The Killers are one of the biggest bands in the world. The Las Vegas four-piece have sold millions of records since debut album Hot Fuss was released in 2004 and recently headlined a massive gig at Hyde Park in front of 45,000.
Ronnie Vannucci Jr, the band’s drummer, has just embarked on a side-project, Big Talk, with old friend Taylor Milne. Their self-titled debut album sees the drummer step into the limelight for the first time.
Despite his self-deprecating modesty, it’s an impressive first album, full of the kind of bombastic anthems you’d expect from the guy who beats the sticks to the likes of ‘Somebody Told Me’.
This doesn’t mark the end of The Killers, however – the band had just been working so hard that they needed to take a hiatus. That said, it seems that Big Talk might not just be a one off either, and the band have already booked a number of tours to promote their album. Watch this space!
Before The Killers, you were in a band with Taylor Milne. What’s it like to be doing this with him?
It feels perfectly natural. I’m glad that we remained friends through the years, and I’m glad that we can do this now. I think it’s a testament to our friendship. And he’s such a good musician, I’m grateful that he can be doing music with me. It makes me sound better!
How does it feel to be the frontman now, instead of being behind the drum kit?
It feels good! I’ll always be a drummer, you know. I don’t know how seriously I’m taking this yet. I mean, I’m doing it! The whole thing feels weirdly natural. But I think it’s going to have its own break-in period, for sure. I’m not saying I’m a natural, I’m saying it feels natural. Maybe that’s just an extension of me being a musician, that it feels natural to play anything. It felt natural when I was playing glockenspiel in an 80-piece orchestra.
Do you find there’s less pressure doing your own thing than being in The Killers?
No. I feel more pressure now, because I’m stepping into different shoes. It’s a completely different role to what I have been doing.
And you’re being judged on songs you’ve written yourself as opposed to ones as part of a band.
Well, yeah. There’s a whole expectation there as well, where you’ve got a level that you have to hold yourself up to. And that’s more of a self-imposed thing than anything, but there’s also that level of expectation that people attach to the Killers, so I have to work extra hard so I don’t put The Killers in a bad light, either. Because, like it or not, and however autonomous this may be, there’s still an umbilical cord attached to the Killers beast, you know.
And that’s important. I think everybody in the band feels that way with our respective projects, though. They don’t want to do something that’s going to suck. And that was one of my concerns, you know – “I hope this doesn’t suck.”
Did you feel a need to take a break from The Killers to refresh yourself? Because you’ve been doing it for so long, and so intensely – is it nice to take a step back from it?
Yeah. It’s nice to get some perspective. I’m sort of used to be playing in different groups. That’s how I grew up – I was always playing in a couple different outfits – and I always liked that. It’s good to keep busy in that way because it keeps my brain moving musically.
It’s sort of like asking an architect to just work on one house for his whole life. It’d be the baddest-ass house, but I’m sure he wants to get into some other buildings. The Killers is my most coveted, my most treasured, my most prized possession, but I think it’s good to get the perspective, and it forces me to realise how good a band we are, The Killers. When you go out and do other things, you realise how special it is. Maybe not all architects feel that way about their work, but you know…
Where did the idea of Big Talk – as a name for the project and the album – come from?
Well, I started writing these songs, and I was playing all the instruments, and Taylor was playing guitar as well. When these songs started to come out, they didn’t sound like a solo thing. And he really helped me get some of these half-assed ideas out of my head. He really encouraged me to keep at them, and when they finally came out, they didn’t sound like a solo thing. They sounded like a band.
It wasn’t just me on an acoustic guitar singing about peace. It was rock’n’roll. And I think I had some fear of this maybe seeming like I was a little too conceited, that self-titling it would be me believing in my own hype. It seems that people who go by their first names are deserving of it and I just didn’t feel like I was deserving of having a big name, if that makes any sense. I’ve never done this thing.
So, with that line of thinking, I just thought it’d be funny to call it Big Talk, just because it’s so bad of a name it’s good again! It’s kind of funny. Things tend to go better for me if I don’t take them so seriously. There’s a level of professionalism involved, don’t get me wrong. I take this seriously. But I’m not believing in my own hype.
It’s never too early to get started, apparently
The opening line of the first song on the Big Talk album, ‘Katxenjammer’, is ‘It’s not too early for whiskey.’ There are also a few other references to the spirit throughout the record, too. So - did it play a large part in its making? “Yeah,” laughs Vannucci. “Yeah, it did. I don’t have a problem, though. I can quit any time I want to! It started out as a joke, when we popped open a bottle to do some tracking and some playing. Somebody said, ‘Man, it’s twelve noon.’ And I said ‘That’s not too early for whiskey! I needed an opening line, and it stuck.”