“IT matters to us,” says Brandon Flowers on winning SFTW’s album of the year.
“We like it,” he tells me.
This stunning seventh studio album arrived just a year on from The Killers’ synth-pop Imploding The Mirage and was born out of the lockdown when the singer was looking back on his life, growing up in Nephi, Utah.
And Pressure Machine gave them their seventh No1 in a row when it was released in August. A beautiful and intimate record, it was a more roots-driven Americana sound from the Las Vegas band with real-life stories and soundbites from Nephi locals between each song adding to the authenticity of the record.
“The pandemic has allowed everyone more time for a lot of reflection and I was not spared from that. This album definitely began to bloom out of that,” Flowers reveals.
“We weren’t hoping or setting out for chart-topping success, but we’ll take it. You still want people to like it and be affected in a positive way.
“And I still have that Bono in me that wants to be on the radio. And that’s always gonna be there. I had a vision for this record and we tried to stay true to that.”
It’s been nearly 20 years since The Killers — Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr plus returning members, guitarist Dave Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer — formed, naming themselves after a fictional band in a New Order video for the song Crystal.
And Pressure Machine sees Flowers and Vannucci reunited with Keuning, while Stoermer does not play on the record.
Father-of-three Flowers says: “Dave’s been playing most of the gigs this year which has been great. It’s sort of a revolving door situation, which is, so far, so good. We were able to get our schedules to align and do what we could do.
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“When you’re first in the band nobody has anything tying them down and you become a gang. Then people start having families and moving to different states and it gets difficult. But I think we’re making it work in a unique way.”
Pressure Machine, with its powerful storytelling and cinematic soundscape, opened the door to new fans.
Flowers tells me: “This album was as much a surprise for us as it was for other people.
“We’re still soaking it in and wondering what’s next. We’re really proud of it and we definitely learned a thing or two from it.
“I admit it that we didn’t have hopes for any massive smashes with this record. And that takes a little bit of pressure off. We just wanted to let it do its thing and that was definitely freeing in a lot of ways.”
We chat via video call, not long after The Killers have played a Christmas show in Chicago and so Flowers is already in a jovial mood even before learning Pressure Machine is our album of the year.
He says: “We’re having fun. We’re happy to be on stage. And we’ve been playing a handful of songs from Pressure Machine.
“So far we’ve done Runaway Horses, Cody, Quiet Town, Sleepwalker, so we’ve played a handful of them. I think we have about five months till we’re over in your neck of the woods so we might have a couple more figured out by then.”
Making Pressure Machine has given the band a new energy that Flowers says has rejuvenated The Killers.
Working on this record made us confident and reignited us in ways that I think we’ll discover when we get into the studio again.
“This record felt so fresh and we almost feel like a new band,” he says. “Nephi was this part of my life that I’ve been sort of keeping a secret.
“We had always been so Vegas and I was suppressing this side of myself. I didn’t talk about the rural town that I had grown up in, yet it’s so interesting.
“Working on this record made us confident and reignited us in ways that I think we’ll discover when we get into the studio again.”
He also thinks “reconnecting with myself” slowed him down to unlock more personal lyrics and the stories about religion, the American opioid crisis, alienation and dreams of escape. He also touched on writing about escaping the small town he grew up in the past but maybe not in such an obvious way.
“A song like Read My Mind might have been an early incarnation of this topic,” he says. “There have been bits and pieces of it in songs. There’s always been hints.
“And in the past, I was so caught up in being a big band, and keeping people in the seats, that I had sort of neglected myself as an individual. Once I addressed that it became very powerful. There was so much sunshine on Imploding The Mirage, and so much about overcoming and resilience, this was quite a big 180 turn.”
Sensitive and nostalgic about his past, Flowers says the band have been working on a deluxe edition of Pressure Machine that they plan to release in the new year.
He says: “I’m sentimental about those days. And I tend to think about my early days quite a lot. Because we finished the lyrics early, we had this opportunity to take the songs and rework them completely. So, we have four or five versions of The Getting By where it’s not just a little different, it’s a completely different song.
“There’s a couple of versions of Runaway Horses too and West Hills. We thought it would be interesting to let people see how different a song can be.
“We’re going to explore how many of those songs we can finish and get on to the deluxe.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like it from a band that I love but it would be interesting to see how bands would interpret a song I love, in a different way.”
As ever, Brandon is keen to keep making music and has no plans to slow down in the near future.
He explains: “Now that I’m 40 years old, I look at people like Peter Gabriel, John Lennon, Springsteen and Don Henley and how they were able to represent where they’re at in their life. Those guys that never gave up as they got older, they didn’t just rest on their laurels.
This record felt so fresh and we almost feel like a new band
“I would never feel comfortable doing that. I want to keep producing good music and hope it lights a fire, like it did from people we admire who came before.”
And can he see himself making another solo album?
“Yeah, definitely,” he answers. “As long as everybody wants to make a Killers record, that’s gonna take precedent, for sure.
“But if there’s some need for a year break, and I feel like I don’t need it, I would definitely make a record.” But for now all focus is on The Killers and, after the pandemic halted their tour plans for this year, Flowers says they can’t wait to tour in 2022, with their first show at Doncaster’s Keepmoat stadium at the end of May.
“Hell yeah, I’ve been to Doncaster. And I can’t wait to visit there again,” says Flowers with a laugh. “We’ve played some large gigs, but this is going to be our biggest run of gigs. It’s fairly new territory for us.
“On one hand, it’s exhilarating and on the other, it’s a little bit anxiety-inducing. I’m just kind of going to balance that and we’re going to figure it out.
“As soon as we book the gig, I’m thinking about it a lot. And I know that once I get up there, and the mic’s in my face, I am able to do my thing.”
- The Killers’ Pressure Machine is out now. Details of their UK tour can be found at thekillersmusic.com/tour
Pressure Machine track list
- West Hills
- Quiet Town
- Terrible Thing
- Runaway Horses (ft Phoebe Bridgers)
- In The Car Outside
- In Another Life
- Desperate Things
- Pressure Machine
- The Getting By
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