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NPR Arts & Life

'Desired Effect' Reveals How Important Family Is To Rocker Brandon Flowers


A decade ago, you could hardly turn on the radio without hearing this song.


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.


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.


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."


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.


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.

FLOWERS: Thanks.


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.