In 2001, Brandon Flowers was fired by his first band, a Las Vegas synthpop trio known as Blush Response. After attending an Oasis concert at the Hard Rock Hotel during The Tour of Brotherly Love, Flowers realized his calling was to be in a rock band and began searching for like-minded musicians. He eventually came across an ad posted in a Las Vegas newspaper by Dave Keuning, a 25-year-old guitarist who had moved to Vegas from Iowa a year earlier. When the pair met they bonded over similar musical influences and immediately began writing songs together in Keuning's apartment. In November 2001, they headed to Kill The Messenger Studio in Henderson, Nevada along with recently recruited drummer Matt Norcross to begin recording a demo; they recorded two tracks "Mr. Brightside" which was the first song Flowers and Keuning wrote together and "Desperate", a month later they recorded two more "Under the Gun" and "Replaceable" with Keuning's roommate Dell Neal on bass.
Keuning and Flowers played their first live show together at an open mic night at the Cafe Espresso Roma in Las Vegas in January 2002; the pair, joined by Neal and Norcross, began playing venues around the city where they would also hand out free copies of their demo. The Killers brought a unique style to the small Vegas music scene which was predominately filled with punk, nu metal, and rap bands; one local reviewer stated, "The Killers, thankfully, don't come across like any other band in town" and described their sound as a mix between the "pop styles of British music and the lo-fi fuzz of modern indie rock." However, The Killers, whose early live sound was also described as erratic, had, by the summer of 2002, fired drummer Matt Norcross and replaced him briefly with Brian Havens, who also was eventually fired. Bassist Dell Neal later left the band due to personal reasons.
Ronnie Vannucci Jr. joined The Killers shortly before Neal's departure. Vannucci was well-known on the Las Vegas music scene, having played in numerous bands since a young age. It was while he was drumming for other bands including Daphne Major and Romance Fantasy in 2002 that he had met The Killers. Ronnie's first show with the band was on August 30, 2002, at a club called The Junkyard. Playing bass for The Killers that night was Mark Stoermer, who was at this point the lead guitarist for local progressive rock band The Negative Ponies. The band were keen on Stoermer joining them on a permanent basis with full commitment, but he was reluctant to leave The Negative Ponies. They had initially approached him to be the second guitarist when they were considering turning the band into a five-piece, "possibly more like the Strokes, with a keyboard." Stoermer mentioned later on that he could also play bass. The band had continued as a three-piece trying out other bassists until November 2002, when Stoermer eventually accepted the invitation to join. According to Ryan Pardey who booked many of the band's early shows "They (The Killers) became a great band when Ronnie and Mark joined. That’s when they finally became a cohesive unit. What Ronnie did — he was the discipline — and Mark was just a solid musician."
The four of them would get together in Vannucci's garage to work on song ideas. They would also sneak into the band room at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (where Vannucci was studying classical percussion) at night to practice. It was during this period that the band wrote much of their debut album Hot Fuss including hit singles "Somebody Told Me" and "Smile Like You Mean It". The band continued playing at small venues around their hometown, often playing Sunday nights at a transvestite bar named Sasha's (later renamed Tramps). It wasn't long before they caught the attention of Braden Merrick, an A&R rep for Warner Bros. Records who had come across their demo on a website dedicated to unsigned bands in the Las Vegas area; after attending a live show he offered to help the band find a record deal and eventually became their manager. He took the band to the San Francisco area, to Berkeley, California, to record demos with former Green Day manager Jeff Saltzman, they then sent the demo tapes out to major record labels in the US. The band was invited to perform at a number of showcases but were ultimately not signed, the band however did catch the eye of Alex Gilbert, who was an A&R rep from the United Kingdom. Gilbert took a demo with him back to the UK and showed it to his friend Ben Durling, who worked at the newly formed Independent label Lizard King Records in London. Despite not yet meeting the band in person, Lizard King were quick to offer the band a deal based on the strength of the five song demo. The Killers signed with the British label in July 2003.
