It's been a long four years since The Killers' last album Day & Age. A lot has happened in the intervening time — worldwide tours, solo projects, the passing of family members, the births of others. But if you're one of the millions hooked on the band's widescreen anthems, you know that The Killers turn the raw grist of life into powerful, universal songs. Their new album Battle Born was created after a year-and-a-half hiatus with five different producers and, for the first time, outside songwriters. And it might just be the band's most majestic album yet. We talked with the band's leading man Brandon Flowers about its creation.
Three of you released solo albums or recorded with other projects since Day & Age. How important was it to take a step back from The Killers, creatively and personally?
For some Killers, it was more important than others. One positive thing I have noticed since returning is that our songs have had time to be absorbed and have grown.
Can you describe that first few days of writing after the hiatus? Did things pick up right away or did it take a bit to get the mojo working?
Everybody's job is still the same within the band. No dynamics have changed. It felt very familiar.
"Battle Born" is now the name of your studio, an album and an official slogan of your home state. What about the phrase is significant for you as a band and for this album in particular?
As a band we have shared experiences and been in the trenches together. We are survivors. A lot of bands that were coming up with us have disappeared or lost band members and somehow we've managed to keep it all together. We're proud of that.
How'd you come to the decision to let in Daniel Lanois and Travis's Fran Healy on some of the songwriting? Did it work out like you thought it would?
We asked Daniel to come to Las Vegas as a producer. One of the bonuses about Daniel is he is a great player, and it would have been a shame to not get into the room with him and see what happened. Lucky for us, we had a few great songs that came out of it. Fran's contribution was a pleasant surprise that started out one night on the back of a bus with two friends and made its way onto Battle Born.
Was it tough to hone Battle Born into a unified record given that you worked with so many producers?
There was definitely a danger of the record sounding disjointed. We have a very specific type of song that we write and we had a very specific vision that helped the record stay unified.
Were there any songs that experienced dramatic revisions in the studio?
"A Matter of Time" has been reworked and replayed and rearranged to the point that we were nervous about putting it on the record. But now having some time away from it we are really happy with the outcome.
Some of the album's most riveting lyrics — I'm thinking "Runaways," "A Matter of Time" and "Miss Atomic Bomb" — are stories at their core. What draws you to strong narratives in your songs?
I have always gravitated towards stories. I like being taken on the journey. So when I joined the band it always seemed like a natural outlet.
How has ASCAP made a difference in your music careers?
In October of 2003, I remember being the first of three unsigned bands in an ASCAP showcase at CMJ. Two days later, Island Records signed us. When record labels were not willing to step up, ASCAP took us under their wing and gave us the opportunity to have our music heard. Seven years later, we were getting the ASCAP Vanguard Award. It's nice to have had someone supporting and looking out for us since the beginning.
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