The Killers drop ‘Imploding the Mirage’ album after pandemic delays

The Killers' new album is the first without contributions from longtime guitarist Dave Keuning. ...

He says the word twice, savoring its novelty like something candy-coated.


“My wife made that up,” Ronnie Vannucci says of the term, which equates to personal responsibility in the COVID-19 era. “It’s just kind of trying to be respectful and wearing my mask. Just playing it cool, man.”

The Killers drummer is explaining how he’s spent a summer vacation — mountain biking, road trips with the family pooch in tow, plenty of studio time — that was never intended to be a summer vacation.

Beginning in May, his band was supposed to have embarked on its biggest tour of the U.K. — where The Killers are even bigger stars than they are stateside — a 10-date stadium run that sold out instantly.

The trek was to be in support of The Killers’ sixth studio album, “Imploding the Mirage,” originally due the same month. The album came out Friday.

The record’s first single, the heart-in-the-throat wanderlust of “Caution,” which eventually hit No. 1 on the alternative and adult album alternative radio charts, dropped March 12.

By the next week, much of the country was on lockdown.

“Imploding the Mirage” was still being mixed.

“All of a sudden, everyone was asked to hunker down, so we couldn’t be in L.A. to mix,” Vannucci recalls. “We were sort of mixing remotely, and that takes like 50 times longer. It’s such an arduous process.”

The album’s release date suddenly entered limbo; the U.K. tour — as well as planned fall outings in the U.S. and Australia — were pushed to 2021.

‘Delightfully uncomfortable’

For the band, the album’s creation process was as unprecedented as the times in which it will be released.

Tracked in Park City, Utah, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, it’s the first album the band has written and recorded since leaving its hometown to live in other parts of the country.

On top of that, it’s also The Killers’ first record made without contributions from guitarist Dave Keuning, who remains a member of the band but has been on hiatus since 2017.

What’s more, while bassist Mark Stoermer played on the album, he wasn’t a steady presence in the studio.

This contributed to the more synth-centric, rhythmically dynamic feel of “Imploding.”

“I think we kind of owned up to the fact that Mark wasn’t around that much,” Vannucci says. “He did come in on the record a few times, and when he was there, it was a concentrated, potent dose of rock. The stuff he laid down was incredible.

“But we didn’t have Dave around, and so we sort of just kind of woke up and said, ‘Well, I guess it’s just drums and keyboards,’ ” he laughs. “We started making a record trying to emulate those guys, and then just kind of stopped and took it another direction. It took a minute to find that compass, and it kind of relaxed into this left turn. I loved how it turned out, but we went about certain things in a totally different way than we usually do. That was sort of delightfully uncomfortable.”

Guests galore

When it came to creating in this new context, though, the learning curve was closer to a cliff at times.

Vannucci cites “Caution” as an example.

“We were at a place with ‘Caution’ where it was painfully obvious we needed a guitar man,” he says. “I was a little pissed at Dave for not being there because I know that he would do something cool. But he wasn’t there.”

And so he made a tongue-in-cheek bid for a certain Rock & Roll Hall of Famer.

“I said, ‘Well, let’s get Lindsey (expletive) Buckingham,’ ” he recalls of the former Fleetwood Mac guitarist, “kind of like in a joking way. Funny enough, our press ladies have a connection, they represent Lindsey, maybe, and they put a call in. He was there the very next day.

“It was crazy, because we were making a song with a guy who was largely responsible for my musical sensibilities,” Vannucci continues. “I grew up listening to him. I remember my dad telling me about Lindsey Buckingham. Fleetwood Mac was a big band in our household, so it was sort of surreal to have him there.”

Buckingham’s contribution helped set the tone for The Killers’ most guest-heavy record, which also includes appearances by War on Drugs singer-guitarist Adam Granduciel, well-traveled songwriter-guitarist Blake Mills, indie popsters Lucius, singer-songwriter Weyes Blood and others — like k.d. lang, who adds stirring vocals to the rock ’n’ roll hymnal that is “Lightning Fields.”

“As the record grows, you sort of find that it’s leading you instead of you leading the record,” Vannucci explains. “There were several little pockets, little vocal parts, where it made sense for this female component to arrive.

“That happened on ‘Lightning Fields,’ ” he adds. “It needed that. You’re in L.A., you sort of have this bouquet of people to choose from. We were discussing who would be right for this and we thought, ‘k.d. lang.’ (Singer) Brandon (Flowers) thought of it. We just asked her if she’d be into it and she was. ‘Wow, OK, let’s give it a shot.’ And it turned out being very fun.”

‘Winds of change’

“Tonight the winds of change are blowin’,” and those gusts blew through the various studios where The Killers cut “Imploding.”

The aforementioned lyric, taken from “Caution,” embodies the adventurousness of the album it’s featured on, the record spanning the lithe, David Bowie-evocative funk of “Fire in Bone,” the motoric churn of “Dying Breed,” the lyrically reflective, ruminative “When the Dreams Run Dry,” the swelling, dramatic “My God,” and more.

The result is The Killers’ most wide-ranging, artistically uninhibited record, one propelled by a palpable sense of discovery, as a veteran band elbows itself out of its comfort zone and into fresh musical terrain.

Vannucci credits the arrival of producers Shawn Everett and Jonathan Rado, one-half of psych-rock duo Foxygen, with helping The Killers embrace a different side of themselves on “Imploding.”

“I think we were 15 minutes into talking and getting to know each other and we just started experimenting,” he recalls. “There was a lot of spontaneity involved, and it was that afternoon where we both sort of decided, ‘Wow, I think these are our guys. Don’t really know where it’s going to go, but it’s sounding cool. Let’s own up to the fact that this is a journey, and we’re going to go down the bunny hole.’ ”

Now, about that album title.

Las Vegans will invariably think it’s a reference to The Mirage, though the song is less about detonating a hotel-casino than it is about getting in touch with one’s true self, elevating the authentic over the superficial.

“Sometimes it takes a little courage and doubt to push your boundaries out,” Flowers sings on a song that doesn’t just close the record, it encapsulates it.

“We were kind of batting around a few ideas. Brandon had written the lyrics to ‘Imploding the Mirage,’ and he thought, ‘Oh man, this would be a killer title for a record,’ because we’re from Vegas,” Vannucci explains. “We’re at an age where real (stuff) matters. And the mirage, the waves and curtains of superficiality that we all sort of navigate through in life, it was sort of a discussion about blowing through that, shooting that down, imploding that, getting to what’s real.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

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