Where the heck have The Killers been for the past five years? Chris Schulz tries to find out.

We're at the end of our phone conversation. I'm about to say goodbye. I thought Brandon Flowers had said everything he had to say.

That's when the affable front man decides to drop a killer line, the best from today's entire interview.

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder," declares Flowers, pausing only to say goodbye before hanging up the phone to TimeOut.

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They may be his last words to us - but they're telling ones.

That's because it's been five years since his band of Las Vegas misfits The Killers last released an album.

And it's been another eight since they last performed in New Zealand.

It's been a long wait to see the once-giant stadium rockers in action again, and fans have indeed been wondering the heck they've been.

But that changes this week when The Killers release Wonderful Wonderful, their seriously relevant and surprisingly good fifth record, on Friday.

To go with it, they've got plans to play a three-date New Zealand tour in April.

It's their biggest here yet, with shows in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

It's a big album backed by major tour plans. But things are different now. Rock is hard sell right now. The Killers recently performed at Lollapalooza alongside Chance the Rapper, Lorde and DJ Snake.

Flowers is well aware of this. "We know that the landscape has changed," he says.

To buck the trend that's seen peers like Kings of Leon and The Black Keys disappear, The Killers nabbed producer Jacknife Lee, known for adding electronic flourishes to bands like Bloc Party, Weezer and Kasabian.

His hands are all over Wonderful Wonderful, with songs like Tyson Vs Douglas, The Calling and The Man landing with a sprightly kick, finally giving those juicy big hits from The Killers' 2004 debut Hot Fuss a run for their money.

The Killers are back in action with a new album and tour.
The Killers are back in action with a new album and tour.

Flowers heaps praise of Lee for making Wonderful Wonderful what it is. "We were able to figure out how to be a band in 2017, and I think he really helped guide us in that direction," he says.

But dig a little deeper and you'll find things haven't been that wonderful for Flowers at all. He admits the album's title is a little misleading.

"It's not as cheery as the record title suggests ... It sheds some light on things that I kept in the dark before," admits Flowers. "My life has been a rollercoaster ride for the last little while."

A little prodding soon reveals why. The album is inspired by his wife's struggle with Complex PTSD, a mental illness caused by multiple traumatic experiences.

Flowers says her illness only emerged recently, and has had a major impact on their life together with their three children.

Making Wonderful Wonderful, he says, helped the couple cope with her recovery.

"It was a pretty healing experience for me and my wife because I would have to run lyrics by her and make sure she was okay with them," he says.

"She's very much at the centre of the record."

That means there's a lot more at stake for Flowers. This time it's personal. He felt nervous about presenting his lyrics to his band mates, tentative about letting them know what his they meant, revealing why he felt so strongly about certain songs.

"We had some discussions that we wouldn't normally have because there may be a song on the record that I felt pretty passionately about, and they weren't sure why," he says.

"The pieces started to fit together ... and it made it easier for everyone to understand."

That's not the only turmoil. Half of The Killers - guitarist Dave Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer - have decided they don't want to tour this time around, and they'll be replaced by regulars fill-ins for the Wonderful Wonderful tour, including those New Zealand dates.

A lot of change, a lot of struggle. Flowers believes it combined to help inspire the best Killers records yet.

And as that final comment to TimeOut reveals, he's quietly confident about it.

"I love the record. There are some really emotional and uplifting moments. I think I've written better than I ever have," he says.

"I'm anxious, but I'm pretty optimistic about it. I'm excited for people to hear the whole thing."

That sounds wonderful.

LOWDOWN
Who: Brandon Flowers from The Killers
What: New album, Wonderful Wonderful, out tomorrow
Also: Playing Auckland's Spark Arena on April 20, Wellington's TSB Arena on April 21 and Christchurch's Horncastle Arena on April 24