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November 28, 2014

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To Die Four

During some rare downtime in his band's tour schedule, Killers vocalist Brandon Flowers took in a movie at the Cinedome 12 movie theater on Boulder Highway.

"This girl was waiting for me when I came out," Flowers said. "And she was like, 'Why are you in Henderson?' She had no idea we were from Vegas or anything. It was funny."

The Killers might be the hottest rock band to come out of Southern Nevada since Slaughter, but apparently not everyone in towns knows it.

Maybe that's why Flowers sounded so uncertain about the Killers' hometown appeal during a phone interview from Milwaukee club the Rave, where the group played on Sept. 10.

"We never really got a whole lot of love in Las Vegas," Flowers said. "I mean, I love Las Vegas. I don't think I'll ever leave. But whenever we play there, you see it in people's eyes, that they're just hoping you mess up or something."

Sunday night at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay the Killers will play their first Las Vegas show in nearly seven months. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the all-ages event, with New York City band the Walkmen slated to open.

Flowers' concerns aside, local residents have already endorsed the Killers' Sunday concert. House of Blues talent promotions manager Rob Benson confirmed that the last of 1,800 tickets to the gig officially sold out Tuesday.

"We thought it would do well, but to sell it out several days in advance is great," Benson said.

In part, the sellout can likely be attributed to the support of KMXB 94.1-FM (Mix 94.1).

For months, the station has had "Somebody Told Me" -- the fun and catchy first single from the Killers' June Island Records debut album, "Hot Fuss" -- in heavy rotation.

Charese Fruge, program director for Mix 94.1, said the song has been among the five most-requested songs since the station began playing it on May 24.

"It's perfect for us because it has a retro feel," Fruge said. "So I can get our upper end -- the over-37s -- to like it as much as our younger end."

"Somebody Told Me," which ranked second behind only Duran Duran's "(Reach Up for the) Sunrise" among Tuesday's requests, has been the most successful local single in Fruge's 3 1/2 years at the station.

"(Las Vegas singer-songwriter) Franky Perez had great success, but this has done the best for us," Fruge said. "I think Las Vegas is very anxious for some of their musicians to get some national recognition, and these guys are doing it."

Similar to Flowers, drummer Ronnie Vannucci is still a bit skeptical about exactly how triumphant the Killers' homecoming will be on Sunday.

"Everybody I've talked to is supportive, but the cynic in me is expecting a lot of crossed arms," Vannucci said prior to his band's Milwaukee gig. "Like, 'OK hotshots, let's see what you've got. What's the big deal?' "

The big deal is that "Hot Fuss" has made a huge splash lately, reaching No. 33 on the Billboard 200 -- a chart determined by album sales -- last week before dropping to No. 46 this week.

Other accolades have been pouring in for the Killers. Among the most significant:

Their video for "Somebody Told Me" ranks No. 3 on MTV2's Top 20 countdown this week.

They joined such acts as Radiohead, the Cure and the Pixies on the bill for May's prestigious "Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival."

They were tapped as an opening act by both Morrissey and the Pixies this summer.

"Somebody Told Me" was featured in a recent episode of HBO series "Six Feet Under."

And Rolling Stone magazine named the Killers the "Hot Band" in its recent "Hot List" issue. "The Killers are four sharp-dressed Sin City hipsters who have already seduced Europe with their danceable rock attack," the article read.

It's been quite a ride for three native Las Vegans -- Flowers (age 23), Vannucci (28), and bassist Mark Stoermer (26) -- and an Iowa transplant, guitarist David Keuning (28), who once struggled to pack local clubs.

"It's mind-boggling how much things have changed," Vannucci said. "We all grew up playing music and always wanted to do this professionally, and now we've got everyone eating out of our hands. It's a little surreal."

And plenty of additional exposure is just ahead.

On Sept. 22 the Killers will appear with fellow buzz band the Secret Machines on MTV2's "2$Bill" concert series, a show taped Tuesday in Boston. Acts previously featured on the program include Radiohead, the Foo Fighters, Snoop Dogg and the Beastie Boys (taped at the Huntridge Theatre).

Nine weeks later, on Dec. 2, the Killers will be showcased on popular Fox series "The O.C." The band recently taped the episode, which is expected to feature the quartet performing three songs from "Hot Fuss" with cast members looking on.

"They actually come to see us play at a gig," Flowers said with a chuckle.

Much as he has relished all those experiences, however, Flowers said he was moved most by a disc jockey's selection of a song off "Hot Fuss" called "All These Things That I've Done."

That DJ? Oasis' Noel Gallagher, guesting on London's Radio 1.

"He's one of my heroes, so that's just unreal," Flowers said. "Things like that are still shocking."

Vannucci is quick to point out, though, that the Killers' success is not just a matter of being in the right place at the right time for a major-label deal. He reminds hopeful musicians that it takes constant, grueling touring -- the Killers haven't been home for more than a week since March -- to promote the record successfully throughout America, Europe and beyond.

"We work really, really hard," Vannucci said. "If you don't stay on top of what you do in the music business and don't keep yourself conditioned, then you'll lose. And we're definitely not a lazy band."

For their second full U.S. tour, the Killers graduated from a 15-passenger van, with their tour manager at the wheel, to a bus steered by a professional driver.

"Touring is tough, but it gets easier the more you do it," Vannucci said. "Now we have a place to sleep and a microwave and a refrigerator and a toilet."

In the coming months, the Killers will mount another U.S. leg, return to Europe for shows in Germany, France and Spain and embark on their first tours of Japan and Australia.

Amid all that, the band intends to continue work on its second album, with Flowers pegging April and May for potential recording sessions in Las Vegas.

"We're thinking about maybe getting Brian Eno (famous for his production work with David Bowie, Talking Heads and U2, among others) or somebody and bringing him down to Vegas," Flowers said. "I think it would be a great story and a great sound."

The Killers recognize that the fuss about "Hot Fuss" won't last forever.

"The market is insane. It's dog-eat-dog. So we want to write better songs than everyone so we can keep going," Flowers said. "Because as fast as this is happening, it will go away just as quickly if the second album sucks."

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