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Rock school
The Killers negotiate stardom
BY MIKAEL WOOD

If youíre growing tired of the new new wave of dance-rock acts with precarious haircuts and oily melodies, blame the Killers. This Las Vegas quartet, who headline the sold-out Phoenix/FNX Best Music Poll show at Bank of America Pavilion this Tuesday, have sold two million copies of their debut album, last yearís Hot Fuss (Island), and you can bet thatís persuaded the record industry to scour the earth for sound-alike bands. But the Killersí meteoric rise to prominence on teenage girlsí bedroom walls wasnít always a sure thing. Not long ago, frontman Brandon Flowers says, he couldnít get music-biz bigwigs to give him the time of day. I reached him up at a tour stop in Cincinnati and asked why.

Q: In less than a year, you guys have gone from playing to indie crowds to being played on Top 40 radio.

A: Itís a place where we want to stay. Our music, we consider it be for everybody. It doesnít bother us that itís played on pop stations. I mean, Iím sure weíve lost some indie kids because of it, but thatís their problem, and Iíve always been against people like that.

Q: In the bandís early days, was that a goal of yours? To get played next to the Black Eyed Peas and Hoobastank?

A: Yeah. Radio was just starting to change. I thought it was a big change that they started to play Coldplay, so it made it seem like it was at least a little bit more okay. And then the White Stripes and the Strokes came. So I donít feel as dirty as I should, I guess. It was always that the bands we liked were played on the radio, so weíre happy to be in that spot.

Q: How was that attitude received by scenesters in Las Vegas? Do you get your share of player hating?

A: Yeah, itís definitely there. I mean, weíve bumped heads with a few of them. But for the most part, we got a really great reception there. It was only the kids that were in bands. I remember them saying we were trying to jump on this wave, that we were copying the Strokes. But we really werenít; our musicís totally different. We didnít hang out in the scene. The problem I find with scenes is that people want to outdo each other in their scene and just get stuck there. And we just stayed away from it. I was looking at what the White Stripes and the Strokes were doing and saying, "We have to beat that," instead of beating the kids in our scene. It was a blessing to have that mind set. We were never rude, but instead of going and hanging out in the scene, we would write songs and listen to music.

Q: How do you break out of a locally based indie crowd? How do you move beyond that if thatís not where you want to end up?

A: For us, how it happened, I guess, was the Internet. We had a "Mr. Brightside" demo on the Internet. And our manager ó who was an A&R guy for Warner Bros., and Las Vegas was part of his territory ó was searching through Las Vegas bands and he was attracted to our name. We didnít have a Web site; we were just on a local-bands Web site. He was on there, and thatís how he heard "Mr. Brightside," and thatís how it started.

Q: You spent some time in England during the bandís early days, right?

A: Our manager tried to get Warner Bros. to sign us and they turned us down. And a couple other people were kind of on the fence. And then this really small indie label in England wanted to do it, so we just did it.

Q: It was just out of the blue?

A: It was. The problem is, if a record label turns you down, every other record label knows about you and knows that they turned you down. They all talk to each other, and youíre tainted then, and they donít want it. Itís really weird. But if someone wants you, they all want you. Itís just all about saving face for them. So it was a great thing that this indie label wanted to sign us, because we knew how the business was working: they turned us down and weíre fucked. We were hearing the Strokes and the White Stripes and the Hives and the buzz coming from England, so we just decided that that would be an ideal thing for us. Especially since we couldnít sign to anybody in America.

Q: Did you find a different reception in Great Britain?

A: Itís totally different. Indie bands, itís just a word, you know? They play it on the radio there, and it doesnít matter if youíre signed to a major label or what. Thatís starting to happen in America, too ó theyíre calling people indie that are signed to major labels. But itís common there. Theyíre not as snotty there about it.

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Issue Date: June 3 - 9, 2005
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