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Can Killers survive old pals' reunion?

DAVE Keuning has greasy fingers. The 36-year-old guitarist has just finished a bag of chips, and so politely declines a handshake when we meet. But there are bigger things to worry about.

For a start, my interview with The Killers is taking place at the Electric Picnic, where the band is due to close the festival later. And though we're comfortably seated indoors in the artist area, the only thing that anyone can hear is Elbow's tremendous set over on the main stage.

Which may explain the look of worry on bassist Mark Stoermer's face. Or why, five minutes in, a twitchy Keuning stands up, walks across the room and slams the dressing room door shut. I ask him if he's okay -- he says yes and we move on. It is, shall we say, an awkward encounter with one of the biggest rock bands on the planet. But hey, we've only got 10 minutes -- let's make the most of it.

Fourth album Battle Born arrives four years after the release of Day & Age and almost a decade after the band's excellent debut, Hot Fuss. Somewhere in there, things got a little muddled for the Las Vegas quartet and so frontman Brandon Flowers and his men decided to take a break. How come?

"Because we had done it non-stop for six years," answers Keuning. "It was like six years of a tornado that went by fast, and I wanted to like, stop and, you know, live in the home that I had purchased. Through all the hard work I had never really been there; just to be home for a little bit -- be in one town for a little bit, was nice to do.

"I definitely like touring, but it was pretty non-stop so I just wanted to take a little break" he continues. "My biggest regret is telling people that we were taking a break, because all bands take breaks -- they just don't tell their public and then everyone gets their panties in a big bunch over it. It's not a big deal. Look at the dates between some of the Coldplay albums -- three or four years, or the Green Day albums that are four or five years, and no one cared!"

The Killers started life after Keuning placed an ad in a newspaper, looking for musicians. So, just as Brandon, Dave, Mark and drummer Ronnie began to tour the world, selling millions of records, they were still only getting to know each other. That can't be easy.

"I've had friends that were my best friends growing up and then when they become your roommate, you don't like them after a while," laughs Keuning.

"So it doesn't matter who it is, when you spend a lot of time with them, it's healthy to take a little time apart."

"A lot of the break was just a break from travelling and not sleeping in your own bed," adds Stoermer (35),

Still, they certainly know how to make a comeback. Battle Born is a grower of an album that sounds far better live than it does on record. Of course, Dave and Mark bring the noise, but they're not nearly as recognisable as The Killers' boyishly handsome lead singer, Brandon Flowers. And you know what? They're fine with that.

"I don't necessarily miss the extra attention," says Stoermer, "it's kind of nice to be in something big but we could still go to most places without getting too harassed. Brandon has it a little bit harder, so I don't know if I would trade with him ... "

Battle Born is released tomorrow