“I think 99 times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim
in silence, and the truth comes to me."
You can’t go home again, but you can approach those formative experiences with the deeper understanding of an adult. This year has shown us new ways to reflect, and for many artists, shift from the grind of tour to the intentional quiet that writing and recording demand. Early in 2020 Brandon Flowers and The Killers realized they needed to make this shift, and delivered the recent release Pressure Machine, a concept album inspired by childhood years in Nephi, Utah. Debuting August 13th on the Billboard 200 top 10, as well as No. 1 on the U.K. charts, the album gives a nod to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, and pre-production began to be conceptualized in the same studio space as Tom Waits’ own concept albums, Bone Machine and Mule Variations.
This secret recording session followed their last release Imploding the Mirage by 10 months. Flowers wrote the lyrics before any of the music was created (which was the first time using this process), scattering photos of Nephi around his keyboard for inspiration. Once he was ready, the band gathered at Prairie Sun with producers Jonathan Rado and Shawn Everett, the same team that worked on Imploding the Mirage, accompanied by Prairie Sun’s chief engineer Nate Nauseda and second engineer Brett Brazil. They sought refuge away from the pandemic difficulties of Los Angeles and metropolitan areas.
Nauseda reflects, “Being a fan of this band since my youth, I was thrilled that I would be working with The Killers, my faith in their songwriting was met and reinvigorated. Brandon is a songwriter who is up there with Springsteen, Dylan and the other greats. The creativity was palpable and the level of work ethic was impressive.”
“I’m not writing a quarantine album or anything like that,” Flowers continued. “You kind of just start hitting your stride when you’re finishing a record. You’re writing lyrics, you’re mixing everything, you’re in it – then you go on tour. It’s interesting to not be going on tour and having any of that stuff taking up my brain. I just went right back to the piano. I was already exercising my songwriting muscles so a lot of it came very quickly. Something powerful happened when I shut off the part of my brain that runs towards the grind and just started running towards the creative part of my brain.”
During the week-long stint of The Killers shifting notebooks and lyrics to tape and album readiness, NBC came up to Cotati’s Prairie Sun Studio C and broadcast a stripped-down version of “Land Of The Free”, addressing the tragic death of George Floyd, which aired during the 44th annual Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular using on site DiGiCo consoles as well as Prairie Sun Live engineers Joe Jones and Nigel Wolovick. The day before the broadcast Prairie Sun’s owner/founder Mooka Rennick approached Brandon Flowers, asking which song he would perform. “I recommend ‘Land of the Free’, I think it is such a powerful song and an important time for people to hear it, he should go with it and it will really connect people” says Rennick.
Cotati’s Prairie Sun studios excels at creating the type of environment that can lend a musician towards the quiet needed to truly focus on their inspiration and execution of great songwriting. Between the magic of Neve signal paths and the creative collective environment of Northern California’s grassy hills, one can find the space needed for inspiration.