Brandon Flowers Used a Voicemail Message from Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant on a New Song
The Killers frontman also discusses reaching out to producer Ariel Rechtshaid after hearing Vampire Weekend's latest songs.
Brandon Flowers is forging a bold new path on his second solo effort, The Desired Effect, which follows 2010's Flamingo but sounds like a total departure for the Killers frontman. Previewed earlier this week by the kinetic lead single "Can't Deny My Love," The Desired Effect (due out May 19 on Island Records) represents the most playful project Flowers has ever been a part of, embracing a blissful dance-pop vibe thanks in part to producer Ariel Rechtshaid (Vampire Weekend, Charli XCX, Haim), who worked closely with Flowers on the new full-length.
"I knew what we were getting into when we reached out to Ariel -- he's the funkiest white dude out there, and I needed a little of that in my life," Flowers told Billboard earlier this week. "[The Killers] were on tour in Australia, doing a festival, and we were playing next to Vampire Weekend and hearing some of their new songs. You knew there was something going on, and that this guy was a part of it. It just all came full circle, I got him on the phone and we just hit it off."
Flowers worked with producers like Brendan O'Brien, Stuart Price and Daniel Lanois on Flamingo, and The Desired Effect boasts an even more diverse group of collaborators, including Bruce Hornsby, Ethan Farmer and The Dirty Projectors' Angel Deradoorian. "The older I get, the more willing I am to use other people and their talents, and I'm thankful for them," says Flowers. "I can't do it by myself, and I think that's something that came with age. If I could talk to myself when I was younger, that's one of the bits of advice I would definitely give myself -- be open to other people. That definitely helped me with this record."
One of the most surprising collaborations on the album -- although it only lasts for a few seconds -- comes on "I Can Change," an sleek house track that samples Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy" and received a spoken word interjection from Pet Shop Boys leader Neil Tennant. Flowers and Tennant didn't share any studio time, however -- the Killers leader found a more unorthodox way to get the synth-pop legend on the record.
"I'm a big Pet Shop Boys fan, and Ariel's a big Pet Shop Boys fan," Flowers explains. "We just talked about it, and we just had this gap in a verse and we needed to stick something in there. We were talking about it being a speaking part, and the greatest musical 'speaker' is Neil Tennant! His voice is like no other. I texted him if he would -- he didn't even hear the song or the tempo or anything, I just texted him this line. I asked, will you send us a voicemail of yourself saying, 'When you're looking for a change'? And that was it. He sent us a voice memo, and we stuck it onto the track, from the phone. It was done within 20 seconds."
For much more with Flowers, click here to listen to the Killers frontman discuss The Desired Effect and his decision to return to his solo music on the new episode of the Pop Shop Podcast. Click here to get the new episode on iTunes.