You may recall that earlier today I received an Ask Box request to compile information on each of The Killers songs that would give a brief overview of what a particular song was about.
One reader emailed me and reminded me that when ‘Sam’s Town’ was released in 2006, Brandon Flowers sat down with NME and did a track-by-track guide to ‘Sam’s Town’. While I have been unable to locate the actual text on NME’s website yet, the text has been posted on numerous Killers fan sites.
Given that this will likely be the easiest album to do that for, I’ll kick this off with ‘Sam’s Town’.
The following text is taken from that NME interview.
An excited Brandon Flowers talks NME through The Killers’ new LP ‘Sam’s Town’
Kasabian have done it. Razorlight have done it. Now it’s The Killers turn to have a crack at the ‘difficult second album’ with the release of Sam’s Town this week. So were the Las Vegas outfit nervous about being the last of the class of 2004 to put out a follow up LP? Not for a second. “We had a real confidence because of the success of Hot Fuss, so we thought we’d take advantage of it. We didn’t want to make a shy album,” declares Brandon Flowers of the LP they recorded in Las Vegas and London this year. “We wanted to keep going and keep building on this”. Here, the singer explains to NME just how he managed it:
We wanted to come back unashamedly and this was the perfect way of sounding confident and strong. Everybody puts their tails between their legs when they make their second album, but we wanted to come out all guns blazing and that’s what Sam’s Town sounds like. It’s named after a casino I used to live across the street from. The way The Beatles had landmarks like Abbey Road and Penny Lane; I wanted to do that for Las Vegas. We’re proud of where we’re from and it marks a period of our lives.
I think we invented that, the Enterlude and the Exitlude! (laughs) We were recording in a hotel casino and I was messing around on a piano. Next to me was a room key-card that said ‘we hope you enjoy your stay’ on it, and it all just took off from there. The melody came from a dream. I have musical dreams, but I rarely remember them. This is the only time I’ve been able to remember one. It sounds ridiculous but it was Kurt Cobain on a ship, in the clouds! He was singing this melody and I remember thinking he sounded like Bob Dylan, so that made it even weirder!
WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG
We knew right away this would be a single. We had the record label breathing down our necks. They were worried that we wouldn’t write another Somebody Told Me - and we didn’t want to, so they were really worried. One day we were just messing around and this chord progression came about and I had the Jesus line, so it felt alright. I remember driving home after we made a rough recording and I slept a little easier ever since that night. The song’s about the idea that saviours can come in different forms, that’s a lot of it.
This was kicking around for a long time and then at the last minute we added some acoustic guitars and it really made it feel like the desert, which all ties right into the album. It’s like Talking Heads and Johnny Cash. I guess it’s like a medal for my father. It’s glorifying the person who does a great job raising his kids, just going to work everyday. A lot of people in bands write about the working stiffs. I wanted to make something that was the opposite, because that’s what my family is and I’m proud of it. My dad is 64 years old, he raised 6 kids and now he’s got 20 grandkids and I guess that’s what the ending of the song is about. When you see him playing with his grandkids he’s a happy man.
It’s a very old song. We wrote it on tour and recorded it on Louis XIV’s bus. We had a finished version that night and the one on the album is very similar. We wrote a lot during soundchecks on the road, hashing out songs. I feel this is a good bridge to Hot Fuss.
READ MY MIND
It’s the best song we’ve ever written! It has a hymn like spirituality and there’s a story - it’s what you strive for in a song. It used to be called Little Angela and it was totally different. It had a rock beat and my lyrics told a small love story. Flood and Alan came in and made a stab at my lyrics and had Ronnie play a disco beat. I started singing this different story and within a few hours it was a different song.
Uncle Jonny is my mother’s brother. He’s the black sheep of the family. Every couple of years something would happen. He’s done everything from shoot himself to drug addictions yet somehow he’s ended up alright. He’s really a nice guy. He’s heard the song and he’s happy to be immortalised because he’s a rocker, he’s always got a Zeppelin shirt on. Jonny deserves the song’s riff (laughs). You don’t usually use the word riff with us, but this is one of the greatest riffs of all time. I guess it’s a little bit inspired by being on the road with U2. We learnt a lot from watching them.
This is the oldest song on the album at 2 years old and I was really getting tired of it. We hadn’t played it for anybody and it didn’t feel good enough, then Mark had an idea. He grew up playing the trumpet, so we brought in real brass and it brought the song to life. It just exploded! It’s one of my favourites now. It’s a romance, it’s sweet but it’s twisted in some ways.
It’s our attempt at a ballad. It’s a unique song, with the way it goes at the middle ‘don’t give the ghost up’. It’s for my wife. I wanted people to believe it like I believe when I hear something I love. I want that on every song, but this one has a moment that you never know if it’s going to happen again - we just got lucky. This is me. We didn’t have many vocal tracks so this is the closest to what I sound like in the shower (laughs).
THIS RIVER IS WILD
It’s a strange one. Some people already hate it; some people like it, but the ones who love it are diehard. I love it! If ever there’s been a musical journey this is it. When I listen to it I don’t want it to end. Each chorus is different, that’s untypical of us, so it’s our shot at doing something different. This is also the most literal song here. I was born in Las Vegas but I grew up in a small town in Utah called Nephi, and the whole idea of escaping it and the excitement of that prospect is all captured on this.
WHY DO I KEEP COUNTING?
It was very difficult to get the band to sound the way we do on this, but it was time well spent because it became a real explosion. It’s a bit ELO a bit Bowie and it’s the climax of the album - it ends with the gong. Basically it’s a bargain with God. I have a big problem with flying and the first thing I do if there’s something wrong is I pray. Just bargaining, “I’ll be good if you let me live!”
I didn’t want to melancholic, and everybody seems to be reminiscing about last month these days as opposed to good times, so I think the beauty of the Exitlude is there’s sadness to it but it’s not over. You want to go back to Sam’s Town and I do too. It reminds you of the Cheers theme tune? (laughs) I grew up on Cheers! I was with Woody Harrelson the other night and I told him what an effect Cheers had on my life! (laughs) I felt so ridiculous!
We’re not artists, there’s only a couple in the world and Anton Corbijn is one of them. We just put our faith in what he wanted to do. He listened to the album, had ideas and just ran with it. We were out there during the shooting and he took the pictures of us on the inside of the album that day too. I wasn’t sold on it until we put The Killers logo on there and then there was no doubt about it. What does it all mean? The bighorn sheep is the Nevada State animal, that’s all I’ll give you!
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