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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The Killers featured in USA TODAY

The cure for common pop-rock
By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY

The perpetrators: Singer Brandon Flowers, 23; guitarist Dave Keuning, 28; bassist Mark Stoermer, 27; and drummer Ronnie Vannuci, 28. The Las Vegas quartet formed in 2002 after Flowers answered Keuning's ad seeking players inspired by Oasis and The Beatles.

The spoils: Boasting huge choruses, irrepressible energy and a glam sheen, The Killers' catchy, smartly crafted pop-rock quickly caught the attention of tiny London label Lizard King. The Mr. Brightside single won raves in the U.K., and the buzz is extending Stateside with critically acclaimed debut album Hot Fuss on Island.

Doing time: Before Fuss created a fuss, they practiced in a sweltering garage while holding day jobs — Flowers was a bellhop at the Gold Coast Hotel, Keuning sold clothes at Banana Republic, Vannuci took pictures at the Little White Chapel (where Britney got hitched), and Stoermer was a courier shuttling blood, urine and body parts from hospitals and morgues.

Criminal intent: Fuss dwells on murder and stalkers, but The Killers are aspiring hit men only in a musical sense. "We didn't mean for it to be abrasive," Flowers says, noting they derived the moniker from New Order's Crystal video. "It's just a striking name. I can't believe no one had taken it."

The Killers may conjure metal riffs and brutal lyrics, yet they draw inspiration from assorted British icons of the '80s and owe more to The Cure than to Anthrax. An older brother led Flowers to Morrissey, who piqued his curiosity about David Bowie.

"I'd read about Bowie in Morrissey interviews, but it never prompted me to buy his records. I specifically remember the day I got out of a math class in college and heard Changes on the radio. I loved it. Now Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory are my babies."

Dead serious: Making a killing in the pop market is secondary to the band's larger aim of making an artistic mark. "We want to be important and to last," Flowers says. "We look up to John Lennon and U2. To have just one great song like Where the Streets Have No Name or I Want to Hold Your Hand would be an accomplishment."

The Killers turned to vintage mentors because modern poseurs were squeezing the emotional life out of rock. "Until recently, America was hurting for good music," Flowers says. "All that mattered was that your arms looked like you were lifting 40-pound dumbbells and your hair was properly highlighted. Then the White Stripes came out with amazing catchy songs, and they proved you could just be yourself. It opened the door for us."


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