Brandon Flowers: An Ode To Las Vegas In 'Flamingo' The Killers' frontman has used the band's hiatus to write and record his first solo album. Flamingo is full of card and dice metaphors and draws heavily from the imagery and excitement of Flowers' glitzy hometown.
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Brandon Flowers: An Ode To Las Vegas In 'Flamingo'

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Brandon Flowers: An Ode To Las Vegas In 'Flamingo'

Brandon Flowers: An Ode To Las Vegas In 'Flamingo'

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Songwriter and musician Brandon Flowers is the front man for The Killers.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. BRANDON FLOWERS (Lead Singer, The Killers): (Singing) Coming out of my cage, and I've been doing just fine...

HANSEN: The Las Vegas band has established firm footprints in the music landscape with several critically acclaimed albums and a fanbase that stretches around the world. Despite the group's increase in popularity and the millions of albums sold, they've decided to take a break. Flowers is about to release his debut solo album called "Flamingo."

The title comes from a street just off the Vegas strip, but it's unlikely the first track on this record will be used by the city's tourist board.

(Soundbite of song, "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas")

Mr. FLOWERS: (Singing) You stumble down the boulevard, neon-encrusted temples. Looking for the grace of God in the arms of a fellow stranger...

HANSEN: Brandon Flowers is in our New York bureau. Welcome to the show.

Mr. FLOWERS: Oh, thank you.

HANSEN: You love your home city without a doubt. We've said you have a responsibility to defend Las Vegas, but does that love make it possible for you to paint the town in its true colors?

Mr. FLOWERS: Up until recently, it was difficult for me to do that. And I say with this first track on "Flamingo," "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas," it's me confronting Las Vegas for the first time, I guess. I understand that it's not a perfect place, but it is where I'm from and I just find myself being drawn back to it.

HANSEN: And you still get butterflies when you go on the Strip?

Mr. FLOWERS: I do, I really do. There's always an excitement around the Strip whenever something new being built. It was always the biggest and the best hotel or, you know, over-the-top things. And so, family would be coming in from out of town and it was such a thrill to be showing them this, you know, erupting new volcano or whatever it was. And I still retain that excitement about those lights.

HANSEN: Yeah. This song, "Welcome to Las Vegas," I just want to play something. It happens just after the verse and just before we get into the chorus.

(Soundbite of song, "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas")

Mr. FLOWERS: (Singing) Welcome to fabulous, welcome to fabulous Las Vegas.

HANSEN: Bruce Springsteen uses a similar kind of thing in his stuff. I cannot remember which song, but like it explodes the chorus. Are you influenced at all by his arrangements?

Mr. FLOWERS: Definitely influenced by him. It's something that's been kind of a recent introduction into my, you know, influences. So, I grew up on a lot of British rock and British pop music. And so in my mid-20s, I discovered this man, Bruce Springsteen - and other people as well came along, like Tom Petty and Tom Waits. And I do love it, yeah.

(Soundbite of song, "Welcome to the Fabulous Las Vegas")

HANSEN: Your mom passed away earlier this year. You were close with her. You cancelled your tour with The Killers to be with her. Did this record in some ways help you get over your loss?

Mr. FLOWERS: I definitely dove into the work of this album and the songs. And, you know, my mom gave me piano lessons and so open to letting me try everything that I wanted to do. And I feel like I'm repaying her somehow.

I also have two sons and I feel like the joy I get from the two boys and from my wife is helping with the grief of losing my mother. It's nice to go to the same places that I went when I was a kid. I like the idea of letting them know, you know, this is where you're from and having them have some of the similar experiences that I have. I can't make them just like me (unintelligible).


(Soundbite of song, "Jilted Lovers")

HANSEN: This song, "Jilted Lovers," is kind of a my-heart-is-broken dance tune.

(Soundbite of song, "Jilted Lovers")

Mr. FLOWERS: (Singing) Is there anyone out there, somewhere I can belong? And the city just ain't so kind tonight. I need a place to take refuge. See, I've been loving you blind. I guess that made it hard for me to find that we were caught up in the middle of a worn out dream. I knew we were in trouble. Well, baby, I know most dreams, where I saw you dancing, on the moon lounge. I watched him spin you round and round. Why did you roll your dice? Show your cards? Jilted lovers and broken hearts...

HANSEN: I noticed you use a lot of card and dice metaphors. Was it hard to get away from that simply because you were writing about Las Vegas?

Mr. FLOWERS: It definitely just kept oozing its way in. It's kind of everywhere you go. It's billboards of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. You drive by the Hilton every day and all the history that's there, it's just such a big part of the town.

