metal + hardcore
pop punk + alt-rock
indie spins


9 Things You Wouldn’t Expect To Learn About The Killers’ ‘Hot Fuss’

The Killers Hot Fuss
[Press Photo Circa 2004]

There aren’t many bands contending with The Killers for the widest breadth of sonic profile. Since the day that cage door opened, they’ve strayed worlds away from their grit-and-glam ethos of post-punk revival. The trek’s seen them over the washboard roads of heartland rock, through flashbangs of synth-driven pop, and the wildflower fields on the softer side of folk. And still, now 20 years removed from their Hot Fuss debut, they continue to fire off their early staples with the same love-scorned ferocity that had first lit the fuse.

In celebration of the bi-decadal anniversary today, June 7, we reached elbow-deep into Hot Fuss lore to contextualize the uncompromising foundation of The Killers’ meteoric rise. 

Here are nine of our favorite facts about the album that will probably surprise you. 

“Mr. Brightside” Was The First Full Song That The Killers Ever Wrote

It may be common knowledge that the ever-recognizableMr. Brightside” has set a new record with over 400 nonconsecutive weeks charting on the UK’s Official Singles Chart Top 100. But making this feat even more impressive is the fact that it was the first song founding members Brandon Flowers and Dave Keuning ever wrote together. In an interview with Planet Rock Profiles in 2005, Flowers describes their first meeting, noting that Keuning had given him a tape of assorted song ideas. Included on it was the guitar line for “Mr. Brightside,” which they fleshed out soon after. 

“We just put a chorus on it and sang over it,” he reflects on the early process. “It was completely done, exactly as it is now, without ever having a bass player or drummer. The structure hasn’t changed.”

That Said, They Never Actually Finished Writing “Mr. Brightside” 

That structure, of course, includes the mold-breaking repetition of the first verse (a cardinal sin of songwriting if not perfectly executed). Given Flowers’ early obsession with The Smiths, it would’ve been easy enough to mischaracterize the bold decision as a nod to Morrissey’s narrative style. But, as the then-novice lyricist would later admit, he simply hadn’t written a second verse prior to recording the first demo. 

“Mr. Brightside” Now Stands As The Only Song That They’ve Played At Every Show 

That means it’s been a part of more sets than any of the Killers members, barring Flowers. In fact, its live versions predated drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. and bassist Mark Stoermer. “I had never heard it with a beat at that point,” Flowers reveals during a 2018 appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers, recalling his first time performing the track with Keuning for a cafe open mic. 

The Strokes’ Is This It Changed The Course For The Killers’ Debut

Flowers has been notably critical of Hot Fuss in the context of other debuts, specifically commending The Strokes as a better record. While the validity of that claim is up for debate, there’s no denying that we wouldn’t have the former without Is This It

“It was a weird balance because I loved [Is This It], but I also hated it,” Flowers explains during a 2017 interview with Vevo. “It lit a real fire under us because it was so good and we threw away a lot of the [songs] that we were playing.” As fate would have it, the only track that survived the purge was “Mr. Brightside.”

Original Demo Mixes Were Included In The Final Version Of The Album

Hot Fuss was basically a demo,” Vannucci once remarked when comparing it to Sam’s Town. “We never thought [these songs] would be on a record.” But unlike most demo tracks, many of those featured on their debut album didn’t undergo a significant refinement process. 

“We only had to finish a few songs,” recounts Flowers for Planet Rock Profiles. “We redid a couple [because] I was sick when I sang them.” Notably, those that made the cut from their first studio demo included “Mr. Brightside” and “Smile Like You Mean It.” But perhaps the rawest track is “Everything Will Be Alright,” which was recorded in Keuning’s apartment.

True To Their Name, The Killers Had Written A Murder-themed “Trilogy” For The Record. And They’d Wanted A Short Film To Accompany It

Case in point that the “demo compilation” was in no way lacking cohesion, there’s a dark thread through “Midnight Show” and “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine.” Originally, it was supposed to be a three-part narrative. However, the first installment, “Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf,” was tabled until Sawdust (2007).

During a 2005 interview, Flowers and Vannucci discuss the prospect of a short film based on the trilogy. While that idea unfortunately never came to fruition, they did extend the theme during the Sam’s Town era with “Where Is She? (Soft Surrender)”—an unreleased track inspired by the 2003 murder of Jodi Jones.

“All These Things That I’ve Done” Was Inspired By MTV’s Matt Pinfield

Shortly before they skyrocketed into international acclaim, The Killers connected with the then-A&R VP of Columbia Records, Matt Pinfield, over a potential signing. Following their initial meeting, Flowers gave Pinfield a lift back to his hotel. They reportedly grabbed a seat at the bar and bonded as they talked about life, including Pinfield’s involvement with a program mentoring veterans. The next day, he received a call from the band’s then-manager, Braden Merrick. Merrick informed him that Flowers had written a song inspired by the conversation.

… And That Song May Have Saved The Band As We Know It 

Few moments can spawn goosebumps quite like when the choir joins the bridge on “All These Things That I’ve Done.” So, it tracks that the band capitalized on that during a high-stakes show prior to the album release. “[Island Records] was going to fly out and see them,” audio engineer Mark Needham contextualizes the event in a recent interview. “There was some talk that maybe they were going to drop them.”

On the day of the show, Needham and Merrick decided they needed to bring a gospel choir onstage. As Needham recalls, they found one with 30 minutes to spare, had them prepped, and onstage only just in time for their part. “It was such a high moment,” he reflects proudly. “That definitely sold the label on it.”

Looking Back, Brandon Flowers Wasn’t A Fan Of The Treatment His Vocals Received

No one would dare argue that Hot Fuss is a showcase of Flowers’ since-demonstrated vocal prowess. A large part of this could be chalked up to inexperience. However, focus too hard on his parts and the distortion might start to make your teeth ache. According to Needham, that’s the product of the Echo Farm plugin, which they’d slapped on most of the tracks.

While Needham refers to the effect as the “heart of the vocal sound,” Flowers didn’t reflect on it quite as kindly. “On the first album, we used auto-tune and I didn’t even realize what was going on with these machines and the computer,” he explains to Rolling Stone in 2006. “I was adamant about not using it [on Sam’s Town].”

We utilize cookie technology to collect data regarding the number of visits a person has made to our site. This data is stored in aggregate form and is in no way singled out in an individual file. This information allows us to know what pages/sites are of interest to our users and what pages/sites may be of less interest. See more