Story by Evan Teng
Despite creating several hit singles such as Human and Read My Mind and releasing 4 chart topping albums, Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci is still not happy with where the band is at. “Let’s put it this way. If the band were to die, I wouldn’t be satisfied with what goes on the epitaph.” Says Ronnie. Ronny does not know when or even if they will reach the desired level of creativity, ingenuity, and capability, but he is optimistic. The band certainly has the work ethic, passion, and lifetime of experience needed to make that sort of transformation.
Ronnie has always been around music. When he was growing up, the radio served as his babysitter, keeping him entertained when his parents were away. His parents could not afford a babysitter and were usually gone for long periods of time. Early on in his life, he had no siblings to keep him entertained, so this tended to happen often. Many of his influences in music, such as blues bands and 80s rock, came from those early years. His drumming ability, or as he likes to call it his “Caveman Gene,” also asserted itself during those early years. “I would see a dryer or washer in the garage and…start to beat on it,” says Ronnie, adding that he would take off his clothes before beating on it for comedic effect.
Following high school, Ronnie enrolled in the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, or as Ronnie affectionately calls it UNLV, which he claims stands for “you never leave Vegas.” “All of my peers were going to college, so it just felt like the thing to do at that time,” says Ronnie. After initially pursuing a biology degree, he decided to switch to a music degree. His decision to switch majors was vindicated when he was lucky enough to fill in for and eventually completely replace The Killers’ main drummer. Upon joining the band, Ronnie immediately hit it off with half of the band members. The two individuals who he didn’t hit it off with were the bass player and the drummer. The original bass player and drummer left the band after Ronnie and bassist Mark Stoermer joined.
Once the band formed, they quickly started to put short demos up online on a site devoted to the Las Vegas Local Music Scene. The band used the site to arrange dates and locations for concerts and quickly gained a following. The site was also frequented by record representatives who represented major record labels. Once the record label noticed them, they would send a representative to hear them live in concert and negotiate a potential contract with them.
As the band gained more popularity, they began to get more record offers. At one point, the band had offers from all the major record labels, making the choice to select a permanent record label challenging. “We were looking for a label that would allow us to have freedom to dress the way that we wanted and have creative freedom,” says Ronny. “That is why we went with Def Jam.” But being signed up with a record label brought its own problems. “Record labels are basically banks and marketing firms,” says Ronny. He adds, “We [received] stipends and had to pay them back through record sales. Although they did receive some additional money from concerts, it was hardly enough to live on. The record label also took a 50% of the profits that the band made through record sales.”
Fast forward to today and the band has conquered many of the challenges that they faced. Band members earn a steady income despite the record restrictions due to success that they have experienced. The band has also adapted well to their success and the fans that come with it, even though it can be overwhelming at times. “We’re regular people [and] for the most part, people respect that. If we have a heavy breather, we just tell them to calm down. For the most part people listen. There are some people that don’t listen but they are in the minority.” Overall, Ronnie is just grateful that people like to listen to their music.