On August 19, 2003, the song "Mr. Brightside" premiered on DJ Zane Lowe's BBC Radio 1 show in the UK. The Killers travelled to London the following month to spend a week playing at influential live music venues across the city. On September 29, 2003, the song "Mr. Brightside" was released in the UK on a limited number of CDs and vinyl records, critical reviews of both the song and the shows were positive, NME magazine noted the band's retro sound commenting "The Killers steal so smartly, and with such mind-boggling variety." As a result of the buzz generated in the UK, a number of major labels in the US began showing strong interest in the band and they were invited to play at the ASCAP CMJ Music Marathon in New York City. They eventually signed with the record company Island Def Jam.
The band finished recording Hot Fuss in November 2003 with Jeff Saltzman, they decided to keep many of the previously recorded demos as they felt they had a spontaneity that re-recordings would not have. Shortly afterwards they returned to London having been invited to support British Sea Power on their UK tour, the band also worked with Alan Moulder at Eden Studios and Townhouse Studios mixing tracks for their upcoming album. They continued playing support slots during the first half of 2004 most notably touring both the US & UK with Stellastarr and opening for Morrissey on two separate occasions. The band filmed their first music video for the Spring 2004 release of "Somebody Told Me" which was to be the band's debut single in the US and second single in the UK. The band's first headline tour started in the UK in May 2004. During the spring and summer of 2004, the group played well-received sets at festivals across Europe and North America which helped add to their growing fanbase.
The Killers released their debut album Hot Fuss on June 7, 2004 in the United Kingdom on Lizard King Records and a week later in the United States on Island Records. The track listing differed depending on territory, in the UK and Australia "Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll" replaces "Change Your Mind" as track eight. Upon release Hot Fuss received generally favorable reviews from critics. Extensive touring and the success of the Grammy Award nominated singles "Somebody Told Me", "All These Things That I've Done" and "Mr. Brightside" led to the album becoming a huge commercial success. Hot Fuss reached number one in the UK in January 2005, seven months after its release, and has been certified 7x Platinum in both the UK and Ireland. It went on to spend more weeks on the UK Albums chart than any other that decade, 173 weeks in total. In the US the album reached its peak position of number seven in April 2005 and has been certified 3x Platinum It reached the top spot in Australia in March 2005, where it was certified 3x Platinum, it has also been certified 3x Platinum in Canada, Platinum in New Zealand and Gold in Argentina, Belgium, Germany and France.
The Killers were named The World's Best Selling New Group at the 2005 World Music Awards, the same year they won the MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist and were also nominated for three Grammy Awards with Hot Fuss being nominated for Best Rock Album, in the UK they picked up an NME Award for Best International Band. The band was recognized by Rolling Stone as the "best-selling new rock band of the past year" in June 2005. Lead singer Brandon Flowers had also gained media attention, being named both Sexiest and Best Dressed Man at the NME Awards, he had also caused controversy due to some outspoken views on other bands.
In July 2005, The Killers performed on the London stage of the Live 8 concert, playing "All These Things That I've Done". Robbie Williams incorporated the song's refrain "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier" into his own performance. Coldplay and U2 followed suit and, at their separate concerts played in Las Vegas, with The Killers in the crowd, incorporated the line into their songs "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" and "Beautiful Day", respectively.
The band fired manager Braden Merrick in 2006, Merrick later filed a lawsuit against the band for breach of contract and their new manager and lawyer Robert Reynolds for $16 million each. The band counter sued citing that Merrick's poor management had cost them millions. The case was settled in 2009.
Shortly after finishing touring for Hot Fuss, The Killers headed back into the studio to start recording their highly anticipated second studio album with producers Alan Moulder and Flood, who were working together for the first time in a decade. Sam's Town was mostly recorded at Studio at the Palms in Las Vegas, with finishing touches added to the album at Criterion Studios, London in June 2006. Upon completion of the album, Flowers claimed he felt the band had made "one of the best albums of the past twenty years" and that he wanted the album to capture "everything important that got me to where I am today". In July 2006, the lead single "When You Were Young" was premiered and it became a hit, gaining another two Grammy Award nominations and mostly positive reviews with many bringing attention to the influence of Heartland rock on the song.
