The Killers

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The Killers
The Killers in concert.jpg
The Killers in concert in 2006
Background information
Origin Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Genres Indie rock,[1] heartland rock, post-punk revival, new wave, synthpop
Years active 2001–present
Labels Island, Vertigo, Marrakesh, Mercury
Website thekillersmusic.com
Members Brandon Flowers
Dave Keuning
Mark Stoermer
Ronnie Vannucci, Jr.
Past members Dell Neal
Matt Norcross
Brian Havens

The Killers are an American rock band formed in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2001, by Brandon Flowers (lead vocals, keyboards) and Dave Keuning (guitar, backing vocals). Mark Stoermer (bass, backing vocals) and Ronnie Vannucci Jr. (drums, percussion) would complete the current line-up of the band in 2002. The name The Killers is derived from a logo on the bass drum of a fictitious band, portrayed in the music video for the New Order song "Crystal".[2]

The group has released four studio albums: Hot Fuss (2004), Sam's Town (2006), Day & Age (2008) and Battle Born (2012). All four albums have gone to number one in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland and according to a source they have sold an estimated 22 million albums worldwide.[3] They have also released one compilation album, Sawdust (2007), one live album titled Live from the Royal Albert Hall (2009) and a greatest hits album entitled Direct Hits (2013). Along the way they have achieved worldwide success as a live band, performing in over fifty countries and headlining arenas on six continents. Since 2006 the band have released annual Christmas themed singles and videos in aid of the charity Product Red.

History[edit]

2001–03: Origins and formation[edit]

In 2001, Brandon Flowers was dumped by his first band, a Las Vegas synthpop trio known as Blush Response who subsequently relocated to Los Angeles.[4] After attending an Oasis concert at the Hard Rock Hotel during The Tour of Brotherly Love, Flowers realized his calling was to be in a rock band and began searching for like-minded musicians.[5] He eventually came across an ad posted in a Las Vegas newspaper by Dave Keuning, a 25 year-old guitarist who had moved to Vegas from Iowa a year earlier. The pair shared similar musical influences and soon began writing songs together in Keuning's apartment. By the end of 2001, they had recorded a demo at Kill The Messenger Studio; the demo featured four tracks, "Desperate", "Replaceable" and early versions of "Mr. Brightside" and "Under the Gun". Local drummer Matt Norcross played drums on the demo while Dell Neal, who was Keuning's roommate at the time, covered bass on two of the tracks.

Keuning and Flowers played their first live show together at an open mic night at the Cafe Espresso Roma in Las Vegas in January 2002; the pair, joined by Neal and Norcross, began playing numerous venues around Las Vegas where they would also hand out free copies of their demo.[6] The Killers brought a unique style to the small Vegas music scene which was predominately filled with punk, nu metal, and rap bands, one local reviewer stated "The Killers, thankfully, don't come across like any other band in town" and described their sound as a mix between the "pop styles of British music and the lo-fi fuzz of modern indie rock."[7] However, the Killers, whose early live sound was also described as erratic, had, by the summer of 2002, fired drummer Matt Norcross and replaced him briefly with Brian Havens, who also was eventually fired. Bassist Dell Neal later left the band due to personal reasons.

Drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr. and bass player Mark Stoermer were members of other bands when they met Keuning and Flowers, both were persuaded to join the Killers and by November 2002, the band's current line up was complete. The four of them would get together in Vannucci's garage to work on song ideas. They would also sneak into the band room at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (where Vannucci was studying Classical percussion) at night to practice. The band wrote much of their debut album Hot Fuss during these sessions including hit singles "Somebody Told Me" and "Smile Like You Mean It".[8]

The band continued playing at small venues in Las Vegas, where they built a small but loyal following. They attracted the attention of Braden Merrick, an A&R rep for Warner Bros. Records who had came across their demo on a website dedicated to unsigned bands in the Las Vegas area,[9] after attending a live show he offered to help the band find a record deal and eventually became their manager. He took the band to the San Francisco area, to Berkeley, California, to record demos with former Green Day manager Jeff Saltzman, they then sent the demo tapes out to major record labels in the US. Most of the record labels turned them down, but Warner Bros. did invite them to perform at the MOBfest showcase in Chicago. Though Warner Bros. was not impressed by the band after the showcase, the band did catch the eye of Niall Norbury,[10] who was from the United Kingdom. Norbury took back with him a five song demo made up of "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine", "Mr. Brightside", "Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll", "Somebody Told Me" and "On Top", he showed it to his friend Ben Durling, who worked at UK indie label Lizard King Records. The Killers signed with the British label in July 2003.[11]

