too happy with it. To say the least.
"It's very English-looking. It goes through the story of a house over a 20-year period of time. It's got a sentimental feel about it, but I don't really love the video, I'm really not too happy with it," he said. "But what can you do? I mean, they're releasing the song as a rock single, and it's the least-rocking song we have. It's a mid-tempo song."
With or without Flowers' stamp of approval, the video for "Smile" will begin making the rounds soon. In the meantime, the Killers are planning a much different form of video — a long-form one, to be exact. Production on the clip — which will expand on the love-and-murder mini-story contained in two of Fuss' tracks ("Jenny Was a Friend of Mine" and "Midnight Show"), plus one unreleased song ("Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf"), has been given the green light by Island Records, and Flowers hopes shooting will get under way later this year. And he's also got his eye on a leading man for the whole thing.
"I'd love to get James Spader to be in it, and we're trying to pin him down now. Basically, it's the tale of a girl leaving her boyfriend and him killing her and then getting caught," he explained. "To film it, we need a body of water, maybe [Las Vegas'] Lake Mead. We'd like to take the thing to Sundance or put it on a DVD or something. It's all a matter of time before we shoot it."
Until then, the Killers are hitting the road for a headlining tour, which starts April 11 in Phoenix (see "Killers To Kick Off Tour In April"). Flowers said that fans can look forward to hearing a couple of new songs that'll be worked into the set, which the band will be previewing before it hits the studio in September.
"One new song is called 'Where Is She,' it's got a great feel, some great harmonies on it. We didn't do enough harmonies on our first album, so you're gonna hear more of that on the second album — those Police-esque harmonies," Flowers explained. "And we're playing other new songs — 'Higher and Higher,' 'Daddy's Eyes,' 'It's Only Natural' — that will make it onto the second album. You can't drift too far off the first record, but these songs are what the new album will sound like. A bit more organic, with organs and pianos. We don't want to be 'that [synth] band' forever. We'll let someone else be that."