Nearly 14 years after the release of their immediately anthemic first single “Mr. Brightside,” The Killers are introducing the world to another mysterious character in the form of a song title: the lead single off their forthcoming fifth album, Wonderful Wonderful, is called “The Man.”
When I speak to the band’s quirky leader, Brandon Flowers, I ask if he is, in fact, the man that the song refers to. “It depends on what day of the week you talk to me,” Flowers says with a sheepish giggle.
Soon after arriving on the scene in 2003, The Killers, comprised of Brandon Flowers on vocals, Ronnie Vannucci, Jr., on drums, Mark Stoermer on bass and Dave Keuning on guitar, defined a generation with songs like “Somebody Told Me” and “All These Things That I’ve Done.” The endurance of these iconic pop-rock songs, each of which garnered the band two Grammy nominations, are a testament to the band’s rock and roll legacy, but on their newest release—their first in five years—they dare to explore more raw, emotional, uncharted territory.
“When you come back together after having a break, everybody has had new experiences; absorbed new things and rejected things,” says Flowers, whose family plans to move from their longtime home of Las Vegas to Utah. “You’re the same four people physically but … you’re different. It can be like starting over.”
Flowers reveals that starting over for him meant revisiting his past persona. “I had to go back and explore my view of masculinity from when I was 22 years old and The Killers were just taking off. It was actually pretty easy to call upon that person, which was a little scary,” he admits.
That person, as Flowers has said in interviews, is more arrogant and insecure than the one he is now. He gained his bad-boy reputation when The Killers first found fame and he was especially candid about the level of his talent and the band’s quick rise to success.
That changed when, in 2005, Flowers married and started a family—a subject he says he examines for the first time on Wonderful Wonderful. “I’ve always been pretty protective of my family. It’s not that I’m not anymore but I needed to give myself permission to go there,” he says.
Flowers vaguely explains that his wife, Tara Mundkowsky, suffers from complex PTSD stemming from damage done in her youth. He tells me that her symptoms only recently exposed themselves, which can be common for female survivors in their thirties.
“We’re just starting to understand it now,” Flowers says of the struggle. “Going into that unknown territory helped me understand and have more empathy for her.” While working so closely with his wife was emotionally taxing, Flowers says it was also a very powerful and enlightening experience.
“I’d never had to run lyrics past her before or sit down and play her songs,” he says. “It helped me become more compassionate and it’s where the question of what it is to be a man came from. That’s really where [the song] ‘The Man’ came from,” he adds.
So does opening up about his wife’s delicate situation mean the rocker’s more reckless, black eyeliner–wearing persona is gone for good? “I feel ‘The Man’ is like a grand entrance,” he says. “The red carpet gets rolled out for this guy and with him, arm in arm, comes the rest.”
Wonderful Wonderful is available September 22nd.
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