The Killers' second album, Sam's Town, was released in October 2006 under Island Def Jam Music Group. It received a varied response with some critics praising the album and the evolution of the band and others criticizing and mocking it, most notably it received a scathing review from Rolling Stone. The album sold over 706,000 copies worldwide in the first week of release, reaching number two on the US Billboard chart and number one on the UK chart. The record has since been certified 5x Platinum in the United Kingdom, 4x Platinum in Ireland, 2x Platinum in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, Platinum in the United States and Gold in Argentina, Belgium, Germany and Russia.
The Killers recorded a live session at Abbey Road Studios for Live from Abbey Road on November 29, 2006. They performed an almost totally unplugged set, which included stripped back versions of the album's title track "Sam's Town", "When You Were Young" and a rendition of the Dire Straits hit "Romeo and Juliet". In December 2006 the band released a Christmas charity song, "A Great Big Sled", which benefited Product Red. This has since become an annual tradition.
In February 2007, The Killers attended the BRIT Awards in the United Kingdom, where they performed "When You Were Young". The band won two awards — Best International Group & International Album. In the same month the band's Tim Burton-directed video for the album's second single "Bones" won Best Video at the NME Awards.
The band recorded the video for third single "Read My Mind" in Tokyo, Japan during a break in their Sam's Town Tour, the single release was accompanied by a remix of the song by the Pet Shop Boys. Due to high ticket demand The Killers began headlining arenas including Madison Square Garden for the first time, they also headlined a number of major European festivals during 2007 including Glastonbury Festival.
The band released a compilation album called Sawdust, containing B-sides, rarities and unreleased material in November 2007. Sawdust has been classified Platinum in the UK. The album's first single "Tranquilize", a collaboration with Lou Reed, was released in October 2007. The album also featured a cover of "Shadowplay" by Joy Division which was recorded for the soundtrack to the Anton Corbijn directed biopic Control.
The band enlisted Stuart Price to produce their third studio album, he had previously remixed their songs under his Jacques Lu Cont moniker, the most notable being the remix of "Mr. Brightside". They first met Price at his London home in 2007 to discuss the possibility of him producing some unreleased tracks for their b-sides album Sawdust, however that same night they ended up in Price's home studio recording a demo of "Human" a new song that would become the eventual lead single from Day & Age. The band took six months apart following the completion of their Sam's Town tour, during this period they would send song ideas between each other and Price via Logic Pro. The band finished recording the album with Price at the band's newly acquired Battle Born Studios in Las Vegas.
"Human" was released in October 2008 with Brandon Flowers describing the song as "Johnny Cash meets the Pet Shop Boys". The song went on to become a huge hit worldwide, the lyric "Are we human, or are we dancer?" created much confusion and debate due to its grammar and ambiguity, with some believing the lyric was "dancers" or "denser" rather than "dancer", Flowers explained that the line was inspired by a Hunter S. Thompson quote where he stated America was raising "a generation of dancers". It has since been voted by one poll as the most confusing song lyric of all time.
The Killers' third album, Day & Age, was released on November 18, 2008. Brandon Flowers stated that "Day & Age" was "like looking at Sam's Town from Mars", the band have called it their "most playful record" with the album making use of saxophones, steel drums, harpsichord & tribal chanting. The album also saw the band write some of their most personal and challenging lyrics to date, closing track "Goodnight, Travel Well" was written about the death of guitarist Dave Keuning's mother. While "A Dustland Fairytale" was written as a tribute to frontman Brandon Flowers' parents, his mother had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Day & Age became the band's third studio album to reach number one in both the UK and Ireland, it reached number six on the Billboard 200 album chart. It has also been certified 4x Platinum in the UK and Ireland, Platinum in Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Canada and Gold in the US, Mexico, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Greece and the Middle East.
The band embarked on the Day & Age World Tour, during which they performed on every continent except Antarctica and headlined US festivals Lollapalooza and Coachella for the first time. The tour was named one of the top fifty worldwide concert tours of 2009. On July 5–6, 2009 at the Royal Albert Hall, London The Killers recorded their first live DVD, "Live from the Royal Albert Hall". It was released in November and played at various cinemas across the globe. Live from Royal Albert Hall was certified 2x Platinum in the UK, Platinum in the US and Australia and Gold in Ireland and Brazil.
