Smile like you mean it, because the Killers are on the attack with their third proper album, Day & Age, which drops November 25. Singer Brandon Flowers has been a gay fan favorite since the 2004 release of his Las Vegas–based band’s Grammy-nominated debut, Hot Fuss. Four years later, the 27-year-old is back in bloom with a fresher face and fiercer fashions. We picked the dad’s brain about his queer heroes, beard clippings, and an odd trip to The O.C.
Not to sound like an obscene phone call, but where are you, and what are you wearing?
I’m driving through Las Vegas on my way to a rehearsal. My daily garments are kind of boring, but Polo makes these custom-fit shirts that I’m a fan of. My dream would be to dress like a Polo ad every day — they have great ads — but the clothes don’t really fit like that when you buy them.
Fashionably speaking, are you returning to your glam roots for the new album?
Yeah, a little bit. It’s a little wilder. There’s a woman who goes by Mrs. Jones — she does stuff for Kylie Minogue and Scissor Sisters — and we reached out to her to make some stuff for us. She’s made me two jackets with fur sleeves.
Which track on Day & Age do you think will resonate most with gay fans?
Well, we marry disco and rock in a perfect way on “Joy Ride.” I think I may need to work on my dance moves.
Do you think you alienated any gay fans with Sam’s Town, your 2006 follow-up to Hot Fuss?
I hope not. It did go a little more in a rock direction, but it was still us. I feel like we make music for everybody.
What about the facial hair you rocked for that record?
I thought you guys liked that stuff! Although we do go have dinner with Elton [John] whenever he’s in town, and every time I walked in the door he would say, “You haven’t shaved that off yet?” I felt more comfortable with facial hair; it’s almost like a mask. Whenever I shave, I save the hair. I’ve got it in a bag, and I’m planning to send it with the new album to [Pet Shop Boys singer] Neil Tennant.
Who’s the most influential gay person in your life?
Whether I knew it or not, or found out later, a lot of the music that I grew up on tended to be made by gay men. A lot of my heroes were and are gay men.
Growing up Mormon, you were probably sheltered from gay people. Do you remember your first encounter?
I remember two women were kissing on a blanket while we were at the park, and my mom kind of rushed us away because she didn’t want us to see it. But I don’t think it affected me either way.
Androgyny in your style and song lyrics back in the Hot Fuss days had blogs buzzing that you might be gay. Did having to field that question ever get annoying?
No, because I grew up obsessed with Morrissey, so a strange part of me was very flattered by it all. If that was always hovering around, it felt like I was doing something right. It was fun for a while.
Nike used the lyric “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” from your song “All These Things That I’ve Done” for a popular 2008 Olympics TV commercial. Is there a lyric on Day & Age that could make you as much money?
[Laughs] I feel like the chorus on “A Dustland Fairytale” is right up there with “All These Things That I’ve Done.” There’s a great feeling of unity that happens when we play “All These Things That I’ve Done” in live shows, and we were very proud with how [the commercial] turned out, and to be a part of the Olympics.
You’ve made amends for feuds you’ve picked in the past with other artists like the Bravery, Fall Out Boy, and Panic! at the Disco, but is there anyone who still deserves your criticism?
That’s a nice way to put it. [Laughs] There probably are a few, but I really am trying to be better. It’s not that I’m trying to censor myself as much as I think there’s enough negativity in the world, and I want to be positive. With people that I’ve put down, I understand now that they have their own ability and a gift for doing whatever they’re doing. If they like doing it, then I shouldn’t be trying to tear it down.
Even acts like the Jonas Brothers?
Well, that’s just kids. Disney’s getting really good at marketing; they’re making so much money. I mean, Miley Cyrus is up there with the Stones for tours. It’s crazy.
Did appearing on The O.C. help you get in touch with that teen market?
I don’t know if it helped us or hurt us. I still don’t know what it did. We were just getting started, and we wanted to be selective about what we did, but we were also scared to death that we weren’t going to make it. We always justified doing The O.C. by saying, “Well, if the Flaming Lips did 90210, maybe we can do The O.C. and get away with it.”
Can we maybe expect a Gossip Girl appearance to promote Day & Age?
No, now we’re older and wiser.
Do you have any TV obsessions?
We’re out of town so much that I don’t really have time to watch many shows, but I love House. House is my heroin. I want to meet [Hugh Laurie].
Have you had any contact with Rufus Wainwright since he wrote the song “Tulsa” about your first meeting in Oklahoma?
I ran into Rufus in Scotland, where we were playing a gig called T in the Park. He was cruising around where all the bands are, and we had a laugh about it. I was very flattered.
Isn’t it only fair that you write a song about him now?
[Laughs] Yeah, maybe I owe him one.