I am a very, very big fan of the Killers, and in particular, of their front man, Brandon Flowers.
It happens that every personal vignette of mine is intricately woven into the larger narrative of my life, so much so that I cannot explain my deep love of and loyalty towards the Killers without brushing the issue of depression, and delving into the idea of divine revelation and what that means for a member of the church– or at least me– on a day-to-day basis. You pull at one thread and the whole sweater unravels in your hands. As a result, my experiences read like a fairytale– think less Grimm Brothers and more Disney, but with an added edge. I consider this a sign of Heavenly Father’s direct involvement in my life, combined with my willigness to recognize and act on these influences– although I am occasionally tempted to stop and scream, “You know this is my life you’re writing and not some cheap, Hollywood sitcom?”
You might think of it as coincidence, or me having too much time on my hands, an overactive imagination, and using too much of that time to run loose with the aforementioned imagination. Whatever explanation works. We’re not picky here.
Back to my man, Mr. Flowers.
I grew up listening to the Killers. Liked them, didn’t know much about them because I was too busy listening to shitty pop music. Don’t blame me; I integrated very late into the American music scene. My parents played Ravi Shankar instead of the Beatles.
The first time I heard the Killers song “Smile Like You Mean It” I had just gotten out of the psych ward after attempting suicide for the first time. I was in my best friend’s bedroom and she had their CD Hot Fuss playing on her stereo, back when people owned CDs and stereos. My mind was accordingly blown. In that moment, it was the truest song I had ever heard. I pressed repeat over and over and over until my friend got so annoyed that she said, “Gosh, you really like that song, don’t you?”
Years later, I learned how to be happy and healthy. Got married and had a baby girl. Our baby girl had the worst kind of colic, would scream for hours on end. The only thing that would get her to stop crying was listening to the Killers. So I’d play “Shot at the Night” and “When You Were Young” over and over and over again, and I’d dance with my baby girl in the living room of our apartment in Maryland and for a minute, she’d stop crying. I still hadn’t heard of Brandon’s name.
Months later, we moved to New York. Months after that, I was baptized into the Mormon church. A full year after that, the church interviewed me for their next ad campaign, similar to the I am a Mormon campaign, but based on recent conversion stories. My husband, not a member, had never heard of it before, so we sat side-by-side on our makeshift bed/couch, scrolling through the videos on YouTube.
And my husband says, “Hey, isn’t that the guy from the Killers?”
I scoff. I guffaw. There’s no way. I’d know. I love the Killers. AND I’m a Mormon.
“No, it is. That’s Brandon Flowers, the singer from the Killers.”
We watched his video where he spoke about being married at an early age, about raising three boys while touring. Everything in my life came full circle. Old songs were suddenly imbued with so much more meaning. At every struggle in my life, Brandon had been whispering hints of the Gospel to me, long before I’d even heard of a Mormon.
This information came to me at a point when I was feeling estranged from the relatively homgenous community of stay-at-home Mormon moms. They’re lovely people, but lovely people with whom I stick out like a sore thumb. This is a challenge non-unique to my church; get together any group of people that spend time together, and an average emerges, a set of cultural norms to adhere to. Whether in Sunday school, high school, or college debate, I’ve never been within even three standard deviations of the norm. I’m weird person.
So I drew great strength seeing Brandon exemplify what we refer to as living “in the world, but not of the world.” It means that we follow our own paths to the best of our ability, not seperating from the material world, but fully integrating into society while retaining a firm foundation of the Gospel. To me, there is nothing more inspiring than Mormons unafraid to be themselves.
At this point, I’m a true Brandon Flowers fan. I’m digging up every Killers album I’d somehow never heard, submerging myself in his solo work (it’s truly excellent– you should check it out), unable to listen to anything else. Each turn of phrase, each chord progression is transcendent– particularly “Dustland Fairytale.” By a long shot, my favorite song I’ve ever heard. There isn’t an incorrect syllable in the entire song.
I listen to his music over and over and over again until my husband gets so sick of it and says, “I think we’ve had a bit of an overdose of Mr. Flowers, here.”
About a month after that, my husband left church early. Like I said, he’s not a member, and I’d gone hot and cold pressuring him to attend and leaving him alone. I knew I should respect his agency, but I sucked at it. That day I heard a voice telling me, “Go to your man. Don’t let him go home alone.” So I picked up my daughter from nursery and followed him home. I tried to apologize to him, but because I’m an idiot, ended up defending myself instead. Zoe kept screaming and wouldn’t go down for her nap so my husband went to handle her.
I frantically googled any information I could about Brandon’s marriage. Sounds creepy and bizarre, but I’d heard his wife had an unusual conversion story. Plus, I was desperate, and treating his life like personal scripture. It was one of those, “Alright, Heavenly Father. Whatever you got, hit me with it! I’m nothing but ears!”
