'Desired Effect' Reveals How Important Family Is To Rocker Brandon Flowers
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
A decade ago, you could hardly turn on the radio without hearing this song.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MR. BRIGHTSIDE")
THE KILLERS: (Singing) Coming out my cage and I've been doing just fine. Got to, got to be down because I want it all.
GREENE: The band is The Killers. Their lead man is Brandon Flowers. He's a rocker. He's been in crazy music videos wearing eyeliner, surrounded by provocatively dressed women. His hometown is known as Sin City.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS")
THE KILLERS: (Singing) Give us your dreamers, your harlots and your sins. Las Vegas.
GREENE: And here's another thing - Brandon Flowers is a committed family man and a devout Mormon. Contradiction? Maybe, but he says don't be surprised.
BRANDON FLOWERS: A lot of people don't know Las Vegas was settled by Mormons.
GREENE: I didn't realize that.
FLOWERS: Yeah, before the mob came to town.
FLOWERS: And I definitely look at Las Vegas through a different set of lenses. I romanticize, you know, things about it. And even The Rat Pack and things like, I feel, like, you know, the spirits of all those people and Elvis. And there's a lot of history there that I appreciate being around.
GREENE: And he hung around the city in different jobs, including bussing tables. That's how he met - well, almost met his hero, Morrissey, from the British band The Smiths.
FLOWERS: Yeah, so I idolized Morrissey, definitely a lot of posters on the wall. And this was at the height of my sort of fandom. I was probably 18, and I was working at Spago inside Caesar's Palace. I was a busser. And I just remember - I saw him at first from behind, and I knew it was him. You know, I was that familiar with...
GREENE: You could recognize him from behind?
FLOWERS: Yeah, I was that familiar with his hair and his - the back of his head and everything. And it was just, you know, I was beside myself. I went over to profess my love for him and his work, and it was just a disaster.
GREENE: What happened?
FLOWERS: You know, I was probably trembling (laughter). And I looked a little bit scary, probably, to them, so they kind of ushered me and shushed me away. But, you know, it was just such an exciting thing.
GREENE: You were doing different jobs. I mean, you were cleaning golf carts. You were a bellhop. You were waiting tables. What was that experience like?
FLOWERS: I loved it. In the back of my head, you know, I just assumed this was what I would do - something like this - forever because that's what my uncle's did, and eventually, my dad became a bellman. And people in my family, you know, that's sort of the heart of Las Vegas, and a lot of people, you know, work in casinos.
GREENE: Brandon Flowers did not exactly follow in his family's footsteps. He's a rock star, after all. Then again, listen to his new solo album called "The Desired Effect" and you know how important family is to him.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I CAN CHANGE")
FLOWERS: (Singing) When your time runs out and you're looking for a place to land, I'll step from the shadow into the palm of your hand.
GREENE: When Brandon was young, his father was an alcoholic but suddenly had a change of heart and converted to Mormonism.
FLOWERS: He felt it so strongly that he was baptized that day. And, yeah, the church, they didn't - they weren't able to accommodate him with the church that day, so he got baptized in my aunt Joyce's (ph) swimming pool.
GREENE: It was that important for him to get this done that day?
FLOWERS: Yeah. And it was a - you know, a really life-changing thing. He start - he just became a lot more positive and a lot happier. And weird things started happening. He would - he brought home a homeless family to live with us for a while. He just became a different guy, I guess.
GREENE: And after he experimented with drinking and the rock 'n' roll scene, Brandon made the same choice.
So you're sober. You are a devout Mormon. You're family man, three kids, yet, you know, you're pulled by the spirit of Elvis. You, yourself, have, you know, a rock and roll kind of image, you know, and that you'll show onstage. I mean, these seem to be conflicting impulses here.
FLOWERS: They are. I mean, I'm not without temptation or anything like that, but I - you know, I also feel like I learned a lot in the early days, having that contrast of knowing what I felt, what made me feel good and then trying to fit into this role of a - you know, of the lead singer of a rock band. You know, because I've had both of those experiences, it made it easier for me to decide which road I was going to take.
GREENE: Is there a song on the new album that might sort of speak to these conflicting impulses we're talking about?
FLOWERS: I think maybe "The Way It's Always Been."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WAY IT'S ALWAYS BEEN")
FLOWERS: (Singing) A shift at the chemical plant, a white wedding dress. I wake up every morning, and I wonder if I'm going to pass the test. Try to live up to what she's got in mind. Sometimes the pressure's so heavy, I feel like leaving it all behind.
You know, you have this sort of obligation to provide, you know, for your family, and it's a big, you know, responsibility.
GREENE: Which brings us to yet another seeming contrast in this musician's life - he stresses that nothing is more important than his wife and three sons, and yet he tours a lot. He makes his own music in between Killers album and he pushes the bands to get back to work.
Some of your bandmates wanted a break from the rat race and to take some time off. You seem determined to just get back out there.
FLOWERS: I just am excited about, you know, contributing. And I'm excited about, you know, writing a song better than I've ever written before. So it's just - I'm also - feel really blessed to have this be my job. I don't feel that far removed from my brother-in-laws and my brother and the experiences that I've, you know, saw my dad go through.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BETWEEN ME AND YOU")
FLOWERS: (Singing) And all my life, I've been told, follow your dreams, but the trail went cold.
It's just so easily could've been me going through this, you know, the struggle that I see people going through today with jobs and raising family. I'm lucky because I made, you know, money quite at an early age, and I've had this success. And so I can't really complain about that. I don't have to worry so much about my bills. But I definitely have concerns regarding my kids, and I don't want to neglect them either.
GREENE: Brandon Flowers, it's been a real pleasure talking to you and best of luck with the album.
FLOWERS: Thanks for having me.
GREENE: Thanks a lot.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BETWEEN ME AND YOU")
FLOWERS: (Singing) Between me and you.
GREENE: That's Brandon Flowers from The Killers. His new solo album is called at "The Desired Effect." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.