What happens when you pair up the flamboyant frontman of one of the world’s biggest bands with the pop producer du jour? When Brandon Flowers tracked down Ariel Rechtshaid to help him create his latest solo pop masterpiece, that was exactly what he was wondering himself. “It was personal and it was intense,” Brandon offers over the phone, as he takes a short break from rehearsals in his home city of Las Vegas. After hearing Rechtshaid’s work on Vampire Weekend’s latest album ‘Modern Vampires of the City’, the deal felt sealed for Flowers. “We butted heads a lot but we also bonded a lot. We went through all kinds of things that relationships can go through,” he laughs, “but it was good.”
If ‘The Desired Effect’ stands as anything, it’s a true collaboration. While Flowers has never been afraid to work with outside influences – on The Killers’ latest record ‘Battle Born’, for example, they worked with five different producers - he’s the first to admit that it’s now that he’s really getting used to the idea of embracing them. “I love the idea of a team and collaborating and working with people,” he explains, “letting their talents come through.” With this record, it was Rechtshaid’s talents that allowed his own to blossom further. “As I’ve gotten older that’s something that I’ve been a lot more willing to embrace and accept that I can’t just do it by myself. I really appreciate other people and their ideas and that was a really important growth for me.”
“I definitely wanted to do something different.”
Recorded in “increments” in both his own Battle Born Studios and in Los Angeles, the follow-up to 2010 solo debut, ‘Flamingo’, was pieced together over the past year, whenever he could make his way into the producer’s diary. “He’s sort of an in-demand guy right now,” he chuckles, “so it was all about when I could get Ariel to Las Vegas, or when I could get to LA.” His second effort has a fair bit riding on it. At the time of press, Flowers has already sold out six sizeable UK shows after debuting just one track. Now, with a further song out in the open, fans are beginning to get a feel for the album’s flair, and it’s fair to say that it’s treading entirely different ground.
“I definitely wanted to do something different,” he says with certainty. “When I sought out Ariel as a producer, I knew that I was going into unchartered territory for me. What you wanna do with any album is stay true to yourself and that was really the goal, but you’re putting it through a different person’s perspective any time you let anyone else work with you, or collaborate with you, so it’s going to go through different shapes and sizes.”
The record still, however, possesses his stamp of grandiose. Whether in the Springsteen-inspired twang of ‘Lonely Town’ or the foot-stomping 80s beat of ‘I Can Change’, ‘The Desired Effect’ sees Flowers turn just about everything up to eleven. “Because he’s such a capable producer, that gave me a lot of freedom,” he reflects, again referencing his partner-in-crime. “I was able to do whatever I could dream of; it seemed like it was possible with him.”
“I’m finally starting to feel like I belong.”
It wasn’t just Rechtshaid that Brandon decided to draft in; he also set about drawing up a dream cast of supporting musicians. In among the bombast, there’s contributions from the likes of Bruce Hornsby, Ethan Farmer and Tony Levin, alongside his own peers Angel Deradoorian (of Dirty Projectors), Danielle Haim and Killers bandmate Ronnie Vannucci Jr. “It was fun to have people who have their own little corners of expertise and letting them get back into that, letting them do their thing. I’ve never worked like that and it was really fun.”
“I’m feeling more…” he continues, touching upon his growing confidence as a solo artist. “It’s a big pair of shoes that you have to step into when this is your job, I guess. There have been so many great people who have gone before me, and I’m finally starting to feel like I belong. That it’s okay for me to go for it and really let loose a little bit more.”
The result is infectious; ‘The Desired Effect’ sees Flowers really coming into his own as a solo star; he manages to do it all with an insatiable wink.
“I mean, I want people to take away from it just what I take away from music,” he offers up on how he hopes listeners will react, “I don’t know that it’s a specific thing but it made my life better. It genuinely made my life better and it still does. I mean, if you’re in the car and ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ comes on by The Pretenders, how do you not feel good?!” he laughs again. “It’s a powerful thing, music. I’m so grateful for all it’s done for me and I just wanna repay the favour.”
Taken from the May issue of DIY, out now. Brandon Flowers’ new album ‘The Desired Effect’ will be released on 18th May via Vertigo.
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