The Killers’ Sam’s Town: A Sucker Punch By The Sin City’s Band

Sam's Town - The Killers

Sam’s Town – The Killers

As the American rock band The Killers prepared their fourth studio album, Battle Born, released in September last year, six years ago, the Vegas glam rockers released a record that some saw as their “Sophomore Slump,” and were ready to close the book on one of America’s exciting new bands. Sam’s Town arrived in the fall of 2006 after much hype and curiosity as to what the follow-up to the bands brilliant and near flawless 2004 debut, Hot Fuss, arrived on the scene. The second album’s first single, the Springsteen inspired, “When You Were Young,” giving rock and roll a needed erection, it heard the band dropping the 80’s new wave inspiration of New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Erasure and Yazoo that provided to be one of the key elements to their success, and heard them pick up raging guitars, swelling vocals and looking to get out of the clubs and into arenas.

Sam’s Town was a shift in personalities for The Killers, it wasn’t glam, it was rock and roll and it was a sucker punch to everyone who picked it up. When it was released the reviews were generally unfavorable and it looked like one of the biggest and most praised rising bands were about to take a nose dive into oblivion. However, Sam’s Town is estimated to have sold over 4 million copies worldwide to date.

According to Brandon Flowers himself: “Hot Fuss was all based on fantasy. The English influences, the make up; they were what I imagined rock was. I’m a dreamer, you know? So I dug into that dream and made Hot Fuss. But hearing people call us the best British band from America made me wonder about my family and who I really was. That’s what Sam’s Town is really about.

Sam’s Town wasn’t some love letter to America or overreaching mythic thing. It was about me. I sang about my Grandma Dixie and my brother being born on the 4th of July and guess what? My Grandma’s name is Dixie and my brother was born on the 4th of July 1969

Sam’s Town wasn’t some love letter to America or overreaching mythic thing. It was about me. I sang about my Grandma Dixie and my brother being born on the 4th of July and guess what? My Grandma’s name is Dixie and my brother was born on the 4th of July 1969.”

The album takes its name from Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall, a hotel-casino in Las Vegas, the hometown of the band. Sam’s Town was also a huge sign that was visible by band member Mark Stoermer though his room window when he was young.

The Killers were not going to be killed by their new direction and Sam’s Town hears them daring with other 80’s icons like U2 and The Police. Even working with U2 collaborators Flood and photographer Anton Corbin, The Killers took a chance that years later the album still remains an underrated classic for the Sin City’s band.

Who’s to Blame When a Concert Fails to Attract a Full House?

ew3

Bands, Promoters, or Venues?

 

Background + Question:
I work as a promoter for a club in the Midwest and I’ve found there’s a real disconnect between what some bands and venues expect–what each of them see as each others obligation to promote a show. Whether or not you play for money, glory or the love of art, there are people involved whose livelihoods depend on the show doing well. Besides the venue-owners, bartenders can have a great night or a lousy night depending on how well a show is attended. Door attendants, bar-backs and security might not even be scheduled if a band is booked who has a reputation of not having a following. Some bands seem to prefer to let the chips fall where they may because if they don’t really try, they can’t really fail. Do you think a band should be responsible to bring the whole force of their following to every show, even if they aren’t headlining? Should these things be outlined by the promoter/venue in advance? What show promotion tactics are best for bands?

Answer:
Don’t despair. Assuming it’s the promoter or club’s job to get people to the show is one of the common fallacies of young bands. It’s the clubs job to promote the show in all the ways they normally would–distributing concert calendars, flyers, and ticket giveaways. It is the bands duty to get their fans out. As I have said here before, bands should always work on the assumption that clubs/promoters are totally beleaguered and expect little to nothing of them. This isn’t a slight, or saying that promoters are flakes, but just an acknowledgement that people who are putting on shows for small-medium sized local bands are perhaps the most put-upon and over worked people in any scene. Their list of tasks is infinite, they are already haggard from doing it “for the love” for years.

It is a band’s job to promote their show to their friends, to applicable press and radio, make a decent poster or flyer and put them up (as well as pass some on to the venue/promoter to post), post it on their Facebook page, etc. Sometime bands complain that they are musicians, not marketing people, that promotion doesn’t fall under the artist’s job description. This is a totally fine attitude to have, but if that is the case, the band should eschew anything beyond playing house shows, and stay out of the more for-profit pursuits and just do it for the art and not for achievement. Because the last thing everyone needs is some whiney band that is unwilling to work for themselves being a burden on the system, so to speak. Do not expect other people to work for your band’s benefit, if you are not willing to do that work yourself.

The humbling hard work associated with being in a band helps weed out the weak and easily discouraged; it is useful to toughen people up. Being in a band is harder than ever, for a multitude of reasons. Accepting the pure pain-in-the-ass factor of it and embracing the struggle, getting good at the struggle will help bond a band. It also gives a band some much needed perspective and experience if/when they eventually arrive in a place where they can/need to hire someone to do their publicity or manage or book their band.

Do bands need to bring the full force of their promotional capabilities for every single show they play? Obviously some shows are more important than others, but I think the minimum of flyers/posters, Facebook show invites, tweets about it should be the baseline. The other reason to get good at promoting your band (or at least be valiant/earnest/consistent in your efforts) is that it will please the promoters you work with. The world is larded with lazy musicians; a band that has it together to flier their own show and get some posters and handbills to the promoter is going to be a shining beacon of responsibility and consideration. It is an easy way to gain favor, regardless of your draw or sound. I know we all grew up thinking being a musician meant flailing around in your ego and being a dick, but simply being a little helpful and carrying your weight will get you a lot further.

So, dear writer, if you find that the baby bands you are dealing with are just not getting it, put an outline of what you expect and a FAQ on the “booking contact” page of your site. Young bands may appreciate your tutelage on how to do promote their shows–and stay in a promoter’s good graces.

Good luck.