The Killers have just released one of the best protest songs in years with their new anthem “Land of The Free,” a track that takes on some of the biggest issues plaguing America, including gun violence and immigration bans. The Las Vegas band partnered with Oscar-winning director Spike Lee for the video, with Lee delivering a stunning short film documentary that features footage filmed along the border between the U.S. and Mexico in late 2018.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Killer’s frontman Brandon Flowers contacted Lee after seeing the veteran filmmaker’s Golden Globe-nominated film BlacKkKlansman, which tells the real life story of Ron Stallworth, a black detective who infiltrated the KKK in the 1970s.
“Brandon Flowers called me up,” said Lee. “He saw BlacKkKlansman, said he loved it. It’s a great protest song. He said, ‘What can you do with this?’”
Lee’s footage shows thousands of displaced Mexican migrants forced to live in tent cities while they await legal rulings on whether they’ll be allowed into the U.S. The dire living conditions of the immigrants, including many children, are shown in the alarming footage, with Lee’s camera pointedly refusing to let the viewer look away from the shocking reality of what is happening right now with the U.S. and Mexico. The short film also includes footage of tear gas being thrown at migrants by border patrol in late November, an event that shocked the world, with many of the migrants fleeing the gas including women, children, and the elderly.
As for the inspiration for the song, which is reminiscent of work by protest songwriting veterans like Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen, Flowers says that it’s been a long time coming. Speaking to Beats 1 host Zane Lowe, he detailed the painful list of events that brought the band to “Land of the Free.”
“I think it is a very important time right now and ‘enough is enough’ was basically where it comes from. It started in my mind around when Sandy Hook happened and as a father, how that affected me, and then it just started stacking up. It was things like Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, things like what’s happening at the wall. You know this stuff just didn’t seem to be in harmony with the values that I believe my country was founded on,” says Flowers. “I would start the song and then I would put it away and say, ‘I’m not the guy to do this.’ Or I would feel inadequate, waiting for … Somebody’s going to write this song. And then it just piled up and I finally just, you know, Las Vegas, Orlando, Parkland and it just kept coming. It was just like I’ve gotta, have to get this out.”
Flowers said the band isn’t likely to release a new album this year, with 2020 as a more realistic goal for their follow up to 2017’s Wonderful Wonderful. As for whether the group will continue to make music that’s positive in light of the violent headlines dominating the news, Flowers says being hopeful is more important than ever.
“I think because now more than ever, we need optimism. It’s a beautiful thing. That’s something that I was just born with, and I’m grateful for that. Sometimes you struggle, but because I’m such an optimist … I need to have more of an edge to be legit. I can’t hide it. So I think we need it now more than ever, and the community that can happen when people get together and listen to music and share that is beautiful.”