2003–05: Hot Fuss[edit]

On August 19, 2003, the song "Mr. Brightside" premiered on DJ Zane Lowe's BBC Radio 1 show in the UK.[12] The Killers travelled to London playing four shows in four nights. On September 29, 2003, they released the song "Mr. Brightside" on a limited number of CDs and vinyl records in the UK, critical reviews of both the song and the shows were positive. As a result of the buzz generated in the UK, upon returning to America, they were invited to play at the ASCAP CMJ Music Marathon in New York City.[13] A number of labels showed interest in the band, and they eventually signed with the record company Island Def Jam.[8]

The band finished recording Hot Fuss in November 2003 with Jeff Saltzman, they decided to keep many of the previously recorded demos as they felt they had a spontaneity that re-recordings would not have. Shortly afterwards they headed back to London to tour the UK supporting British Sea Power and finish mixing the album with Alan Moulder. They continued playing support slots during the first half of 2004 most notably touring both the US & UK with Stellastarr and opening for Morrissey twice. The band's first headline tour started in the UK in May 2004. During the spring and summer of 2004, the group played much-praised sets at festivals across Europe and North America which helped add to their growing fanbase.[14]

The anthemic "All These Things That I've Done" with its notable refrain "I Got Soul, But I'm Not A Soldier" became one of The Killers' most well-known songs.

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The Killers released their debut album Hot Fuss in June 2004 in the United Kingdom on Lizard King Records and in the United States on Island Records.[15] It received generally favorable reviews from critics.[16] Extensive touring and the success of the Grammy Award nominated singles "Somebody Told Me", "All These Things That I've Done" and "Mr. Brightside"[17][18] led to the album becoming a huge commercial success. Hot Fuss reached number one in the UK in January 2005, seven months after its release, and has been certified 7x Platinum in both the UK and Ireland.[19] It spent 173 weeks on the UK Albums chart, more than any other album that decade. In the US the album reached its peak position of number seven in April 2005 and has been certified 3x Platinum[20] It reached the top spot in Australia, where it was certified 3x Platinum, it has also been certified 3x Platinum in Canada, Platinum in New Zealand and Gold in Argentina, Belgium, Germany and France. The Killers were named The World's Best Selling New Group at the 2005 World Music Awards, the same year they were also nominated for three Grammy Awards with Hot Fuss being nominated for Best Rock Album, in the UK they won an NME Award for Best International Band.

On the UK version of Hot Fuss, "Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll" replaces "Change Your Mind" as track eight. In 2005, a Limited Edition version of Hot Fuss was released in North America featuring the B-sides "Under the Gun", "The Ballad of Michael Valentine" and "Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll".

The band fired manager Braden Merrick in 2005, Merrick later filed a lawsuit against the band, and their new manager and lawyer Robert Reynolds. The band counter sued citing that Merrick's poor management had cost them millions. The case was settled in 2009.[21]

By June 2005, the Killers had made a huge impact in music worldwide. The band was recognized by Rolling Stone Magazine as the "best-selling new rock band of the past year".[22] The band's early style and sound were described as "80s revivalist rock," for lead singer Brandon Flowers sported glittery makeup and looked to David Bowie for inspiration in his live stage performance.[23] Jay-Z described the Killers' sound in 2005, saying that "They take what's old and make it sound new again." [23]

In July 2005, the Killers performed on the London stage of the Live 8 concert, playing "All These Things That I've Done". Robbie Williams incorporated the song's refrain "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier" into his own performance.[24] Coldplay and U2 followed suit and, at their separate concerts played in Las Vegas, with the Killers in the crowd, incorporated the line into their songs "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" and "Beautiful Day", respectively.[25]

2005–07: Sam's Town and Sawdust[edit]

Shortly after finishing touring for Hot Fuss, the band headed back into the studio to start recording their second studio album with Alan Moulder and Flood. The album was mostly recorded at Studio at the Palms in Las Vegas, with the band finishing the album at Criterion Studios, London in June 2006. Upon completion of Sam's Town, Flowers claimed he felt the band had made "one of the best albums of the past twenty years" and that the album captured "everything important that got me to where I am today". In July 2006, the lead single "When You Were Young" was premiered and it became a hit, gaining another two Grammy Award nominations and mostly positive reviews with many bringing attention to the influence of Heartland rock on the song.

