Exclusive Cover Story Excerpt: The Killers Interviewed By Jimmy Kimmel

Here’s an exclusive excerpt of the current MAGNET cover story. To read the whole thing, order a copy of the issue here.

Interview by Jimmy Kimmel

Photo by Gene Smirnov

Viva the Killers—Las Vegas natives who return with Wonderful Wonderful, their first album in five years. To mark the occasion, MAGNET united them with fellow Sin City local Jimmy Kimmel for a conversation about growing up in the glitzy capital of American excess and experience.

I met the Killers 13 years ago. Somebody told me that one of them had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend that I’d had in February of that year, and so, of course, I wanted to meet them. Las Vegas is my hometown, and I always root for bands and others who share that unusual distinction, and in this case, I was a fan of their music before I knew where they were from. Singer Brandon Flowers, drummer Ronnie Vannucci and I bonded over time (not immediately, as you’ll read), and they are two of the sweetest, most thoughtful and best guys I know. We wrote a Christmas song together called “Joel The Lump Of Coal”—look it up, it’s said to be one of Jesus’ favorites. This interview was conducted by phone, and unbeknownst to those on the other end, I was naked throughout. —Jimmy Kimmel

Jimmy Kimmel: I’ll start by saying that I was very excited to meet you guys back in 2004 because we are both from Las Vegas, and I was a fan of your music and got it in my head that you would be equally excited about meeting me. So when you were on the show that night, I walked up to you guys and started making chit-chat about Vegas and what high schools we went to, and it seemed that you couldn’t have been less interested in any of it. Then I walked offstage and was like, “All right, I guess these guys don’t give a shit about the Vegas connection.”

Brandon Flowers: We were so nervous to play on national television in the beginning. I still get really nervous, and I think that you were probably experiencing that coming off of us firsthand. Sorry about that.

Kimmel: Fortunately, we got to know each other later on, but I thought it would be fun to relive that awkward moment today.

Flowers: I don’t think we knew how close the ties were at that point. I didn’t know you and Ronnie both had gone to the same high school.

Kimmel: Even more so than that, Ronnie—share your connection to my best friend and bandleader Cleto Escobedo (III), who I grew up directly across the street from in Vegas.

Ronnie Vannucci: I was very young when I started playing drums. My mom worked at Caesars Palace, and she would sort of brag about me to the musicians who were coming in and out. Cleto Sr. was a name that was thrown around the house; he sort of ran the Strip as far as music goes. At least I got that impression, anyway.

Kimmel: That may have been exaggerated. He is a very talented sax player who gave up life on the road to become a room-service butler at Caesars, and his son, Cleto Jr., started playing the saxophone too. It just so happened that Cleto Jr. got a job playing sax with a band called the Checkmates on a stationary boat that floats inside Caesars called Cleopatra’s Barge. Your mom also worked on the barge as a cocktail waitress. The first time I heard this anecdote, I got nervous because I don’t think Cleto left too many cocktail waitresses unplucked. I’ve investigated, and I have good news: Nothing happened.

Vannucci: My first experience was playing that song “Play That Funky Music White Boy” by Wild Cherry.

Kimmel: How old were you?

Vannucci: I think I was like eight or something. But I just remembered being part of an all-black band, which, looking back, was kinda funny.

Kimmel: And not only that, but an eight-year-old playing in a cocktail lounge shows you just how different Vegas is now.

Vannucci: It was a neighborly place then.

Kimmel: What’s the greatest Las Vegas act you guys have seen, either together or individually? And you know what I mean by Vegas acts, the classics.

Vannucci: I saw something called Metal Skool 20 years ago.

Kimmel: It was school with a “k,” right? Metal Skool with a “k”?

Vannucci: So good. They nailed everything. It was like going to see Mötley Crüe and Van Halen and Skid Row all in the same concert.

Kimmel: Where did you see them?

Vannucci: It was, like, the Suncoast or something.

Kimmel: One of those off-Strip Vegas hotels. I wonder why they decided to spell Skool with a “k.”

Flowers: That’s cool.

Vannucci: With a “k.”

