Often times greatest hits albums are nothing more than product to fulfill a recording contract or serve as a stop-gap while a band takes a breather, but for Killers frontman Brandon Flowers, Direct Hits, out on Nov. 11, is much more.
"I'm proud of this," Flowers says. "The first record I ever bought was the Cars' Greatest Hits, so this means a lot to me. It's not just a compilation. It's a celebration of what we've done."
Yet Flowers does have some misgiving about the set. "It is kind of strange to get a retrospective," he says. "I'm only 32, but it's nice to package it up and I'm excited about moving forward after this."
Since forming in 2001, the Killers have scored such modern rock hits as "Somebody Told Me," "Smile Like You Mean It," "Mr. Brightside," "When You Were Young" and others, while paving the way for fellow Las Vegas-spawned act Imagine Dragons.
While Direct Hits does round up the Killers' most popular songs, such as the aforementioned tracks as well as "Read My Mind," "Human," "Spaceman," and more, the set also includes some bonuses. Along with the original demo of "Mr. Brightside" and a remix of "When You Were Young" by Calvin Harris, the album includes two new tracks — "Shot At The Night" and "Just Another Girl."
The new tracks aren't just merely leftovers from previous sessions. "The label told us they were doing this and we could either be a part of it or not, so we decided to lend a hand," Flowers explains. "I had been working on these songs already, so I was glad to find a home for them so quickly."
"Shot At The Night" was recorded with M83's Anthony Gonzales, who the band befriended when the group opened for the Killers on their Day and Age tour. "We got along great and we share a lot of the same influences, so it was pretty natural."
For "Just Another Girl," the band reunited with Stuart Price, who produced their 2008 effort Day & Age and 2012's Battle Born as well as Flowers' 2010 solo set Flamingo. "We work together really well and we were brought up on a lot of the same music and love a lot of the same stuff. He's like my brother, Stuart. It was just nice and easy."
Over their career, the Killers — which also includes guitarist Dave Keuning, bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci — have frequently been compared to such legends as U2 and Bruce Springsteen, something that Flowers is comfortable with. "It doesn't bother me, those are compliments. Those are some of the masters of the craft and that's what I sort of set out to do. I want to do this well and I want to grow. I don't feel tied down or anything like that by being compared to somebody," he says. "We also have not been shy about how much music has influenced us, how many different types. We've kind of chased a lot different rabbits down, down different holes — sometimes down the wrong holes, but we're trying, man. We're honest."
What were some of the wrong holes? "Maybe fans loved it, so I'm not going to tell what hole was wrong."
While Flowers may not come clean on his past mistakes, he is more than happy to talk about some of his inspirations. In fact, the Killers' name was lifted from a fictional group in New Orders' 2001 video for the track "Crystal."
To cement that connection the Killers played "Crystal" live at a gig at the Manchester MEN Arena in February with New Order frontman Bernard Sumner as a special guest. "He's got the best fade haircut in music," Flowers says. "I always loved that and aspired to that. I'm a huge New Order fan. He's one of the pleasant surprises. You meet these people along the way and for the most part people are really great, but Bernard is exceptionally nice and even though he's accomplished so much, and has been Joy Division and New Order and Electronic and created all this great music, he's still really humble. It's a real inspiration."
Flowers also draws inspiration from religion. He describes himself as a "devout Mormon," adding, "There are bad connotations when you say extreme, but I'm a believer. Full blown." That's something that doesn't necessarily go hand and hand with rock 'n' roll, he admits. "When you look at it on paper it seems strange, but living it, it's gotten easier and easier. In the beginning I struggled a little bit, maybe because I was just young. I admired these bands and put these bands on pedestals that lived the rock 'n' roll life. You want to test it out and feel like you should be doing certain things, but I realized pretty quickly that just wasn't me and felt better when I was living the way I thought I should be living, and it just gets easier and easier."
Although the Killers are promoting Direct Hits in here and in the U.K., including a recent appearance on "Later With Jools Holland," the band has no plans to tour in support of the album and Flowers plans to do a second solo effort before the Killers regroup to record another album.
Flowers does admit that sometimes being in a band can be hard. "It's tough to complain when it's your job being in a band," he says. "But sometimes the living quarters are tight and we're four really different personalities. We didn't grow up together, so there's really been a learning process. It's not always cherries and whip cream, but somehow we made it last this long."
Perhaps adding to the band's longevity is the side projects that Flowers and his band mates have engaged in over the years. "That's nice," Flowers explains. "I enjoy the freedom of doing that with a whole new set of people to go on the road with. There's fresh conversations and different points of view. It's nice to switch it up. I'm looking forward to doing that again."
However, it's with the Killers that Flowers has experienced his career highlights, which include playing the White House on the 4th of July and playing London's Wembley Stadium. He also recalls the band's early days with fondness. "Playing bars and the excitement of having a guy from a record label check you out and you have those butterflies," he recalls. "Those are unbeatable gigs as well." Then there was the time the band was touring in a 14-passenger van and they got a call inviting them to open for Morrissey at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles. "That was pure joy," Flowers says. "It's so exciting when one of your heroes knows that you exist and enjoys your music."
As for the future, Flowers isn't quite sure where his muse will lead him and the Killers. "It just depends on what song I hear," he says. "I'm not sh*tting you. You hear 'Push,' the Cure song from Head on the Door, and I just want to follow that; and then I hear something like 'Racing in the Street' by Springsteen, or whatever it is, and I'm pulled back in this completely different direction. My life's goal right now is to make all this work."