Brandon Flowers on not venting the baser feelings

Craig McClean profiles Brandon Flowers for The Daily Telegraph and one section that stands out to me:

None the less, last year he told the Tribune newspaper in Salt Lake City ““ the Mormon faith’s heart, the capital city of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ““ ‘my faith influences the songs I don’t write’.

What did he mean by that? ‘Yes!’ That gasp-laugh again. ‘Uh, I’ve often, I do, you know, we’ve all got our … hah…’ He’s squirming. ‘I definitely have a darker side. And a more sinister, maybe more sexual, being inside me that I think everybody’s got.

‘And I believe that because of what I believe, and because of the way that I was raised, and as I’ve got older, I’ve leant towards ““ I’ve pushed towards being that positive force that I always talk about. That’s kind of where I’d rather be. I know that it’s not”¦’ He stops and gathers his thoughts. ‘I know it’s frowned upon in art to put a muzzle on something. But I definitely do it.’

This harks back to Flowers’ most famous line and one of the Killers’ most famous songs. Crowds around the world have roared along to the declamatory high point of All These Things That I Have Done: ‘I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier’. In writing it the singer was acknowledging the struggles he had sticking to the strictures of his faith. But now it seems he’s resolved that on one level. Whereas many musicians use songs for exactly this purpose, Flowers won’t give vent to his baser feelings in song.

‘Yes,’ he nods. ‘So it’s a struggle. I wonder if it’s legit. But I can’t help but go for the good I guess. Especially after having children ““ I think, what kind of mark do I wanna leave? For the most part, that’s the person that I am. I think I’m a positive and optimistic person.’

I find this idea utterly fascinating and completely defensible. Brother Flowers may not be quite the role model for orthodox Mormons (nor would he claim to be), but in a world where the notion of self-censorship is anathema for most artists (even as they — we — all do it on some level), I find his honesty about all this to be rather radical middle.

11 thoughts on “Brandon Flowers on not venting the baser feelings”

  1. “radical middle.”

    Can the middle really be radical? That is a radical phrase. And thought provoking.

  2. Excellent question,Roger.

    The phrase in relation to Mormon art began with Eugene England appropriating the term from politics. I explored the concept in a three part series earlier this year here at AMV.

  3. Wm,

    Thanks! I had never heard the phrase before. Your articles on the radical middle remind me of how each hypertexted word in wikipedia is backed up by a entire article, except you point to three articles, not just one. I look forward to reading them.

  4. Christ is the only perfect example. I don’t think it’s wise or necessary to expect some sort of inhuman standard on our fellow members. What we should expect is for a person to try, and I think Brandon does just that.

  5. I admire Brandon Flowers for two things in relation to his brand of Mormonism. First, he recognizes his weaknesses without demanding respect for his unorthodoxy from other members. Second, he works to improve his weaknesses and doesn’t make excuses for them.

    To put it another way, to paraphrase what I hear from him, “I am not a good Mormon and don’t claim to be, but I try where I can. Take it or leave it Mormon or non-Mormon.” He always sounds honest to me in the way Porter Rockwell was, only without guns and a long beard.

    I contrast this with what I hear from other “rebel Mormons” that I hear from who seem to say, “I am a good Mormon no matter what and so stop judging me. There is no reason for me to try and be any better, and I’ll leave the Church if you don’t see it that way.”

    Besides, I love his music. I think he and his band have the greatest range of musical talent currently recording.

  6. And, Jettboy, even more fascinating to me is that he also admits that his art is influenced by the standards he is trying to live up to. Thus this post.

    It’s also why even amid all the pompousness, I still admire U2. You may disagree with how they execute some of their projects, but they are still, essentially, a Christian band.

  7. I often wonder about artists in the spotlight, “stardom” and all the moral challenges that come with it. Brandon Flowers has been given an amazing talent and he is magnifying it, putting it out in front of the world “on a candlestick”, and that means dealing with all the stuff that comes with it. If his art is influenced by the standards he is trying to live up to, I would imagine that that counts for a lot in the eyes of the Lord. The Atonement isn’t for perfect people. It’s for the ones who are trying . . . however imperfectly.

    He and The Killers are among my favorites. Thanks for the thought-provoking insight.

  8. It’s interesting how often this comes up when we’ve interviewed Mormon artists for Mormon Artist magazine. I remember in particular the children’s book author Rick Walton (and I don’t think this quote made it into the printed version) saying, “It tells me where not to go,” when asked how Mormonism influences his art.

  9. .

    Getting personal, I don’t think my faith affects what I do or do not write about as much as it affects HOW I write about those topics.

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