The Killers are working on a new album. In the studio, the personnel plotting LP number five are the same as always — frontman Brandon Flowers, guitarist Dave Keuning, drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr. and bassist Mark Stoermer. But Stoermer recently decided to take a sabbatical from the band’s touring lineup and follow his own muse again. On Aug. 5, he’ll release his second solo album, Dark Arts, via his own label, St. August Records. Billboard presents the premiere of the music video for his pensive new single, “Are Your Stars Out?”
Dark Arts is a musical kaleidoscope. It’s the sort of record you get from a multifaceted musician left to hone his craft in a very popular rock band, while only getting to play bass in said band. Stoermer wasn’t about to start pushing lyrics on Flowers, so he let influences from the Beatles and Pink Floyd records he fell asleep listening to as a kid run wild on his own project.
Below, find the brand new music video, along with our Q&A with Stoermer.
You recently decided to take time off from touring with the Killers; was this to find time for this solo record?
Yes, but not in the creation of the album. I’m doing it all myself, with a couple people helping me: setting up the record, doing the videos, approving final artwork — that kind of stuff, yes. But I’m also doing other things. I’m taking a class online right now. The reason why I’m doing that is to take a break, but not exclusively. It’s a combination of a lot of things. I’ve been doing the Killers since 2003 and I think about a thousand shows. I just needed to step away a while from that, but I’m still making the [new] record. We kind of made an adult decision where we decided everybody should do what makes them happy. There was no big blowout or anything. Everyone’s supportive of each other. I made this decision to take a break from the road but they wanted to continue on the road; everything’s cool now.
Tell me about the lyrics — how did they help inspire the video?
The lyrics are somewhat based on a passage in a short story by J.D.Salinger. It’s called Seymour: An Introduction. It’s kind of the side story of continuing the story of the Glass family and there’s a part where one brother is writing a letter… Seymour is saying to Buddy (his older brother who is deceased)… “Are your stars out?” a couple times in this letter. He was reading the works of his younger brother because they were both writers and they were sharing each other’s works. To sum that up, his letter was asking him to give him more. It was good but not good enough. Are you putting everything out there? Are you digging deep into your soul when you’re creating? It gave me the line and I kind of took the lyrics from there.
The video is a third thing… It’s playing on that idea of an older brother to a younger brother, though it’s not exactly the same meaning. I’m the older brother; the kid in the video would then be the younger brother who’s searching for something deeper.
The video narrative doesn’t exactly line up to my lyrics, and the lyric narrative doesn’t exactly line up to the book. It’s three different things that are connected now.
Most people know you as the bassist from the Killers, but there are so many different sounds on this record. Take me through your life and all the instruments you’ve picked up.
I started playing trumpet when I was about nine and had some semi-formal training that way… marching band and all that stuff until I was 21 or 22, actually. I bought my first bass when I was 13 or 14, but I started playing guitar when I was probably 17. I joined the Killers when I met Brandon and Dave in Las Vegas when I was 25 or 26. They knew me from another band as a guitar player. They even asked me to join the band as a guitar player, because originally — at least according to Dave — they wanted to build a five-piece, possibly more like the Strokes, with a keyboard. This was the very early days of the Killers.
I loved their songs right away. There were a couple months — it seemed like forever but it was only three of four months — when Ronnie and I weren’t in the band and they had a different bassist and drummer. They had mostly different songs, but two songs stuck from those early days… I was first asked to be a second guitar player and I casually mentioned I also play bass. And then one day I got the call from Dave.
How is the new Killers album coming?
It’s coming but it’s a process. There’s a lot of ideas but nothing’s set in stone. We’re still searching for direction and it could go a million different ways at this point. There are ideas; we’ve worked on it a lot. In a way we’re still in the early writing stages.
Can you describe its sound?
Not really, because it’s all over the place. There’s so many ideas and they’re so different that I don’t think it’s taken shape just yet. That’s what I meant saying it could go a million different ways… If you could grab a handful of songs there might be a sound there but it’s a pretty mixed bag right now.
Were you around when they wrote with Elton John?
No. I wasn’t even sure if that went on. If that went on, I think it had something to do with Brandon and Elton writing together. As far as I’m aware, the Killers as a band did not write with Elton. Maybe Brandon and Elton wrote something that was brought to the band… There are so many ideas being kicked around that I’m starting to lose track. And that’s a good thing — it’s good to have too many ideas.