Q&A: The Killers


The Killers are a band you should probably hate. They arrived late to the alt-rock party, they rose to stardom quickly--thanks in part to a guest spot on The OC--and their tunes conspicuously consort with fluffier Top-40 flavors of the day.

Yet, try as we might, we cannot write off the Killers as another flash-in-the-pan major label creation. Chat with local bands, from young electronic acts to veteran rockers, and you're likely to find the Killers resting safely on common ground. And when Lou Reed, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, and Paul McCartney all give you the thumbs-up, you've got to be doing something right.

In anticipation of the Killers' upcoming Twin Cities show, we spoke to drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. from Las Vegas about the band's new record Day and Age, what it's like to drum for Brandon Flowers, and why the band feels the push to evolve.

You've been in rehearsal for the past couple of days. How is it going?

We're basically getting our shit together so that we don't sound lousy live. There's a lot of coloring on this record that is difficult to duplicate live unless you have rehearsals. You can't just go up there cold and nail a harpsichord part. It needs to be rehearsed. It was not enough time to rehearse, so it should be pretty fun at the shows. On tour, for a full month or so you're kind of still working it out. Rehearsals are so different from live shows, but we're up to the challenge. We still like playing live the best. People are paying good money and we want to make sure we don't let them down.

For those don't know much about you personally, how did you become involved with the band?

Dave and Brandon got together first. They were doing it for a couple months when we ran into each other and became friends. I was finishing school, so at the time I was busy with that. One way or another they twisted my arm.

As a drummer, how do you approach Killers songs?

Most people think drumming is just the beat or the backbone. I don't think of it as just that. I think drums are a much more musical instrument than you would usually think of. When I hear certain inflections in a vocal part, melody or rhythm, I work from that. We all basically work together to find a good fit for each part. Instead of the usual drums playing, guitars strumming, and bass following the guitar with vocals on top, I look at it like an orchestra. Songs need to be emotive, expressive and fit together.

What is the most challenging thing about playing with the Killers?

I look at it on a song-by-song basis. Some of our songs are loose and rubato, which means time gets stretched, it moves--it actually means "robbed time." Other songs call for a very symmetrical, machine-like precision. Really, what it comes down to is whatever is best for the song. Sometimes that can be challenging, but only in the begging stages of where you want to take the song. "Smile Like You Mean It" is this old timey folk song if you take away the other layers. We wanted to put a facia on it to join two sounds and blur the line with modern dance. That was a challenge in and of itself.

Few mainstream artists reinvent themselves with each record. Why is that so important to the Killers?

I think it has to do with the people in the band. It's all a function of personality. Everybody in the band has so much to do with the way the songs are formed that it can't help but have this push and pull effect from the compromise between us. Of course we haven't stopped listening to music, so we're still inspired by different music all the time. As songwriters and musicians, we're interested in growth. That comes out in our music. There's an honesty in there. Some people complain when a band sounds different from the way they used to. When I see a band doing that, I see honest transition and evolution. Then again, other bands do what they do and do it well and they rule. There's nobody that can touch them, like AC/DC. They won't be doing any power ballads. I can't see Angus Young on flamenco guitar.

You had your glossy breakout album, your stripped-down rock record--where does Day and Age fit?

You can't help but think it has to fit somewhere in the progression. I think they're all very different records. To get back on the old honesty box, Day and Age is a snapshot of what was going on in our lives when we recorded. We wouldn't have made the same record if we'd waited a few months. It is what it is.

What can Twin Cities Killers fans expect at the show?

When I was younger and I'd go see bands, I would think about the event that whole day. I'd be in school thinking 'Oh wow, I'm going to see Kenny G, he's coming to Vegas!'  It would consume my day and when I'd get there it would be magical. We want to create that for people, a moment, make them forget about the mortgage problem, the economic crisis. That's our bag. We've spent a little extra money on some production, we've got some surprises. We're going to bring some black magick to the Twin Cities.

The temperature here today was minus 29 degrees.

Holy shit! I'll bring a cardigan.

The Killers will play a show with M83 at the Northrop Auditorium Monday, January 19. 7:30 p.m. $46.50/$58.50.