Stepping into the spotlight with his own collection of prismatic tracks, founding lead guitarist and songwriter, Dave Keuning of The Killers is breaking away from the chart-topping band with his own striking, solo debut record, Prismism.
After playing with The Killers for almost 20 years, Keuning is ready to step into the spotlight as frontman this winter with a 14-track LP that finds the Iowa native capturing the very best of his musical gifts — a feat the 42-year-old tells PopCulture.com was a long time coming.
“I have all these song ideas that just don’t get used or are just kind of sitting around and some of them were ideas not used with The Killers,” Keuning said, adding how some tracks also just didn’t fit with the direction of their music at the time. “[But] I have a lot of material, a lot of voice memos and wanted to see them come to life.”
Keuning adds he collected and worked on a lot of “acoustic stuff” as he always wanted to make more music with keyboards as the instrument is something he truly connects with.
“I don’t really get a chance to do that much [with The Killers], so I just decided to do it all. Just a little bit of everything,” he said. “And that’s probably what I’ll continue to do, and not really stick to one thing, that way I can kind of do whatever I want.”
While former bandmates Brandon Flowers, Ronnie Vannucci Jr. and Mark Stoermer have had the opportunity to make music outside of The Killers, Keuning said he just never made time over the years for his own solo record.
“[It was] fun to be able to do whatever you want and see a song through until it’s done without any other voices or compromises made with anyone else, so that was a really fun process — it was actually the most fun I had making music in a long time,” he said.
While it was a lot of fun for Keuning, who is preparing for a short tour overseas, the musician details how there were some challenges when constructing the record, especially when it came to his own voice.
“I think the most challenging part was the singing for me because I had never done it before,” Keuning said. “So I was really trying to find what my voice was and I wasn’t sure. Firstly, I was excited and tried to do maybe too much, [but] then you have to figure out who you are as a singer and what you can do, so it took me a little bit, a few tries to find my range.”
Keuning admits, he is “still finding” his range with the new record set to release this January, adding he was “nervous” because he hadn’t done very much, nor was a fan of his own voice. To help ease his nerves, Keuning had friends to help out, reassuring him in the process.
“I wouldn’t say that I was you know, confident and I'm fine doing this, it was more like I have to do this because they’re my songs and my vocal melodies in my head and I got to figure out how to complete these songs,” he said. “So they’re not going to get done if I don’t do it— it’s going to be a nightmare dealing with someone else writing lyrics and figuring it all out, so this is easier.”
One of the biggest challenges Keuning had when forging his own identity with his solo record’s sound was breaking away from The Killers’ grasp of eclectic sounds. After all, Keuning was responsible for the success with the band’s hit, “Mr. Brightside” after he came up with the chords on his Epiphone SG, while running the guitar through a fuzzbox to give each note a scruffy texture.
But Keuning reveals it’s all about having fun on his own and playing with different sounds while finding a beat that resonates with him.
“Some days I have an idea that just comes to my head and I work on it until it’s done and other days, I just go in there and mess around,” he said. “And I just try and have fun and come up with a guitar part that’s fun or a chord progression that sounds good.”
While Keuning has no immediate plans to return with The Killers, he reveals that fellow bandmate Stoermer has been supportive in his solo venture, especially when he asks questions.
“You know, it’s a little more work than I thought it was going to be as far as the stuff besides music,” Keuning admits. “The music for me, [that’s] the fun part. But I’m doing a lot of other stuff that I’m having to do myself and that was a lot harder than I thought.”
Though there have been some challenges, Keuning has learned a lot about the business and himself over the years from being with a band to his latest solo effort.
“I’ve learnt a ton of stuff,” he admits before pausing to think. “I’ve learned what it’s like to work with other people and all the compromises you have to make, and what it takes to be that big of a band. [But] along the way, it takes a lot of things — a lot of hard work, a little bit of luck and it takes having good music.”
Modest by his accomplishments and the new direction he is heading into, Keuning says he’s not sure what will happen, but he’s enjoying himself too much to stop.
“I’ll keep doing it,” he said. “I’ll always have the ability to make whatever music I want to and I don’t know what my future holds, but this is something I’ll definitely be doing.”
Keuning adds that while it’s “hard to find happiness,” he knows you have to find a “certain balance in what you’re doing” no matter how difficult it is to find.
One of the songs on Keuning’s album that he has found to be one of his favorites — though he admittedly shares his favorites bounce around depending on his mood — is the third single from his upcoming record, titled “Boat Accident.”
Driven by power chords and laced with playful keyboards, the cut is a high-spirited bop, treading ‘80s vibes with its sound and styling. Without giving too much away too, Keuning admits there are chunks from different songs on the record that he would deem “personal.”
“[But] there’s also chunks that are just made up fiction and then there’s stories about other people in there,” he said. “It’s all kind of [like] whatever you can relate it to yourself.”
With getting used to the experience of flying solo and learning various techniques to ensure the best experience for music lovers, Keuning will be touring in the U.K this December, but promises “there’ll be a lot more shows next year” after the release of Prismism, which he is “excited to get out” this winter.
“There’s going to be a lot more fun when the album’s out for me,” Keuning said. “That’s really where it all starts, when people know the songs, they know the lyrics, and it starts to circulate a little bit and grow into something. That for me will be when the fun starts, so I’ll definitely be touring more next year!”
It might be too early to start talking about his next record, but Keuning is optimistic about the future.
“It’s the first of many to come,” he smiled.0comments
Dave Keuning’s debut album, Prismism, releases Jan. 25, 2019.
Stay tuned to PopCulture.com for more on his upcoming album and music! For more information on Keuning, check out his website for updates.