Published May 20, 2015Brandon Flowers is best known as the frontman for the Killers, but for the second time in five years, he has gone out on his own. While the band take an extensive break, Flowers has decided to follow up his 2010 debut album, Flamingo, with The Desired Effect. And while it is credited to Flowers, the album was just as much a collaboration as any Killers album.
Flowers brought in current pop maestro Ariel Rechtshaid (Vampire Weekend, HAIM, Blood Orange) to work "twogether [sic] in the spirit of conversation, contention, and at long last, sweet contrition." Flowers says it was the producer's remarkable track record of late that made the decision a no-brainer.
"My buddy Benjamin [Lysaght] played with him on the Cass McCombs record, and then I heard the Vampire Weekend record, the HAIM record, the Sky Ferreira record, and things kept coming up, so it seemed like a perfect fit," Flowers tells Exclaim!
In the past, Flowers has been vocal about not giving an outside producer too much control, but this time he felt differently. "As I get older I am becoming a lot more accepting of other people's gifts," he says with a laugh. "So I'll take what I can get."
Aside from Rechtshaid and famed mixer Alan Moulder, The Desired Effect is stacked with guest appearances. Flowers acknowledges just how lucky he is to have the freedom to do as he chooses, and work with whomever he chooses.
"It was just sort of fun," he says. "In this position, I wasn't in the confines of a band and I could do what I wanted to do. It's nice to just call people up who are experts in their own field, and just let them do their thing. All of these great musicians with very distinct talents to use on my songs."
Just like Flamingo, the Killers' Ronnie Vannucci Jr. appears on drums, along with Danielle Haim (HAIM) and Joey Waronker. And on vocals, Floweres enlisted Angel Deradoorian (Dirty Projectors) and, in an unconventional way, Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant.
"One of the crazier, more surreal things about my life is that I have Neil Tennant's number on my phone," he says with a hint of disbelief. "So I texted Neil and he sent a voice mail message from 6,000 miles away without even hearing the song. I asked him to send me the spoken line, 'When you're looking for a change.' And he sent me two, which I just threw into ProTools."
While Tennant makes complete sense as a collaborator for someone so indebted to the Pet Shop Boys, one unlikely name pops up in the credits: soft rock piano virtuoso Bruce Hornsby, who graces the keys on "Between Me and You" and "Never Get You Right," which sounds like a Hornsby original.
"We kept referencing him, with the phrasing we used on the piano," Flowers admits. "I'm a decent piano player… I don't even know if I'm decent. I'm okay. And so at one point we finally said, 'Let's just call him.' And it was very easy to get a hold of him, and it was a pleasant surprise. He's a nice guy and really accommodating. He seemed to love the songs and what he was playing."
As for the Killers, Flowers knows their last album, 2012's Battle Born, already feels like it was released an eternity ago, but they will reconvene when they're ready.
"In a perfect world I'd be promoting a Killers record," he explains. "We don't want to wait too long between records, but I think it's also healthy for us to be around each other practicing and try to keep that same brain between us. I definitely think it's in the back of our heads for sure."