Flowers: I think it’s OK for me to say Copperfield is up there. David Copperfield.

Kimmel: Really? Wow.

Flowers: I remember Danny Gans. I saw him play a few times.

Kimmel: Yeah, he’s one of those guys that not too many people outside of Vegas knows. He passed away, right?

Flowers: Yeah, he died.

Kimmel: And he did imitations of singers, right? That was his thing?

Flowers: He was supposed to be really good at it. I never saw it.

Kimmel: It’s a shame he didn’t live long enough to imitate you guys. That’s a real-life Vegas tragedy. OK, I’m not gonna dwell entirely on Las Vegas, but it is what brought us together, so what is the most “Las Vegas” thing you’ve ever seen? You can translate that in any way you like. For me, it was seeing Liberace at the Mayfair Market on the Strip. He was wearing a hairnet and buying meat.

Vannucci: You got one, Brandon?

Flowers: I was a busser at Spago when I was 18, and Carrot Top came in. It was during the day—and during the day only the cafe’s open at the Forum shops, but because he was Carrot Top, he requested to sit in the dining room so nobody would bother him. My server—I wasn’t 21 yet, so I couldn’t be a server—was not familiar with Carrot Top so he didn’t know that there was a comedy side to him. And Carrot Top assumed that everyone knew who he was, I guess, and my server, he was from Japan and he was a martial artist. Carrot Top, when he sat down, picked up his knife and made this move kinda jokingly at my server, who didn’t know who this guy was. My server did this judo chop thing, and the knife went flying across the dining room. It was this whole scene, and we had to calm the waiter down and explain to him that this was a performer on the Strip and famous comedian and he was just joking. It was crazy.

Kimmel: He actually chopped the knife out of his hand?

Flowers: He was one of those guys who was just prepared, I guess.

Kimmel: The move will hereafter be known as the Carrot Chop. Can I tell you something? Carrot Top emailed me this morning. I’m not kidding. So you see how strong my Vegas ties are? I won’t reveal the contents of the email, but just know that he did contact me and I will get to the bottom of this story. Ronnie, did you want to answer that question? The Top is hard to top.

Vannucci: I can’t top that. Or chop that.

Kimmel: Do people ever give you ideas or lyrics for songs? I’m not talking about people like Elton John. I’m talking about people in your life. And if so, do you ever take them?

Vannucci: In the early days, there may have been a couple attempts from family members to chime in. I would politely listen to what they say, but I don’t think anything ever made its way into a Killers song.

Kimmel: Have the four of you guys ever shared a room?

Flowers: Yeah, when we were recording in Berkeley, we were all in the same room.

Kimmel: And how did you split that up, bedwise?

Flowers: There was a couch in the room, so I think I went on the couch because I was younger than them. I sort of got last dibs.

Kimmel: And then who had to pair up? Were there multiple beds?

Flowers: I think it was one of those two-room deals or, like, a kitchenette, where there was, like, a double-bed-and-a-couch scenario, and then we got a rollaway or something.

Vannucci: This is, like, before everybody had access to cellphones, otherwise we would’ve taken pictures.

Kimmel: This is not necessarily a music-related question. I want you to go back into your lives and think about this. What’s the first award you ever won?

Vannucci: I actually won the school talent show in fifth grade.

Kimmel: For playing the drums?

Vannucci: Yeah.

Kimmel: And what did that feel like? Were you instantly a celebrity at school?

Vannucci: Yeah, I went from nobody to being a drummer. The runner-up was this girl who made French toast.

Kimmel: Did you get to try the French toast?

Vannucci: Yeah, it was good. It just goes to show the level of my talent if French toast is the runner-up.

Kimmel: I know you’re being sarcastic, but I think if you asked a thousand people, “What would you rather have right now, a drum solo or some nice French toast?” 900-something of them would say French toast. So I think that’s fairly impressive.

Vannucci: You’re right. It was good, and then my family moved away, like, two days later so there was sort of this legend. I left a legend.

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Minor Poet’s “And How!”