In January 2010, the band announced that they would take a short break after being on the road for the better part of six years. The break lasted for about a year-and-a-half, during which band members devoted themselves on solo projects, while the band made sporadic other contributions.
In late February 2010, Flowers' mother died after a two-year fight with brain cancer. This resulted in the cancellation of dates in Asia. Two Australian dates in Sydney and Perth were also cancelled; however, both the Gold Coast and Melbourne concerts went ahead, with the Day & Age tour finally coming to a close in Melbourne on February 21 as the headline act at the Good Vibrations Festival at Flemington Racecourse.
The band returned to the stage in 2011 when they headlined the new International Lollapalooza Festival in Santiago, Chile on April 2, 2011. They also performed at the season closing Top of the Mountain concert in Ischgl, Austria on April 30, 2011. They headlined Hard Rock Calling for the second time in Hyde Park, London on June 24, 2011. The Killers were also the inaugural headliner of the new Orlando Calling Festival in Orlando, FL on November 12, 2011.
In April 2012, Tommy Marth, who had played saxophone on the band's Sam's Town and Day & Age albums, toured with the band during their Day & Age World Tour and can be seen performing with the band on the Live From The Royal Albert Hall DVD, was found dead at his Las Vegas home. His death was officially ruled as a suicide.
The band headed back into the studio to record their fourth studio album in 2011, during the recording they worked with five different producers Steve Lillywhite, Damian Taylor, Brendan O'Brien, Stuart Price and Daniel Lanois. In June 2012 A short trailer was released on The Killers official VEVO page, revealing the album's name Battle Born, named after the Flag of Nevada. This was followed by the release of lead single "Runaways" in July. That same month, they headlined Saturday night at the inaugural Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware.
The Killers' fourth studio album Battle Born was released on September 18, 2012. The album became The Killers' fourth consecutive No. 1 album in the UK and Ireland and has been certified Platinum in the UK and Gold in Ireland, Mexico and Australia. The Killers first single off the album, "Runaways," debuted at No. 17 on the Alternative chart.
The band's Battle Born World Tour proved their most widespread yet with the band visiting new territories including Russia and China. The tour was named the 43rd highest grossing worldwide during 2013. On June 22, 2013, the band played their biggest show to date at the 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium; the band performed a song specifically written for the occasion. Reviews of the show were extremely positive.
The band once again headlined festivals across Europe, Australia, South America & North America. In October 2013 The Killers headlined the inaugural Life Is Beautiful Festival in hometown Las Vegas, concluding their Battle Born World Tour.
On September 11, 2013, the band tweeted a picture, which contained six lines of Morse code. The code was translated to "The Killers Shot at the Night". On September 16, 2013, exactly ten years to the day of their first show in London, The Killers released "Shot at the Night" which was produced by Anthony Gonzalez. It was also revealed that they would be releasing their first greatest hits compilation, Direct Hits released on November 11, 2013, celebrating a decade together as a band and fulfilling a contractual requirement with their record label. The album featured songs from all four studio albums, the new single "Shot at the Night" and another new song "Just Another Girl".
The release of Direct Hits was followed by a short promotional tour, the band also played a number of festivals in 2014.
The Killers began work on their fifth studio album in late 2015. According to lead singer Brandon Flowers, the band had made plans to work with Flood and Alan Moulder again. In May 2016 Ryan Tedder revealed that he had been working with the band on new material. In September 2016 drummer Ronnie Vannucci stated that the album was mostly penned, but the songs still had room to evolve, and that the band had begun working with producer Jacknife Lee. In November 2016, Brandon Flowers confirmed The Killers will release their fifth studio album in 2017.
The band headlined the opening night of the new T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas strip on April 6, 2016. On May 24, 2016, the band announced that Mark Stoermer was taking a break from touring "to pursue other educational goals and releasing a solo album." The statement emphasized that Stoermer was still involved in working on the band's fifth album and may still occasionally perform live with them in the future. On September 30 and October 1, 2016, the band (including Stoermer) celebrated the tenth anniversary of their second album, Sam's Town, by playing two nights at the Sam's Town Hotel and Gambling Hall, which the album was named after. For these shows, they played the album in full from start to finish.
