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The Killers Talk Battle Born: Staying Working Class, Pondering Springsteen, Playing With Daniel Lanois
- Posted on Oct 19th 2012 3:00PM by Sarah Kurchak
Williams + Hirakawa
"It means a lot," drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr. tells Spinner of the slogan. "It has a great dynamic meaning. You could wrap it up into where we're from or maybe having been a band for 10 years and having been though the whirlwind, the tornado, the ringer. I think that, in a lot of ways, it's a fitting title. For anybody who's working, it doesn't matter if you're a car mechanic or just living and going through those experiences and having that time. I think if you're awake enough, words like that stand out to you and we feel like we have some ownership of that title."
In Toronto to promote the album, Vannucci Jr. talked about the band's writing process this time around, what it was like to work with Canada's musical wunderkind Daniel Lanois as both a producer and a co-writer, and how The Killers stay in touch with their Battle Born roots.
Has your approach to songwriting or the way you play as a band changed as you've grown and graduated to larger and larger venues? Battle Born sounds like a very anthemic album that was designed to fill a stadium.
Let's hope it does. If there was anything that we were conscious of, it was crafting these songs for the live setting. Because we didn't have the experience before, we'd make these songs and then have to sort of tweak them after the fact, six or eight months down the road, to the live type of setting. And that's not to say that these won't change live, but there was definitely more of an eye towards "How are these going to figure out live?"
Thematically, over the course of your career it seems like your lyrics have become more and more deeply rooted in your hometown and your home state.
We have been blessed to have the opportunity to get out there and see the world. None of us has done that before. We're from Vegas. Dave's from Iowa, but none of us had traveled overseas. I'd been to Canada, I'd been to Mexico for a minute. But we hadn't experienced anything. So I think that a lot of that sort of romanticism or ethnocentrism comes from being away a lot. You realize how different you are and where you come from and that affects you. It shapes you.
Your success as a band has probably afforded you with a very comfortable lifestyle, but Battle Born deals with working class themes in a way that doesn't come across as pandering or patronizing. How do you reconcile your current status with your roots?
We've been poor longer than we've been rich, so that doesn't really go... that hasn't been factored in yet. Although I am starting to get a little bit cocky. I want a fresh fruit tray every time I get into my hotel room that's west-facing. (laughs) No. Listen, we've been extremely lucky and who knows how long this ride will last? We don't have movie star friends and we don't drive Bentleys and stuff. Our families are still... our brothers work and they have families. When we're out on the road, we're being kind of dipped into this fantasy land, this sort of alternate universe, but when we're home and around people, our friends and family, it's a very normal life. It's very working class and I think it's important to keep a foot in, you know, don't forget where you come from. Don't forget what's real and what's important because it's very easy to get wrapped up in the superficial world. I find myself slipping all the time. It's natural, but...
So are you in your [Bruce Springsteen] Darkness at the Edge of Town period?
I don't know... interesting. We just saw Bruce the other day. I don't know. Maybe in 20 years time I'll be able to answer that. It's weird when you're in it. You sort of lose a certain amount of objectivity. It's, like, totally gone. You're blindsided by everything else.
Battle Born marks the first time that The Killers have written music with anyone outside of the band. How different was that experience?
Yeah. Daniel Lanois. We met him a few years ago and sort of kept in touch. Sort of on a whim... he was in L.A., we talked about doing the record, seeing if he wants to be involved at all, and produce some shit. And the way he produces is, he likes to play. He's a player. He's a musician first, a producer second, in my opinion. And he got in there with us and we spent maybe five or six days together and we would just write songs together. He was in the band for a week. We would write a song and run it down four or five times, get it right, just dudes on headphones looking at each other.
You took a brief break as a band in 2010. Do you think too much has been made of that hiatus?
It's the classic sensationalism.
It wasn't even that long.
No! Oh my god, it was barely a year. When people say "they've been away for four years," they forget that we've been touring for two years off of Day and Age [released in 2008], so we've really only been off for a year and a half. But I guess in rock years that's like 17 years.
It was a significant change from the album and tour cycle you kept up from Hot Fuss (2004) through to Day and Age. Do you think you'll go back to that pace after this? Or will there be more of a break in between albums from now on?
I think part of the rigor involved in that is just that no one's heard for us, and still a lot of people haven't heard of us. I think a lot of that pace was because we were a young band and that's what you need to do to get the word out and make people love you. You need to go out and work. These days... and it wasn't so much about... we didn't do any of those fucking shows, we didn't do car commercials or beer commercials. We went out and played shitty gigs and great gigs in bars and weird festivals and opened up for a lot of bands and played the strangest places in Europe and all of that stuff adds up. We'll see what happens. I think it's about having the most time we can have to ensure that the band has breathing room. Because it's taxing. Some people can handle it, some people can't. You need to kind of make sure that everybody has some breathing room.