As they matured from their indie dance-rock roots into torchbearers of new wave- and Americana-inspired anthems, Las Vegas rock quartet the Killers earned global success. With a mix of ’80s-styled synth pop and fashionista charm, the band’s multi-platinum 2004 debut, Hot Fuss, became one of the decade’s biggest releases, spawning four hit singles — including their most enduring hit, “Mr. Brightside” — and catapulting the group into the international spotlight. After the abrupt stylistic shift on 2006 sophomore effort Sam's Town — which de-emphasized the band’s new wave revivalism in favor of the heartland rock of Bruce Springsteen and Rattle and Hum-era U2 — they struck a balance between their two sides on a consistent run of Top Ten releases that peaked with 2017′s chart-topping Wonderful Wonderful. In 2020, their sixth album, Imploding the Mirage, garnered critical praise and scored them a U.S. alternative chart-topper with the single “Caution.” Less than a year later, they released the pensive tonal shift Pressure Machine.
Founding foursome Brandon Flowers (vocals/keyboards), David Keuning (guitar), Mark Stoermer (bass), and Ronnie Vannucci (drums) first came together in late 2001. Flowers had parted ways with his former synth pop group Blush Response after refusing to move to Los Angeles with the rest of his bandmates. Instead, he remained in Las Vegas, where he soon met local guitarist and Oasis fanatic Keuning. The two began collaborating on material; within weeks, they’d composed their soon-to-be radio hit “Mr. Brightside.” Stoermer, a former medical courier, and Vannucci, a classical percussion major at UNLV, eventually joined the fray, and the band began playing small clubs in their hometown.
A U.K. representative for Warner Bros. caught wind of the Killers’ brewing hype, and although he neglected to bring them on board the Warner roster, he did pass along their demo to the London-based indie imprint Lizard King. The British label quickly signed the Killers, who temporarily moved to the U.K. and issued a limited-edition single for “Mr. Brightside.” The Killers’ buzz had effectively traveled back across the Atlantic by fall 2003, and the band was offered a prime spot at the annual CMJ Music Marathon in New York City. A worldwide deal with Island followed shortly thereafter, positioning the Killers to join the ranks of fellow indie/post-punk revivalists Interpol, the Rapture, and the Strokes.
Shared U.K. dates with British Sea Power and stellastarr* in 2004 gave the Killers an opportunity to showcase material from their debut album, Hot Fuss, which was released that June. “Somebody Told Me,” “Mr. Brightside,” “Smile Like You Mean It,” and “All These Things That I’ve Done” all became worldwide chart hits, and Hot Fuss peaked at number seven on the Billboard Top 200. Buoyed by such success, Flowers became a sought-after media presence, often lashing out at such groups as the Bravery for riding his band’s coattails into the mainstream. The frontman’s confidence was not unwarranted; by 2006, Hot Fuss had earned five Grammy nominations and sold over five million copies.
Rather than take a break to recover from their heavy tour regime, the Killers immediately set to work on a second album. A newly built facility at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas became the band’s studio, and legendary producers Flood and Alan Moulder (who had previously worked together with U2 and the Smashing Pumpkins) were chosen to helm the controls. Instead of mining the glamour and glitz of their hometown (as they did to a successful extent on Hot Fuss), the group instead focused on nostalgia and the demise of old-fashioned American values, citing veteran songsmith Bruce Springsteen as a chief influence. The popularity generated by leadoff single “When You Were Young” led up to the highly anticipated release of Sam's Town in early October 2006. While the album did not match the popularity of the band’s debut, it nevertheless sold 700,000 copies worldwide during its first week, eventually spawning three U.S. singles and gaining the Killers two additional Grammy nods. Sawdust, a collection of B-sides, rarities, and remixes, followed one year later, serving as a stopgap recording between the band’s proper studio albums.
The Killers returned in 2008 with Day & Age, which eschewed the Americana tangents of Sam's Town in favor of pop pastiches and sleek, Bowie-inspired oddball dance-rock. The band’s return to the dancefloor was emboldened by Stuart Price, a veteran producer who had previously worked with Madonna and Gwen Stefani, and the Top 40 single “Human” helped the Killers continue their commercial streak. A lengthy tour carried the group into 2009, which also saw the release of the concert album Live from the Royal Albert Hall. Solo work filled many of the next few years, including Brandon Flowers’ Flamingo, Ronnie Vannucci’s Big Talk, and Mark Stoermer’s Another Life.
After reconvening in early 2011, the band got to work on their fourth studio album, enlisting a small army of notable producers, including Daniel Lanois, Steve Lillywhite, Damian Taylor, Stuart Price, and Brendan O'Brien. The resulting Battle Born was released in September 2012. The set peaked at number three on the Billboard 200, while lead single “Runaways” landed on the Hot 100. In early 2013, the Killers announced that they would be releasing their first greatest-hits collection. Entitled Direct Hits, the November release featured two newly recorded songs, “Shot at Night” and “Just Another Girl,” which were produced by M83 and Stuart Price, respectively.
In 2015, the Killers began working on new material for their fifth studio album, eventually choosing producer Jacknife Lee to helm the bulk of the tracks. The resulting record, 2017′s Wonderful Wonderful, featured cameos by Mark Knopfler and Brian Eno, as well as the radio hit “The Man.” It debuted at number one on the U.K., Australian, and U.S. charts. Before the Killers embarked on the road to support the album, the band announced that Mark Stoermer and David Keuning would not be participating in the tour, yet they had not officially left the group. Flowers and Vannucci forged forth, traversing the globe with touring musicians Jake Blanton, Ted Sablay, Robbie Connolly, and Taylor Milne.
By the end of the decade, the original lineup was effectively reduced to a loose trio, as Keuning did not appear on their next album and Stoermer provided bass for just a handful of tracks. That set, 2020′s Imploding the Mirage, ushered in a fresh era for the Killers. For this sixth full-length LP, Flowers and Vannucci were joined by multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Rado (Foxygen) and a team of famous guests including Adam Granduciel (War on Drugs), k.d. lang, Natalie Mering (Weyes Blood), Stuart Price, Blake Mills, Lucius, and Lindsey Buckingham. Upon release, the critically acclaimed Mirage topped the charts in Australia and the U.K., rising into the Top Ten in the U.S. upon the popularity of U.S. Alternative Top Ten singles “Caution” and “My Own Soul’s Warning.” In early 2021, a deluxe version was issued, featuring the previously unreleased “C’est La Vie” and reworked versions of “Caution” and “Blowback.” By then, there was already talk of another Killers album in the works, with Keuning and Stoermer back in the mix. Before details could be confirmed, the band teamed up with major influence Bruce Springsteen for a reworking of a Day & Age track that was rechristened “Dustland.” That one-off single landed just a month before Flowers and company finally announced their seventh album, which was released less than a year after Mirage.
The stark Pressure Machine marked a significant shift in the band’s approach. A restrained concept album that focused on Flowers’ home of Nephi, Utah, it stripped away their usual anthemic bombast and Vegas glamour to examine the darker side of small-town life. The melancholic LP hit number nine on the Billboard 200 and featured guests Phoebe Bridgers (“Runaway Horses”) and Dawes (“The Getting By”). Released a year later, the anthemic “Boy” marked something of a return to their signature sound, as did their synth-heavy 2023 single “Your Side of Town.” ~ Neil Z. Yeung & Andrew Leahey