LOOKING back at their 20-year career, The Killers say it’s gone by in a flash.
“It feels like five or six years,” says singer Brandon Flowers in a video call from Brazil.
New compilation album, Rebel Diamonds is released today and celebrates 20 songs for 20 years, including hits that mark their two decades at the very top.
And it’s an album that reminds Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr of many great moments touring the globe as one of the biggest bands in the world.
Flowers says: “We’ve had so many highs, even last night we felt like we were The Beatles as we walked on stage in Sao Paulo.”
Both dressed in black, on screen together, Flowers and Vannucci Jr are relaxed and in good spirits during our chat. They’ve been touring on and off for the past 18 months and SFTW last caught up with them after they had played London’s Emirates Stadium in June 2022 when Flowers narrowly avoided a pyrotechnic disaster.
“Yeah, we had a close call,” he tells me. “I typically don’t wear make-up at gigs but for some reason I wanted to spice it up a little for London because we had these two big gigs. I think the make-up protected me.”
Flowers and Vannucci Jr both admit they had no idea how big they had become at the start of their career.
“I personally wasn’t thinking beyond those early gigs at the time for sure,” says Flowers.
“We were green and everything was brand new. It was such an exciting thing to be a part of. I don’t think we’d ever imagine those early songs would mean so much.”
‘Blackpool is the Las Vegas of the UK’
For Vannucci Jr, The Killers’ early shows in the UK involved plenty of memories.
He says: “The first time we went to England and stayed at The Columbia hotel in London [a famous rock ’n’ roll hotel].”
Flowers laughs as he remembers the story. “We shared rooms and Ronnie was being sick in the toilet and so I had to throw up in the bathtub. Simultaneously. Double dragons. We don’t share bedrooms any more.”
Vannucci Jr smiles: “We’ve had lots of funny moments.
“The lowest point was choosing a lime-green shirt in the Somebody Told Me video.
“I didn’t stop there. I popped f***ing collars. There was probably a wardrobe girl who thought ‘This is a great colour’.”
The Killers, who formed in Las Vegas in 2001, have remained friends of SFTW since the early days.
“That’s still how I refer to it when anyone asks us about Blackpool. It’s the Las Vegas of the UK,” says Vannucci Jr.
Flowers adds: “We’ve been back to Blackpool since. We filmed the video for our  song Here With Me in Blackpool with [Edward Scissorhands director] Tim Burton.
“But that first time was the first time we played When You Were Young live to a UK audience. We had a bit of trepidation because of the success of Hot Fuss.
“But it all just melted away as soon as Ronnie said, ‘1234’. The response from the crowd was incredible I can still see it.”
Vannucci Jr nods in agreement. “That song. The start. It’s Dave’s magic chord.”
Sam’s Town marked a change in sound for The Killers — Flowers, Vannucci Jr, guitarist Dave Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer — who had adopted a new image sporting facial hair.
“There was an attempt at a ’tache” smiles Flowers. “It was a look that developed — it definitely developed.
“And soundwise, Sam’s Town was a ‘180’ from the record before — we really were throwing people through a loop.
“I think that became a hallmark of the band and something that people expected from album to album, for sure.”
Vannucci Jr agrees. “I like that there’s layers to these onions.”
Read My Mind was the third single from Sam’s Town, which became a fan favourite and still features in their current live setlist.
‘Producer Price was like another band member’
Flowers says: “It started as a different song. It was called Little Angela and it was very derivative of Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson.
“Our producers Alan Moulder and Flood pushed us because there was something about it.
“They forced out this beautiful song. Every night that we play it I feel the room, venue change when we play that song. I just love it.”
“It was the first time we felt like there was another band member,” says Vannucci Jr.
“He is our age, so there was an instant camaraderie.
“He had this instinct and speed for these damn computers. We would talk about vibes or parts and he would instantly replay it.
“We love Stuart and we became lifelong friends with him.”
Flowers adds: “Who we decide to work with depends on the collaboration. Stuart has a very specific sound and we were feeling playful on Day & Age, exploring more pop and synth influences. He was perfect for that.”
Vannucci Jr says: “We are at a point now where we’re old and wise enough to pick the right guy to help us out with each album.
Flowers says: “It felt great to have another song where the response was so positive. We’d been worried about the sophomore slump, which we’d overcome but then worried for the third record. But Human did so well.”