Tomorrow, the EggHunt label will release And How!, the debut album from Minor Poet. A band in name only, Minor Poet is Richmond, Va., musician Andrew Carter, who wrote, played and recorded the 11 songs on the LP all by his lonesome over the course of two months after the breakup of his band the Mad Extras. Says Carter of the album, “And How! was made during an uncertain period in my life—the kind of time where a dread hangs over everything you try to do. Recording these songs was my escape. I was all alone in my dingy basement studio, getting lost in the songs and remembering why I loved making music in the first place. All I hope is that people wanna listen to this album’s weird little world and connect through our shared anxieties and daily existential dramas.” You can preorder And How! here, but you can also try before you buy below. We are proud to premiere the album today on magnetmagazine.com. Check it out now.

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Johnny Dango’s “Recluse In Plain Sight”

On September 1, Johnny Dango will release Recluse In Plain Sight. The Austin-based singer/songwriter has been a member of Brothers & Sisters and the Memphis Strange and a sideman for Stoney LaRue, but now he’s going out on his own with his solo debut. Says Dango, “A not-so-secret hope is that other musicians might potentially somehow hear it and be inspired to take more chances with their own work, to not play it so safe all the time. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything new here. These songs are all kind of throwbacks to other, more elegant eras. But, they’re sounds I wanted to hear paired with the words and melodies I had bouncing around in my head. So I made a record of it.” Dango will do an acoustic tour in support of Recluse In Plain Sight this fall, then, he says, “I’ll lay low and hopefully write some new stuff in the winter. I’ve got another record coming out in January, so I’ll be touring to support that.” In the meantime, check out Recluse In Plain Sight below. We are proud to premiere the album today on magnetmagazine.com. Says Dango of the LP, “I hope it’s a fun little record for anyone who bothers to give it a listen. We tried to keep it fairly short, since attention spans aren’t what they used to be. I don’t expect it to inspire anyone to go out and register to vote or volunteer to help the hungry or mentally ill, but that would be a nice development, wouldn’t it? It’s only rock ‘n’ roll, but I like it. Mick Jagger said that, and I’m repeating it over and over again. Because it’s the truth.”

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of The Domestics’ “For The Last Time,” From Their Upcoming “Little Darkness”

On September 1, Tender Loving Empire will issue the sophomore album by The Domestics. For the 11-track Little Darkness, the Portland duo—Michael Finn and Leo London—collaborated with hometown producer Tucker Martine (Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Decemberists); Finn and Martine have also worked together on records by the likes of Neko Case/k.d. lang/Laura Veirs, Bill Frisell and Darlene Love at Martine’s Flora Recording studio. One of the standout tracks on Little Darkness is “For The Last Time.” Says London of the song, “I wrote ‘For The Last Time’ driving home from work. I was just singing the lines as I made them up, literally tailgating cars, trying to get home and record it while I could remember the melody. The song was all verse, but I had this funny song I used to sing a friend who told me about a time she got high with her dad at a Destiny’s Child show. So I put it into the mix as the hypothetical song the character is referring to. The song’s about the emptiness of a long work week and a disappointing check. Love is out of reach, and the only thing that sounds good is getting loaded. And then the dread of how it will all be exactly the same after the weekend. Rinse, wash and repeat. It’s in A major, which seems like a funny key for a pop song.” We are proud to premiere “For The Last Time” today on magnetmagazine.com. Check it out below.

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of The Heroic Enthusiast’s “When The Deal Is Done,” From Their Upcoming Self-Titled Debut

In October, the Heroic Enthusiasts will issue their self-titled debut album. The Rochester, N.Y., band’s self-produced LP was mixed by Mercury Rev’s Anthony Molina and is out via the Bodan Kuma label. Formed in 2014, the quartet is made up of James Tabbi (Eleven Pond), Thomas Ferrara (Bullseye), Mike James (Longwave) and Dexter Redic (Roots Collider). Says James, “We all hit it off with a mutual love of bands like Japan and Cocteau Twins. I think we knew there was immediate chemistry, and I was indeed intrigued by the sound. It wasn’t forced or revivalist to me. It sounded honest.” We are proud to premiere first single “When The Deal Is Done” today on magnetmagazine.com. Check it out below.