The frontman takes us inside the making of the band's sixth album.

By Ruth Kinane
August 20, 2020 at 08:30 AM EDT
Credit: Robert Ashcroft

If you ask the Killers frontman Brandon Flowers to describe the sound and feel of their sixth album, he'll tell you — with zero hesitation — "It's celestial rock & roll."

That makes sense, since Imploding the Mirage (out Aug. 21) was inspired by a spiritual-type painting: Dance of the Wind and Storm, by Thomas Blackshear. "We're one of those lucky bands that can go on tour and a lot of people show up, but trying to find a reason to make a record is a big part of the battle," Flowers says of getting back into the studio to lay down their first album since 2017's Wonderful Wonderful. "I never thought I'd get into art like this, but I'm sort of obsessed with Western landscapes."

Credit: EMI

Feeling invigorated by Blackshear's work, the band put prints of the painting (which now serves as the album's cover art) around the studio and on all their screensavers to guide their creative process. "It became a member of the band," Flowers says. "Having that album cover around and the idea of what this was album was really helped in making a cohesive, artistic statement."

Flowers also credits producers Jonathan Rado, of Foxygen, and Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes, Kacey Musgraves) for helping him and drummer Ronnie Vanucci Jr. home in on the record's statement and sound in the absence of co-founding guitarist Dave Keuning (who's been on hiatus from the group since 2017) and bassist Mark Stoermer (who, due to hearing damage, has a reduced role in the band). "You always go to work, fingers crossed that something's going to reveal itself, and this [record] took a while before that happened," Flowers say. "It took about seven months of chipping away, and when it finally came, it kind of came in the form of people: Rado and Shawn. They came and visited us in Park City and opened up a new path that we'd forgotten existed. Rado's just a savant. He's a purist, a rock & roll, purist and Shawn is a mad scientist, so together they're just a great duo. It was just what we needed."

Finding new paths to tread ended up contributing in a big way. In 2017, Flowers left the band's hometown of Las Vegas and moved to Park City, Utah, and he says he can hear that departure in Mirage's sounds, as well as in its lyrics. "I hear it in the string line in 'Caution,'" he says of the album's lead single. "There's a relief and there's an optimism in it. People are already reacting to that. I love playing it and I love hearing it. There are those moments, but mostly it's in the themes."

While the album mixes in some '80s funk with that grand, earnest sound of yearning that we've heard previously on Sam's Town and Battle Born, Flowers says that thematically, the new record is its own entity. "You just can't take our fingerprints off of it — as hard as we try," he concedes. "When Ronnie's playing, it's kind of unmistakable. Eventually you've got to give into that and appreciate that there's something that you have that the people like. It's all about acceptance."

Switching things up, however, is the inclusion of featured artists such as k.d. lang, Weyes Blood, Lucius, and on "Caution," legendary Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. "He was totally in our lexicon, but you never know if you're actually ever going to be in room together," Flowers says. "Lindsey was just instantly on board; he showed up two days after we asked. For him to deliver in the way that he did… It was just great to see the master at work."

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic means fans will have to wait to see the Killers perform material from Mirage. Originally set to hit the road in late spring, the band is now scheduled to take the album on tour in summer 2021, with dates all over Europe. Despite the delay, Flowers is eager to get out there and share the music with fans live. "The only thing that comes close to beating those moments of inspiration that you get when you're writing songs is when those moments are celebrated with other people," he says. "I don't know which one's better. I love them both, and I feel like there's two sides to me. Some people just think of making a record as making this artistic expression and then singing it to people is a side thought, but I see it as two separate things and I want to grow at doing both of them."

As for the Mirage track that he hopes will receive "All These Things That I've Done" levels of audience participation, Flowers says, "'My Own Soul's Warning' is the one. I mean, I give up if that one doesn't go off." Killers fans, you (and your soul) have been warned.

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