On the main stage of Rock In Rio, the President and Prime Minister of Portugal and the Mayor of Lisbon gather onstage to play musical tribute to the late Portuguese rock hero Ze Pedro from local legends Xutos & Pontapes. Up fern-lined steps behind the stage, through a bar buzzing with bands and their entourages and behind a curtain to the headliner’s private enclave, meanwhile the Grand Glam-Vizier Of Vegasrock, Brandon Flowers, and the man he’s been known to introduce onstage as “Prime Minister Ronnie ‘Unstoppable’ Vannucci Jr” are paying tribute to their own local legend.
“We have a favourite chicken place that we went to today in Portugal called Bonjardim, which we always go to,” Brandon reveals, making a local Lisbon giblet-chopper’s fortune in just twenty words. Ronnie, meanwhile, has spent the day giving his wife Olivia a whistle-stop tour of the city. “Olivia hasn’t been here before so we went to St George Castle and drove around town, just kinda crammed it in,” he says. “You have to get it all in when you can. When you’re on tour it’s hard to do anything.”
“We try to have adventures,” Brandon says, “we go on hikes. After Glasgow we’re going up to the Lake District, which I’ve always wanted to go to and I’ve probably been to England fifty times, so I’m very excited about that.”
Nevada’s most celebrated Rambling Men are on top of the world right now, having scored their first US Number One album with last year’s acclaimed, ultra-personal ‘Wonderful, Wonderful’ album and successfully negotiated the tricky business of extricating half the band – bassist Mark Stoermer and guitarist Dave Keuning – from live duties without splitting the band. In high spirits, they gave Gigwise a chunk of their pre-gig time to talk toilets, Trump and the songs they’re putting together on the road.
Gigwise: How as your headline set at the Isle Of Wight?
Brandon: “Isle Of Wight was good, it wasn’t spectacular but we got to see Van Morrison and that was an unexpected surprise. We ran into Fran, I haven’t seen Fran from Travis in a long time so I got to catch up with him a little bit. His new film is a critics’ perspective of the band and him getting in touch with what it was like to be a fan again. It’s a nice idea.”
GW: What did you make of toilet-gate (many fans complained they missed The Killers’ set due to huge toilet queues)?
Brandon: “I only heard rumours. I had no problem, my bathroom was functioning and easy to get to. I’m sorry if anybody else had any trouble but we didn’t know about any of the problems anybody was having. It looked full all the time we were there, it didn’t look like there was a big patch of people missing.”
GW: The last time we spoke Ronnie revealed that you’ve been recording ideas for songs on the road, have they developed much over the past weeks?
Ronnie: “Not since then, because this has been festivals. There’s nowhere for us to really settle down and get a quiet space. But we’re thinking about it.”
Brandon: “He’s blown it out of proportion. There have been little bits. We’ve got guys who are pretty capable at recording on the road and there’ve been late-night recording sessions in hotel rooms and things like that, but nothing that substantial.”
GW: Do you have any idea yet on what direction it might take?
Brandon: “No, we need to get in a room and really be able to make loud noise.”
GW: Does writing on the road risk cutting Mark and Dave out of the creative process?
Brandon: “No, because songs have always come from all over the place, from all different corners, even from the very beginning when we were this unit that we were. I still brought in songs completely on my own – three or four of the songs on ‘Hot Fuss’ were written like that and then everybody got their hands on them later.”
GW: ‘Wonderful, Wonderful’ touched a lot of people due to its personal nature, exploring issues at the heart of Brandon’s marriage. Will you be getting even more personal in future?
Brandon: “It depends. It definitely tore down some walls that maybe were up before, and opened some doors. So I’m not opposed to it but I’ve also seen success from stream of conscience things where you tap into something that seems to be flowing that didn’t necessarily have any personal relevance to me that ended up becoming more than I anticipated so I’m always open to that too.”
GW: Has the success of ‘Wonderful Wonderful’ re-energised the band?
Ronnie: “I think so. A lot of unprecedented things have been happening, our first worldwide Number One, we’d never had that before, obviously not touring with two members of the band, that’s unprecedented probably for most bands that remain intact. We’ve been trying some new things production wise, there’s been a lot of growth and, for want of a better word, re-invigorating things.”
GW: Brandon has moved to Utah, where Ronnie already lives – are The Killers entering their Utah period?
Ronnie: “I’ve been there for about fourteen years. We’ll start – maybe not the band but certainly the family – maybe bonnets and multiple wives. We still have our place in Vegas and Brandon still has a place in Vegas, I still have a place in Vegas, we’re there too. We can still be ‘between states’. It’s literally a five-and-a-half hour, six-hour drive.”
GW: As a family-oriented sort of band, what did you make of Trump’s border separation policies?
Ronnie: “I don’t know enough about it. I don’t usually talk politics but it’s hard to avoid. You don’t have to be into politics, you just have to be alive to know that something doesn’t feel right. I’m doing personal investigation. It’s not that I’m a softy, I just hope I’m rational, even-keeled. I feel for people that have to leave any place and have upside down lives at the moment. I’m sure everybody has different reasons for coming or going or being separated.”
Brandon: “It was sad. I don’t know that I saw anybody that really agreed with it. Thank heavens they seemed to have acted in a positive manner [although] nothing could’ve been timely enough. Any time for kids separated from their parents like that could be traumatic. I have a son who had separation anxiety problems when he was a little boy and that was just if I was gone, let alone taking a kid from all that they know. It’s terrible.”