Brandon Flowers’ teenage obsessions: ‘I considered an Oasis tattoo’

As the Killers release a new album, their frontman recalls his youthful love of Cheers, the Goonies and bonding over Bowie in Las Vegas

The American west

I grew up in Henderson, just outside Las Vegas. When I was eight, we moved to Nephi, this rural town in Utah. So at the same time I was falling in love with music, I was also being introduced to rodeos and farming. I didn’t realise the impact, but now if I hear the right song, I’m instantly transported back to the clouds, woods and mountains of the American west.

The isolation of the recent lockdown stirred up a lot of emotion about that time of my life, so the new Killers album is based on my teenage years in Nephi. It was a shock moving from what felt like a big city to a very small town. I felt like an outsider, a misfit. I remember thinking it was like living in the town from Stand By Me.

Apart from the cars, it still looked like something from the 50s. My dad only drove old cars and listened to oldies, so I fed into that, too. When I learned to drive, I was always driving 1952 trucks or 58 Chevys with the station set to the oldies, just like my dad.

Cheers

It is one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. I loved Woody Harrelson and Ted Danson. I was 12, 13, so some of the jokes might have gone over my head, but I learned a lot about life just from watching Cheers.

The beautiful thing was that it was something that I did with my dad. He worked at Smith’s supermarket in a white, button-up, short-sleeve shirt. He would come home and lay on the floor with his hands propping his head up to watch TV, and I would lay on or beside him. He had a particular smell, and whiskers, which seemed strange to a child. I remember touching his face and feeling the sandpaper on his jaw.

The cool thing is that Taxi in the 70s and Cheers in the 80s were written by Glen and Les Charles, who went to the same high school as my parents in Henderson, Nevada. It was cool that these guys who grew up in the same dirt as I had went on to become wildly successful sitcom writers.

Queen Bitch by David Bowie

I only discovered David Bowie at the end of my teenage years. I hadn’t realised that every band I had grown up listening to – New Order, the Smiths, Duran Duran, the Cure – all tied back to Bowie. The Bowie album that hooked me was Hunky Dory. I started to see the lineage and its importance.

I moved back to Vegas to try to form a band and was about to meet our guitarist, Dave Keuning, so it was a perfect time to be inspired. I was a food runner at Josef’s Brasserie on Las Vegas Strip, and would answer classified ads looking for singers or keyboard players, but didn’t really hit it off with anybody.

Looking back, knocking on all those strange doors was pretty dangerous. It was a relief to meet Dave. We bonded over similar influences and got something going right away. If you listen to Mr Brightside – even now – it’s such a direct descendant of Queen Bitch from Hunky Dory, I’m surprised we weren’t called out immediately.

Oasis

Man, I was pumped about Oasis as a teenager. I was definitely Oasis over Blur. Liam is the ultimate frontman and Noel such a great songwriter, and they just captured Britain. Even being so far away, they were appealing. I even batted around the idea of getting an Oasis tattoo.

I was hell-bent on having a synth pop band. Then I saw Oasis play at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas in 2001. Listening to the crowd during Don’t Look Back in Anger, I realised I wanted guitars as well.

We’re one of the lucky bands not to have been completely dismissed by Noel or Liam. I’ll never forget one of our first trips to the UK, playing the NME awards. Noel came backstage and said he’d worked out how to play All These Things That I’ve Done. It was so surreal, because less than a year before, I was sitting on my bed with a guitar, without a record deal, trying to work out Oasis tracks.

Virgin Megastore

There used to be a shop called the Underground in Las Vegas. My older brother Shane would come home with subway-sized posters of the Cure and Tears For Fears, and NME and Q Magazine.

When the Underground closed, the only place I could get my hands on British stuff was Virgin Megastore in Caesars Palace. I would sit in the magazine aisle for hours, just to see what was happening. You could read about something then go downstairs and actually buy it from the import section.

That’s how I found out about the Strokes. Their first release, The Modern Age EP, was a pretty big moment in my life, because I realised that I wasn’t good enough. If I was going to compete, I had to get better. Yellow by Coldplay had come out and we’d heard some of the White Stripes, but the Strokes were so good. It was depressing, but it lit a fire in me that really helped propel our band, and we threw away all the songs we’d written up to that point, apart from Mr Brightside.

The Goonies

We’re on a bit of a Corey Feldman phase at the moment, and so we showed our kids Stand By Me and The Goonies. It’s funny, kids aren’t affected by The Goonies the way we were, and I can’t quite wrap my head around why. I suppose Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Stranger Things are so good, it’s tough for them to understand why we loved Goonies so much.

Goonies still has such a hold over me. I think it goes back to why I was sort of in love with the idea of England. It’s the overcast skies. Goonies was filmed in Oregon in the Pacific Northwest. Eighty per cent of the movie is grey clouds. It was so different to Henderson, Nevada, where it’s 345 days of sun a year.

I loved that anything is possible for these kids on their bikes. It’s got all the ingredients: adventure, treasure, crime. And the music – oh my gosh. I loved The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough by Cyndi Lauper. Plus Josh Brolin’s character is called Brandon, so obviously I gravitated towards him.

  • The Killers’ new album Pressure Machine is out now

Contributor

As told to Rich Pelley

The GuardianTramp

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