Sam's Town is named after a locals casino in the band's hometown of Las Vegas

The Killers' second album, Sam's Town, was released in October 2006 under Island Def Jam Music Group.[26][27] It received a varied response with some critics praising the album and the evolution of the band and others criticizing and mocking it, most notably it received a scathing review from Rolling Stone magazine.[28] The album sold over 706,000 copies worldwide in the first week of release, reaching number two on the US Billboard chart and number one on the UK chart.[29] The record has since been certified 5x Platinum in the United Kingdom, 4x Platinum in Ireland, 2x Platinum in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, Platinum in the United States and Gold in Argentina, Belgium, Germany and Russia.

The Killers recorded a live session at Abbey Road Studios for Live from Abbey Road on November 29, 2006.[30] They performed an almost totally unplugged set, which included a stripped back version of the albums title track and a rendition of the Dire Straits hit "Romeo and Juliet". In December 2006 the band released a Christmas charity song, "A Great Big Sled", which benefited Product Red. This has since become an annual tradition.

In February 2007, the Killers attended the BRIT Awards in the United Kingdom, where they performed "When You Were Young". The band won two awards — Best International Group & International Album.[31] In the same month the band's Tim Burton directed video for "Bones" won Best Video at the NME Awards.

During the Sam's Town Tour the Killers began headlining arenas including Madison Square Garden for the first time, they also headlined a number of major European festivals during 2007 including Glastonbury Festival.[32]

The band released a compilation album called Sawdust, containing B-sides, rarities and unreleased material in November 2007. Sawdust has been classified Platinum in the UK.[33] The album's first single "Tranquilize", a collaboration with Lou Reed, was released in October 2007.[33] The album also featured a cover of "Shadowplay" by Joy Division which was recorded for the soundtrack to the Anton Corbijn directed biopic Control.[34]

2007–2011: Day & Age and Hiatus[edit]

The band chose Stuart Price to produce their third studio album, he had previously remixed their songs under his Jacques Lu Cont moniker, the most notable being the remix of "Mr. Brightside". They first met Price at his London home in 2007 to discuss the possibility of him producing some unreleased tracks for their b-sides album Sawdust, however that same night they ended up in Price's home studio recording a demo of "Human" a new song that would become the eventual lead single from Day & Age. The band took six months apart following the completion of their Sam's Town tour, during this period they would send song ideas between each other and Price via Logic Pro. The band finished recording the album with Price at Battle Born Studios in Las Vegas.[35]

The Killers performing in 2009

"Human" was released in October 2008 and was well received becoming a huge hit worldwide, however the song's lyric "Are we human, or are we dancer?" created much confusion and debate due to its grammar and ambiguity, with some believing the lyric was "dancers" or "denser" rather than "dancer", Flowers explained that the line was inspired by a Hunter S. Thompson quote where he stated America was raising "a generation of dancers". Flowers has also called the song a "mild social statement". It has since been voted by one poll as the most confusing song lyric of all time.[36]

The Killers' third album, Day & Age, was released on November 25, 2008. Brandon Flowers stated that "Day & Age" was "like looking at Sam's Town from Mars", the band have also called it their "most playful record" with the album making use of saxophones, steel drums, harpsichord & tribal chanting. It became the band's third studio album to reach number one in both the UK and Ireland, it reached number six on the Billboard 200 album chart.[37] It has also been certified 4x Platinum in the UK and Ireland, Platinum in Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Canada and Gold in the US, Mexico, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Greece and the Middle East.

