Album release day inspires a mix of excitement and nerves among even the most self-assured artists, but when the Killers' fifth album, Wonderful Wonderful, drops on September 22nd, frontman Brandon Flowers might be feeling a touch more anxious than usual. It is, he admits, his most personal album yet. "It's like a precious flower that's opened up," jokes drummer Ronnie Vannucci in a London hotel a few days after their recent sellout Hyde Park show. "I've bloomed," adds Flowers with a grin.
Where previous records dealt largely in fictional stories – the murder of a girl called Jenny, a Springsteen-inspired portrait of the band's Las Vegas hometown and other mini-narratives – Wonderful Wonderful speaks largely to personal experience, from "Rut", an emotive anthem recalling Whispering Jack-era John Farnham, to the title-track, inspired by Flowers' wife's difficult upbringing.
"I'm trying to figure out why I'm doing this – I think I've just been a little bit guarded before," says Flowers. "But I also know that when I make the connections and I'm being honest and when it works, those are the songs I like to perform most, and I wanted to do that more on this record."
If the lyrics are more inward-looking, the music is the opposite of that; stacked with screamalong choruses and monster hooks geared to propel the Killers back into festival headline slots five years after their last record was released. Jacknife Lee (Taylor Swift, U2, Bloc Party) was tapped to help with an updated stadium sound after what Vannucci describes as "speed dating" different producers.
"He's a big believer in rock & roll, but he also knows that in 2017, you have to do things differently."
Alex Cameron was a less obvious collaborator. Flowers, who declared Cameron's Jumping the Shark the album of 2016 on Twitter, invited the Australian singer-songwriter to Las Vegas to help with an elusive verse on "Run for Cover".
"I used to talk a lot of trash about bands, and I have since come to regret that," says Flowers, whose mid-'00s targets included the Bravery, the Strokes and Green Day. "And I decided my new thing would be, if I hear something I really like, not only would I not forget that in an interview, but I would find out who these people are and reach out to them and tell them I like it."
Flowers has never been short on ambition, but it comes over more brazenly than ever on soaring tracks such as "Tyson vs Douglas", which reflects on Mike Tyson's loss to the underdog in that legendary fight in 1990 while strengthening his own resolve to remain a hero in his three sons' eyes.
"For sure, now more than ever, I'm more aware of what their perception is of me and they're going to go to school one day and the kids are going to know I'm their Dad and what I am putting out there into the world," he says. "I want it to be great, so it's made me try and up my game a little bit."
Topics: The Killers