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- Posted on Jul 12th 2011 12:00PM by Theo Spielberg
Not straying far from the synth-rock brand of music the Killers peddle, Big Talk throws out epic hooks, anthemic riffs and '80s-style feel-goodery with effortless conviction. At times Vannucci sounds uncannily like bandmate Brandon Flowers. However, he also tries his hand at dirty Spaghetti Western tunes (see 'No Whiskey') as well as Wilco-ish alt-country rock ('Girls at Sunrise') with the same tangible delight of exploration he demonstrates simply by stepping out from behind the drums.
Spinner recently caught up with a breathless Vannucci, who had just "finished a jam," to discuss the album and the Killers' future.
What inspired you to step out from behind the drums?
Man, I've been telling everybody that the genesis was just boredom. But the more and more I think about it there are probably other components to that. Honestly, a large part of that was trying to stop cold turkey from a certain taste that you've acquired. You're on the road nine years, you're going 100 miles an hour, you don't get to slow down. And all of a sudden, BOOM, everyone says, "Hey man, why don't we take a break?" and I'm like "Yeah!" And then like two weeks into it I was going f---ing crazy, creatively wanting to get to some places. I did a couple things but I just thought this is maybe a good time to take a nice big swim into "Lake Me," see what's in there. So I started messing around with old ideas and coming up with new ideas, and that's basically what became the Big Talk record.
Did you play all the instruments on the album?
Yeah. And then Taylor [Milne] who plays lead guitar, that's him goofing around in the background right now. Taylor was a big part of this as well. I brought the songs in but he really helped me, he kind of stood in my corner. He's got such a great attitude, a positive attitude. It's not like I have a s----y attitude but sometimes if you're up your own ass for too long you lose objectivity. You don't think anything is good anymore, you think the crap is the good stuff and you just sort of deride the whole scenario. He really helped in that way, not only with his musical skills, but the comradery was really nice.
Also Matt Sharp from Weezer and the Rentals played bass on a couple tracks and then Ted Sablay played bass on a couple as well. I tried to bring it in, you know, pop open a bottle of whiskey, invite some friends over and see what happens. It was very real and very organic. I didn't even know I was going to make a record before getting into it.
Has fronting a band changed your musical process or approach?
Well, no ... I guess in some ways. It's not something I've really thought about as far as the songwriting thing goes. It's just changed my perspective a little bit. In that way I guess it's changed the way I think about a song. Playing drums, I always tend to think about the live aspect and about how it's going to translate, how it's going to be fed to the minds and brains of people who are listening. I'm still very much a listener too and I want to be happy when I hear something. So to answer your question, yes because I'm thinking more dynamically. I'm thinking "Oh f---, I'm the dude up front who has to deliver this."
Where did the band name come from?
I started tossing around a bunch of different names and you kind of start out as a joke. I wanted to call it Big Talk because, at least in my mind, this is a very fun side project. Having been fortunate to have been in a bigger rock band, you get used to seeing people being overly hyped. I was just thinking it would be a nice play to call it Big Talk because this is probably the closest thing to not being hyped, but here I am giving an interview to AOL. It's one of those names that's so bad it's good again.
Are you embracing the Killers' shadow or trying to escape it?
I'm trying not to use the smoke of it too much, or the steam of it. I really want to see what this does. There is so much bulls--- going on and there is so much superficiality that I wish I could just go up about this anonymously. That's another reason why I gave it a band name as opposed to my given name. I want to just see what it does without the steam of those big machines, without the red carpet and stuff. I just want to see if the songs hold up, just to see. That's a hard thing to escape.
Did you ever ask Brandon how to navigate the solo project?
Not really specifically. We had a couple conversations about just going out and doing some gigs and about how in his experience the solo thing is nerve-wracking at first. It was like starting over again. A lot of his stuff was not as high-tempo or high-energy as [the Killers] so he's got to deliver in a totally different way and you don't have the same guys behind you and it's a different thing.
Hopefully mine is up-tempo enough that I can get away with it, up-tempo enough to keep me in that rock zone. So far I've been having a good time with it. It's just going to be different when a bunch of eyeballs are looking at me. If nothing else this is just a personal challenge for me. I'd probably be doing this if I weren't in a band. I was doing this when I was 12 years old.
What's the status on the Killers' fourth album?
We're doing pretty good actually. We're about a month and a half in. We're doing these writing schedules where we do a month on and a month off. So right now in July it's the month off. So I'm taking advantage of that time off and doing shit with Big Talk. Then August we'll write. We basically write in a room, just band-in-a-garage style for 16 hours a day, writing and recording stuff then going back and listening to it, sifting through the rubble and making songs. I'm really excited about it. Sometimes when you have stuff in your head you can't sleep, so I wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning with these new tunes in my head and I can't shake 'em. We're all really excited to get the next batch out. We have no date or anything set, we just want to make sure it's good and take our time with it. Not too much time.
Is it hard finding a balance between the two projects?
I think it's finding its balance now. I think the balance between the dudes is fine. Creatively, I feel that there's enough of a difference there to find the balance. I have stuff that just would be better suited for Killers' songs and stuff that would be better suited for what I'm doing as well, and then I have stuff that's sort of like game-show music.
Are you going to try frontman duties outside of Big Talk?
Oh no, I haven't thought about that. The whole frontman thing kind of came by as a way of kind of writing these songs. The objective was not to become a frontman -- it was just to write songs and to see if I could do it. It was almost a secondary matter.
Side projects in general come with a certain set of expectations from fans -- do you think about that? Do you care?
The expectation is to think about my first band the Killers. Anything you do affects the look and the reputation of the band so you don't want to put s-- out there, which is why I sort of kept quiet about the whole thing. I actually think it's good now -- I've got a little more confidence. At first it was tough. You don't want to give your band a bad rep. Anything you put out has to be worth a s---.
Stay tuned, we'll see how this goes. If it goes well, then we'll kick it in the pants.