Times Pop Music Critic
In the City of Sin, the righteous can flourish, the righteous can rock. And no one knows that, and shows that, better than Brandon Flowers, lead singer of the Killers, a glam band born in the neon glow of the Las Vegas skyline — and a band that just happens to be fronted by a hunky Mormon.
"Las Vegas was settled by Mormons, you know," says Flowers, on the phone to plug the Killers' headlining gig at Orlando Calling this Saturday (9:45 p.m., Main Stage), the quartet's rare appearance in the United States this year.
"There are a lot of Mormons living in Vegas. They actually say we're the strongest Mormons because of the Vegas Strip."
A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Flowers is also a member of the Sexiest Dudes in Rock 'n' Roll, a brooder who croons of salvation and lust, not always in that order.
When the Killers' multiplatinum debut Hot Fuss dropped in 2004, randy hits Mr. Brightside and Somebody Told Me didn't reveal Flowers as religious. A guylinered disciple of synth-blasted '80s New Wave? Yes. A follower of Joseph Smith? No.
And yet the man who throatily croons of "cocaine and Lady Luck" has never hidden his steadfast faith, either: "It prepared me for the life that I was thrust into. It's my job to do this. I don't feel like I'm doing anything wrong." As far as the drugs and promiscuity he so robustly sings of: "It's fun to use your imagination."
Flowers' religion — or better yet, his constant battle walking the line between good and rock star — is a hot topic among fans and critics. And yet Flowers' belief in a higher power is merely one of the things that makes him unique, a guy that Elton John listed as one of his heroes.
Flowers is a man of contrasts, a man of twists, a leading man unafraid of being saved by Charlize Theron over and over in the video for his solo hit Crossfire.
And with all respect to the other guys in the band — guitarist Dave Keuning, bassist Mark Stoermer, drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. — Flowers is also why the Killers are the most buzzed-about band at the two-day Orlando Calling super festival.
The 30-year-old has three sons now — Ammon, Gunner and Henry, the latter born this March — with wife Tana Brooke Mundkowsky, whom he married in 2005 at the very height of Killers mania. And there's yet another contrast: Flowers is an old-school family man whose job routinely leads him away from his family.
"I deal with it constantly," he says of the guilt of touring and recording and promoting. "The boys keep things in perspective. My goal is to know when enough is enough, and at what age is the right age to shut things down."
But retirement won't be any time soon. Good thing, too: The future of pop music depends on guys like Flowers and Kid Rock and Jack White, all of whom will be strutting at Orlando Calling.
Blending U2's arena-sized ego with Springsteen's ability to spin a tall tale — more contrasts there — Flowers and the Killers are the rare band that adheres to commercial tastes and indie aesthetics. Lady Gaga has that. Coldplay used to have that.
Celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, the Killers bring Pet Shop Boys and Tom Petty fans together — a specific talent indeed. And that starts with Flowers, whose own personal tastes ("more melodic, singable songs," as heard on 2010 solo album Flamingo) fit well with what he calls the "straight-ahead freight train" of the Killers, who have morphed from newfound Depeche Moders to a more guitar-and-'tude based crew.
The band's upcoming fourth LP is about "halfway there," Flowers confirms. "What I learned from the solo album I've used on the new Killers music." That applies to style as much as patience: "In the past I've been guilty of doing stupid things like rushing deadlines. So we're being cautious. We want this to be the absolute best we can make it."
Flowers says the new album will "tell stories," many of which have a genesis in his secret hobby: "I'm a big eavesdropper." Other people are interesting, he says — or at least more interesting than his simple existence: "My job is to be in a band and not get kicked out of my church."
Sean Daly can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@seandalypoplife) and Facebook (facebook.com/seandaly.tampabay).