The band embarked on the Day & Age World Tour, during which they performed on every continent except Antarctica and headlined US festivals Lollapalooza and Coachella for the first time. The tour was named one of the top fifty worldwide concert tours of 2009.[38] On July 5–6, 2009 at the Royal Albert Hall, London the Killers recorded their first live DVD, "Live from the Royal Albert Hall". It was released in November and played at various cinemas across the globe. Live from Royal Albert Hall was certified 2x Platinum in the UK, Platinum in the US and Australia and Gold in Ireland and Brazil.

In late February 2010, Flowers' mother died after a two-year fight with brain cancer. This resulted in the cancellation of dates in Asia. Two Australian dates in Sydney and Perth were also cancelled; however, both the Gold Coast and Melbourne concerts went ahead, with the Day & Age tour finally coming to a close in Melbourne on February 21 as the headline act at the Good Vibrations Festival at Flemington Racecourse.[39]

In January 2010, the band announced that they would take a short break after being on the road for the better part of six years.[40][41] The break lasted for about a year-and-a-half, during which band members devoted themselves on solo projects, while the band made sporadic other contributions.

2011–13: Return and Battle Born[edit]

The band returned to the stage in 2011 when they headlined the new International Lollapalooza Festival in Santiago, Chile on April 2, 2011.[42] They also performed at the season closing Top of the Mountain concert in Ischgl, Austria on April 30, 2011.[43] They headlined Hard Rock Calling for the second time in Hyde Park, London on June 24, 2011.[44] The Killers were also the inaugural headliner of the new Orlando Calling Festival in Orlando, FL on November 12, 2011.[45]

In April 2012, Tommy Marth, who had played saxophone on the band's Sam's Town and Day & Age albums, toured with the band during their Day & Age World Tour and can be seen performing with the band on the Live From The Royal Albert Hall DVD, was found dead at his Las Vegas home. His death was officially ruled as a suicide.[46]

Brandon Flowers in 2012

The band headed back into the studio to record their fourth studio album in 2011, during the recording they worked with five different producers Steve Lillywhite, Damian Taylor, Brendan O'Brien, Stuart Price and Daniel Lanois.[47] In June 2012 A short trailer was released on the Killers official VEVO page, revealing the album's name Battle Born,[48] named after the Flag of Nevada. This was followed by the release of lead single "Runaways" in July.

The Killers' fourth studio album Battle Born was released on September 18, 2012. The album became The Killers' fourth consecutive No. 1 album in the UK and Ireland and has been certified Platinum in the UK and Gold in Ireland, Mexico and Australia.

The band's Battle Born World Tour proved their most widespread yet with the band visiting new territories including Russia and China. The tour was named the 43rd highest grossing worldwide during 2013.[49] On June 22, 2013, the band played their biggest show to date at the 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium; the band performed a song specifically written for the occasion. Reviews of the show were extremely positive.[50]

The band once again headlined festivals across Europe, Australia, South America & North America. In October 2013 The Killers headlined the inaugural Life Is Beautiful Festival in hometown Las Vegas, concluding their Battle Born World Tour.

2013–present: Direct Hits and fifth studio album[edit]

On September 11, 2013, the band tweeted a picture, which contained six lines of Morse code. The code was translated to "The Killers Shot At The Night". On September 16, 2013, exactly ten years to the day of their first show in London, the Killers released "Shot At The Night" which was produced by Anthony Gonzalez. It was also revealed that they would be releasing their first greatest hits compilation, Direct Hits released on November 11, 2013, celebrating a decade together as a band and fulfilling a contractual requirement with their record label.[51][52] The album featured songs from all four studio albums, the new single "Shot At The Night" and another new song "Just Another Girl".

The release of Direct Hits was followed by a short promotional tour, the band also played a number of festivals in 2014. The Killers have stated that they will be taking an extended break before beginning work on their fifth studio album.[53]

Battle Born Studios and solo work[edit]

The Killers own and operate Las Vegas-based Battle Born Studios (2008–present).