HANSEN: I'm looking at the cover of the album and you're in a hotel room. You had actually performed at the Shimmer Showroom at the Hilton. You used the same dressing room as Elvis.


HANSEN: Oh my goodness.

Mr. FLOWERS: They haven't really renovated it or brought it up to date, and so it's kind of special place. You know, it very much looks the way it did when Elvis was there. And one of the great things about it, interesting things about it, is, I guess, I guess he had a bed in the bathroom. At first, it sounds strange and then when you get in there and you shut the door - and I admit I laid on the bed - he must have been so bombarded with people all the time and it really must have been a nice place for him to get some peace and quiet.

HANSEN: Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?

Mr. FLOWERS: I do. I'm starting to try and figure it all out. I thought I was just going to make an album and I was going to put it out there. It's just going to be this easy kind of thing. And then I learned that I am very much a perfectionist. It took a lot of my time and effort and I didn't want to just put something out there. I wanted to make something fantastic. It's definitely a part of who I am.

HANSEN: It's hard to tell though when you can stop writing a song if...

Mr. FLOWERS: Well, I guess the problem with being a...I don't think it ever is perfect.

HANSEN: Sure. So, how do you evaluate them? Because it appears when I listen to the finished product, that, to you, songs not only have to sound great but they have to have some kind of meaning.

Mr. FLOWERS: I feel a certain amount of responsibility. And I, you know, as I get older, I feel like I'm able to articulate a message a little bit better than I was when we first started. But, yeah, I mean, I guess it's because of the impact that music had on me. I feel a responsibility. But at the same time, I think music can also be very light-hearted and...

HANSEN: Yeah, there are the dance songs and the kind of anthem songs -everybody up on their feet. And there's "Magdalena," which is a story song.

(Soundbite of song, "Magdalena")

Mr. FLOWERS: (Singing) Please don't tell me I can't make it. It ain't gonna do me any good. And please don't offer me your modern method, by fixing the carpets out of wood. From Nogales to Magdalena, there are 60 miles of sacred road. And the promise is made to those who venture, San Francisco, lift your load...

HANSEN: What inspired it? What's the story?

Mr. FLOWERS: It's a great thing that happens every year in Mexico. It's a pilgrimage. These two towns have such great names. One is Nogales and the other is Magdalena and there's 60 miles in between these two towns. And I just love this story of these people go to walk. They walk for forgiveness and for blessings and just out of appreciation.

And it's almost like a marathon. Their family members come and line the roads with drinks and with food for the people that are doing the pilgrimage. And they sleep on the side of the road if they're not making it in the day. And they really inspired me and I loved that things like that are still happening.

(Soundbite of song, "Magdalena")

Mr. FLOWERS: (Singing) Tell them that I've made the journey, and tell them that my heart is true. I'd like his blessing of forgiveness, before the angels send it through. And I will know that I am clean now. And I will dance the band will play. In the old out to cantina, case we'll runneth over the ancient way...

HANSEN: Your parents were very hardworking people, and while you were in Las Vegas you worked. I mean, you worked as a busboy, a bellman, you worked on a golf course. Now that you have reached the level of celebrity that you have reached, does that working background ground you now in the city of illusion and the culture of celebrity?

Mr. FLOWERS: It's one of the things I'm really thankful for. I don't feel too far removed from it. You know, that's what we are and I'm so grateful that I was taught that lesson and that I got to experience that and hopefully I'll be able to keep my feet on the earth.

HANSEN: Yeah. There is a lyric from the Pet Shop Boys, the recording "Being Boring." And I'd like to actually paraphrase it as a question: did you ever dream you would get to be the creature you were meant to be?

Mr. FLOWERS: You know, that was a big song for me growing up and it is. It's a really surreal that's happened to me and it's difficult to really have a hold on it. But, yeah, I definitely didn't think that this would ever happen.

HANSEN: Yeah. So, you're still a work in progress really.

Mr. FLOWERS: I believe so - I hope so.

HANSEN: Brandon Flowers' new solo album is called "Flamingo," and it's released on the Island Records label. Brandon Flowers joined us from our New York bureau. Thank you so much and good luck to you.

Mr. FLOWERS: Thank you, thank you.

(Soundbite of song, "On the Floor")

Mr. FLOWERS: (Singing) When the lights go down in the city, getting real old. Settle in, in my room, I'm unnoticed. When the still comes in through my window, letting me go, I feel a calm come over me on the floor...

HANSEN: You can hear more songs from Brandon Flowers at our website

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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