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The Killers on Collaborating with Bruce Springsteen and Creating an Album Over the Pandemic: “We [Had to] Actively Pull the Plug”

Brandon Flowers and Ronnie Vannucci Jr. on crafting a "record about a very unique place in time"

The Killers Interview
The Killers, photo by Danny Clinch/illustration by Steven Fiche
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    When The Killers unleash their seventh studio album, Pressure Machine, on Friday, August 13th, it will be less than a year to the day since they released 2020’s Imploding the Mirage. The pandemic has had that effect on bands: upending the traditional album cycle, but also presenting, as it did for the Vegas quartet, an unforeseen extra slot for creativity.

    “At this point, we’re ready for anything,” drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. tells Consequence. “We sort of bobbed and weaved and pivoted and shifted, and just rolled with whatever was thrown at us.”

    Pressure Machine is not your typical Killers album. Their songs are historically character-driven, but for the first time, they’ve centered on a very specific and personal concept: frontman Brandon Flowers’ small hometown of Nephi, Utah, and the people who live there. It’s technically these townsfolk’s stories that are told on this album, though each song is dexterously intertwined with Flowers’ own experiences, and sung in his capable tenor — except for when the song calls for a Nephi resident to speak on tape, but more on that later.

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    Furthermore, The Killers — on pause from touring for the first time since 2004 — likely couldn’t have made this album, in its special and intimate nature, under other circumstances. “I was able to just really immerse myself in those memories,” Flowers notes, “And try to do justice to the stories that I was kind of being almost nagged by.”

    Below, find the rest of Consequence’s conversation with Vannucci Jr. and Flowers, which took place over Zoom a few weeks ahead of Pressure Machine’s arrival, and has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.


    You were beginning to roll out Imploding the Mirage early last year, then everything was shut down, and your touring plans were put on hold. You released that record in August 2020, and now you’ve emerged less than a year later with Pressure Machine. Can you take me through everything that happened in that time?

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    Brandon Flowers: We were promoting Imploding the Mirage when we sort of started getting the red alarm. You know, we had heard about it. It was just like everybody else, you’re hearing it, you’re seeing it on CNN, you’ve never heard of this thing. And then it got serious and we went home — that was the last day of February.

    Ronnie Vannucci Jr.: The sky was falling.

    Flowers: So then we do what everybody else did — we did the whole hunker down. And then we realized the tour was going to get canceled, and we were gonna have a lot of time on our hands. So we just kind of got right to work. We live in the same town, and we were in our own bubbles, and being careful, and we started working.

    Ronnie Vannucci Jr.: We were sort of in a fortunate position, in a way. We weren’t mid-tour, you know? There were a lot of people who were in mid-swing. And tours are expensive, you have people to pay for, you’ve got hotels and flights booked and all this stuff. So we were sort of at this apex, this point where we could actively pull the plug and decide, “Okay, hunker down, let’s make another record.” We’re already in that mode.

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    Obviously, we had this gutted feeling of not being able to play shows, but our hearts also went out to the bands, especially the baby bands who were mid-swing mid-tour trying to do this shit. It was sort of fucking us up a little bit. And putting us in a bit of a zone thinking about like this, you know, that we felt before earlier in our lives, and you know, that kind of shit.

    I guess at one point, during that time, you’ve got to say, “We don’t get to tour Imploding the Mirage. Now we’re shifting into this next album already.” What’s your mindset when it comes to already saying goodbye to an album you didn’t quite get to put out there the way you maybe wanted to, and then going right into the next one?

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    Flowers: It was wild. But we did get to represent it. We did some alternate versions for TV. We had to get creative to promote it. And that pushed us into some uncomfortable territory, but that exposed some beauty in the songs. Like we did a version of “Blowback” for CBS that was right here in this room [in our studio].

    So there were some great moments that I think we’ll never forget. Our first time showing “Caution” to the world live was in my bathroom in my house, me and Ronnie — our drummer’s on guitar. And it was pretty wild times.

    Vannucci Jr.: Desperate times.

    Flowers: But it exposed it, the songs were good. And so that was something that was gratifying, even though we were sad that we weren’t going on tour. But yeah, it’s like Ronnie said. The beautiful thing was we were already in this zone and flexing these muscles in the studio. And then we just kept doing that, as opposed to going on tour. And so the next record came a lot easier than it would have, I think.

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