Activism and philanthropy[edit]

Political activism[edit]

Invited by U.S. President Barack Obama, the band played on the White House South Lawn on July 4, 2010 for the second annual "Salute To The Military" United Service Organizations concert as part of Independence Day celebrations, which Flowers described as a "monumental honor".[59] Despite their hiatus, the band got together to play "Human", "Somebody Told Me", "Mr. Brightside", "A Dustland Fairytale", "God Bless America/Read My Mind" and "When You Were Young".[60] Flowers, Keuning and Stoermer also played at a campaign rally on July 8, 2010 in Nevada for Obama and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who was up for re-election. The Killers played an acoustic version of "Read My Mind" and did a folksy rendition of the state song, "Home Means Nevada".[61]

In February 2011, Flowers had a private lunch with Mitt Romney during Romney's visit to the Republican Party convention in Nevada.[62] In 2012, the band remained neutral in the election.[63]

Annual Christmas singles[edit]

The Killers have been involved with the Product Red campaign, headed by Bono and Bobby Shriver. To date they have released eight Christmas themed songs and music videos: "A Great Big Sled" (2006), "Don't Shoot Me Santa" (2007), "Joseph, Better You Than Me" (2008), "Happy Birthday Guadalupe!" (2009), "Boots" (2010), "The Cowboy's Christmas Ball" (2011), "I Feel It In My Bones" (2012), and "Christmas In LA" (2013). On November 30, 2011 they released the (RED) Christmas EP on iTunes which features all six songs that had been released up to that point. All proceeds from the songs have been donated to Product Red campaign and the fight against AIDS in Africa. They have also enlisted the help of other acts including Elton John, Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys), Toni Halliday (Curve), Wild Light, Mariachi El Bronx, and Dawes.

Additional[edit]

The Killers song "Goodnight, Travel Well" was used in an effort to promote awareness for sex trafficking headed by UNICEF, MTV EXIT (End Exploitation And Trafficking) and the US Agency for International Development.[64][65] The song "Hotel California" was covered by the Killers and Rhythms del Mundo with proceeds benefitting climate crisis and natural disaster relief.[66][67]

Awards and accolades[edit]

The Killers have been nominated for seven Grammy Awards, seven BRIT Awards, and twenty-four NME Awards.

The Killers have won four NME Awards for "Best International Band" in 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2013. The band has won a BRIT Award for "Best International Band" in 2006 as well as a MTV Europe Music Award for "Best Rock Group" in 2006. To date, the band has received six nominations for "Best International Band" at the NME Awards, three nominations for "Best International Group" at the BRIT Awards, and three nominations for "Best Rock Group" at the MTV Europe Music Awards.

Additional Honors[edit]

Sales accolades:

  • Hot Fuss has sold more than 7 million units worldwide, it was the 26th best-selling album of the decade in the United Kingdom. It spent 173 weeks on the UK Albums Chart, more than any other album.[70]
  • Single "Mr. Brightside" is the No. 12 most downloaded rock track of all time in the UK.[71]
  • In 2010 Last.fm revealed that "Mr. Brightside" was the most listened to track since the launch of the online music service, with over 12.2 million plays "scrobbled".[72]
  • Sam's Town has sold over 5 million units worldwide. In the UK, Sam's Town was the 70th best-selling album of the decade.
  • Sawdust has sold over 1 million units worldwide.
  • Day & Age has sold over 3 million units worldwide.
  • Single "Human" is the No. 13 most downloaded rock track of all time in the UK.[71]
  • Live from the Royal Albert Hall has sold over 500,000 units worldwide.
  • Battle Born has sold over 1 million units worldwide only in 2012.

Critic Lists:

Other accolades:

  • Eleven songs by the Killers feature in the book XFM's 1000 Greatest Songs of All Time; frontman Brandon Flowers also wrote a foreword for the book.[78] "Mr. Brightside" (#1), "When You Were Young" (#4), and "All These Things That I've Done" (#10) all appear in the top ten on the list.
  • "Mr. Brightside" was named the Best Song of the Decade by the listeners of XFM.[79] "Somebody Told Me" also ranked in the top ten at #9.[79]
  • "Mr. Brightside" was named the Best Song of the Decade by the listeners of Absolute Radio.[80] "All These Things That I've Done" also ranked in the top ten at #9.
  • Hot Fuss was named #1 in the Gigwise Best Debut Album Ever Readers' Poll[81]
  • Day & Age was named #1 Best Album of 2008 by Rolling Stone Readers
  • Battle Born was named #2 Best Album of 2012 by Rolling Stone Readers[82]

Band members[edit]

Timeline[edit]

Discography[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]