Glastonbury has been a huge part of The Killers story. They’ve played at the festival five times, the first in 2004 and most recently in 2019 when their Pyramid Stage headline set became one of the weekend’s legendary shows when they were joined on stage by the Pet Shop Boys and Johnny Marr.
“2019 felt like that was our time,” declares Vannucci Jr. “It was the best one. It was a big horse to ride and I don’t think we felt we were the guys to headline Glastonbury until the last one.
“We were nervous but that was our time. Finally.”
Flowers agrees that the night was an unforgettable, triumphant one.
He says: “It was a special thing to be a part of. To have the Pet Shop Boys there and do one of their hits [You Were Always On My Mind] and one of ours [Human] together was just mad. And the way it sounded too — it sounded good.”
The band performed The Smiths’ This Charming Man and Mr Brightside with Johnny Marr.
“That’s when we cultivated a nice friendship with Johnny and did our whole last tour with him,” says Vannucci Jr.
“We did a lot of gigs. It’s been awesome. That’s another highlight of our careers to have him with us. It made every gig something else.”
Do they think they’ll headline Glastonbury again in the future?
Flowers says: “Jo Whiley insinuated that the next time we will be at Glastonbury will be on the Legends Stage. And I thought, ‘Whoa! I think we’ve got another headline spot in us before that’. We are more than songs and albums, we are about live performances. That 2019 Glastonbury was so special. The encore was so cool.
“We are from Las Vegas so we grew up watching big shows. So early on we were granted permission to put on that type of show — and we took advantage of it.
“I am really proud of us for doing that from such a young age. It’s become part of our identity.”
The Killers recently announced a UK tour for next year and today tickets for extra dates in Manchester, Dublin, Glasgow and London will go on sale.
“The shows keep growing, luckily for us,” says Flowers proudly.
The band recently scrapped a potentially new album halfway through because they weren’t feeling the electronic style of the sound.
“It just didn’t feel authentic,” admits Flowers. “It felt like we were forcing something.
“We love synth music, it’s a part of our DNA and there’s been great contributions from us in that genre.
“And man, we love New Order and Depeche Mode, so it’s not a slight. It just doesn’t feel right for us at this moment.”
The Killers most recent album, 2021’s Pressure Machine was described by Flowers as “a curveball”.
A concept album of roots-driven Americana music, it was born of lockdown seclusion, which started Flowers thinking about his youth and formative years in the small city of Nephi, Utah. It was SFTW’s album of 2021.
“Pressure Machine was a response to the moment and it’s probably one of the most directly honest records we’ve made because of that shut down,” says Vannucci Jr.
“Not to say our other records weren’t honest. But this was an immediate reaction to the moment, it was dark.
“I remember Brandon calling and telling me his idea for a theme. I totally got it and we pursued that.”
Flowers says: “It was a beam of light that lit Covid up for me.
“Being able to hear him and his interpretation and just the fact that he is aware, and a fan of the song was just an incredible thing.”
Other Killers collaborations over the years include with k.d. lang, Lindsey Buckingham and Phoebe Bridgers. Who else is on the wish list to work with?
“There’s a lot,” answers Vannucci Jr. “I feel weird about punching names out there though as they happen organically.
“With writing, we’re at the stage now where the inspiration hits and there’s an artistic response to it.
“We deliver that and it feels good. Then 20, 30, even 40 years later, we can look back almost like our songs are a diary.”
‘Here’s to another 20 years of The Killers’
There’s also been tough times for the band. Did they ever think it was over when Stoermer and Keuning took a hiatus from the band in 2016 and 2017, both returning from time to time.
“It was kind of tough to navigate. But that’s another thing I’m proud of. We’ve come up with this arrangement that works for everybody.
“A lot of bands just dissolve or there’s public fighting.
“Look what’s going on with Hall and Oates — nobody wants that. I don’t even want to think about that,” says Flowers, referring to the Out Of Touch Eighties duo whose Daryl Hall recently obtained a temporary restraining order against his musical collaborator of five decades, John Oates.
“We had a fairly mature response to Dave and Mark. And we’ve come up with a way that works.
“You’re going to see them come in and out. And you might see them at a gig and you might not.
“What’s important is that the show keeps going on. Which has happened for two decades. So here’s to another 20 years.”