All four members of The Killers wrote and performed all the instruments (minus the vocals) for the track "Mixed Signals" off Robbie Williams' latest studio album, The Heavy Entertainment Show, released on November 4, 2016.
On November 18, 2016, The Killers released a Christmas compilation album Don't Waste Your Wishes with 100% of proceeds donated to the Product Red campaign.
Since 2008, The Killers have owned and operated Battle Born Studios (formerly Studio Vegas) in Winchester, Nevada.Brandon Flowers released albums Flamingo (2010) and The Desired Effect (2015).
Mark Stoermer released albums Another Life (2011) and Dark Arts (2016).
Ronnie Vannucci's side project Big Talk released albums Big Talk (2011) and Straight In No Kissin' (2015).
The Killers have been referred to as various genres, including alternative rock, indie rock, post-punk revival, new wave and heartland rock.
Invited by U.S. President Barack Obama, the band played on the White House South Lawn on July 4, 2010 for the second annual "Salute To The Military" United Service Organizations concert as part of Independence Day celebrations, which Flowers described as a "monumental honor". Despite their hiatus, the band got together to play "Human", "Somebody Told Me", "Mr. Brightside", "A Dustland Fairytale", "God Bless America/Read My Mind" and "When You Were Young". Flowers, Keuning and Stoermer also played at a campaign rally on July 8, 2010 in Nevada for Obama and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who was up for re-election. The Killers played an acoustic version of "Read My Mind" and did a folksy rendition of the state song, "Home Means Nevada". In February 2011, Flowers had a private lunch with Mitt Romney during Romney's visit to the Republican Party convention in Nevada. In 2012, the band remained neutral in the election. In 2015, Flowers performed a folksy rendition of the state song, "Home Means Nevada" for Obama and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid at the National Clean Energy Summit. In 2017 the band wrote a letter opposing development on the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
Beginning in 2006, The Killers have released annual Christmas themed singles and videos in aid of the charity Product Red, supporting The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In 2016, a compilation album Don't Waste Your Wishes which included a cover of the classic "I'll Be Home For Christmas" was released. To date the band has released ten Christmas themed songs and music videos as singles: "A Great Big Sled" (2006), "Don't Shoot Me Santa" (2007), "Joseph, Better You Than Me" (2008), "Happy Birthday Guadalupe!" (2009), "Boots" (2010), "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball" (2011), "I Feel It In My Bones" (2012), "Christmas In LA" (2013), "Joel the Lump of Coal" (2014), and "Dirt Sledding" (2015). On November 30, 2011 they released the (RED) Christmas EP on iTunes which features all six songs that had been released up to that point. Over the years they have enlisted the help of other musicians and celebrities including Elton John, Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys), Toni Halliday (Curve), Wild Light, Mariachi El Bronx, Dawes, Owen Wilson, Jimmy Kimmel & Richard Dreyfuss. All proceeds from the songs and the compilation album have been and will be donated to Product Red campaign and the fight against AIDS in Africa and as of 2016 they have raised over $1 million for the charity.
The Killers song "Goodnight, Travel Well" was used in an effort to promote awareness for sex trafficking headed by UNICEF, MTV EXIT: End Exploitation And Trafficking and the US Agency for International Development. The song "Hotel California" was covered by The Killers and Rhythms del Mundo with proceeds benefiting climate crisis and natural disaster relief. The song "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)" was covered by The Killers with proceeds benefiting famine-stricken areas.
The Killers have been nominated for seven Grammy Awards, seven BRIT Awards, and twenty-four NME Awards.
The Killers have won four NME Awards for "Best International Band" in 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2013. The band has won a BRIT Award for "Best International Band" in 2006 as well as a MTV Europe Music Award for "Best Rock Group" in 2006. Also in 2006, the band won for "Best Video" for "When You Were Young" at the Q Awards. To date, the band has received six nominations for "Best International Band" at the NME Awards, three nominations for "Best International Group" at the BRIT Awards, and three nominations for "Best Rock Group" at the MTV Europe Music Awards.University of Nevada, Las Vegas College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame Inductee (2008)
ASCAP Vanguard Award Recipient (2010)
Hot Fuss (2004)
Sam's Town (2006)
Day & Age (2008)
Battle Born (2012)