The first thing I stumbled across was a quote of his saying that there were no ultimatimums, that he would have married his wife even if she had not joined the church. Oh, sweet release. I started bawling– and I haven’t been a crying person in a long, long time.
My husband came back and I apologized for being such a thick-headed idiot, told him I don’t care what he believes in, that I’m lucky to have someone so supportive, and that we have the rest of eternity to figure this out together. My husband was stunned and, since he knows me so well, kept asking, “What inspired you? What inspired you?” I told him that I’d been caught in a monkey trap and I finally let go.
I never again pressured him about religion after that moment.
I typically do not listen to music when I write. I find I get lost in the music and don’t do the writing part. But when editing my book, on some of those crazy, 1AM nights, I blasted Brandon Flowers/ the Killers in my headphones, rocked out while I powered through the difficult edits. Though it slowed my progress, it kept me sane and driven.
One night several weeks ago I was writing about depressive realism, the idea that I was depressed simply because I saw things more clearly than other people, that complacency is based on keeping your head down and staying away from the deep questions, not digging for the deep answers. Though a crucial concept to my book, I’d never written about it before, in any form.
While writing, I stumbled across the Killers album “Sawdust” and at random, picked a live version of “Sam’s Town.” Somehow I’d never before heard the album or the song (orginally from their album Sam’s Town). Brandon had this incredible, deep, gravelly voice and his first lines were:
Nobody ever had a dream ’round here, but I don’t really mind that it’s starting to get to me
Nobody ever pulls the seams ’round here, but I don’t really mind that it’s starting to get to me
I nearly thumped my hands on our dining table in excitement. I did not actually do this because it was well after midnight in the Simon household and not a creature– besides adrenaline-hopped-up-psycho-Veena– was stirring. But, YES! This guy! He got me. That was exactly it.
Except, at the time I did mind that it was starting to get to me. It was like Brandon took the concept two steps further and applied it to my book; nobody thinks it’s marketable because nobody cares about the deeper issues, and that bothers me, that people don’t care, and I’m okay with it bothering me because I’m okay being the person who digs, always, ceaselessly. Obviously it holds a different meaning for him, but it spoke to me all the same.
And it was much more concise and melodic with Brandon singing it to me through my cheap, pink headphones at 1AM.
I’m aware– much more than most– that Brandon Flowers is just some guy with a lot of talent, a complete person with his own idiosyncracies and shortcomings, same as any other human (…SO many jokes begging to be made). But more so because of his humanity, his music and example have been a beacon to me.
It’s less about him as a person, and more about the fact that Heavenly Father knows me personally and knows what kind of support I need in times of duress. Of course Mr. Flowers shaped the course of his own life through his own choices. He does not exist for the purpose of inspiring me. But I believe Brandon’s music to be divinely inspired– like much, if not all, great art that serves and uplifts. I also believe that Heavenly Father nudged me toward his music in my times of greatest need. In the church we know these highly individualized signs of comfort from God as “tender mercies.” They are indications of Heavenly Father’s awareness of our unique situations, little gifts that tell us he is there, watching out for us, rooting us to the finish line, passing us Gatorade along the way.
Here’s where I start to lose people. Throughout this time, I received the very specific revelation that I would meet Brandon Flowers at some point. This was unusual for me, because I typically receive promptings about things I am meant to do– reach out to a particular person, chose a certain school for my daughter, write a blog post about Brandon Flowers– as opposed to things that are going to happen to me. But that was the prompting: you will meet this guy, and you will learn something.
How do I know this was a divine prompting? That’s the thing: I don’t. Not with any kind of certainty. Divine promptings have certain identifying characteristics: they bring you a deep sense of assurance, they never urge you to do anything degrading or harmful. It takes a lot of quiet listening and awareness throughout the day to pick up on these soft impressions. It’s an imperfect science, determining what comes from God, and what we simply make up in our heads.
But I felt no sense of urgency about this prompting. I felt no need for it to happen. These things strongly indicated to me that I was not making it up. Still, it felt bizarre and embarrassing. I don’t need to meet Brandon Flowers. Not even sure I’d want to. I never idolize celebrities. In fact, the only other celebrity role model I’d ever had, I had met– at length– and that had gone quite poorly, though it had proved to be an amusing and insightful experience (read about it here). My life was great and I did not need another one of those random events thrown into the mix. I already received my needed support from his music.
So, why? Why meet him? To what end? Am I just making this up?
I grappled with these questions to no satisfactory conclusion.
On Wednesday night, I did end up meeting Brandon after his concert at Terminal 5.