:: Kings of Leon :: Ogden Theatre :: May 5 ::
By Cornelia Kane
The Kings of Leon have the perfect backstory for rock and roll royalty. It includes mystery, intrigue, family drama and religion.
The band consists of three brothers, Nathan (drums), Caleb (vocals) and Jared Followill (bass), and is rounded out by their cousin Matthew Followill (guitar).
By now, many know the King’s story, but for those who don’t, here’s the quick rundown: The brothers were raised religiously by a traveling preacher and his wife in the Deep South, and were not introduced to rock and roll until they were young men, following the separation of their parents.
The Nashville-based band found their way onto the charts in 2003 with their first full-length album, the riotous Youth and Young Manhood, recorded when bassist and baby brother Jared was still only 17. The album was received with critical acclaim and led to gigs opening for the Strokes and U2. That was followed by 2005’s Aha Shake Heartbreak, and now all grown up, just last month, the band released their third album on RCA, aptly titled Because of the Times.
They are now in the middle of a seemingly never-ending tour, which drummer Nathan Followill was able to take some time away from to talk to The Marquee from England, where the weather gods seemed to be smiling on the band and the country known mostly for The Beatles and cloudy skies.
“The weather here is amazing. We haven’t had one cloudy day in, like, a week-and-a-half. Just blue skies and sunshine. It’s like the Lord opens up the heavens and shines down on us while we’re over here. Is this interview for the Weather Channel?” he asked, laughingly.
In addition to the weather, Followill said that touring Europe is different than the States. “We love touring in the U.K. just because the fans are so crazy. I love playing in Spain and Italy just because the scenery and the weather makes it super-duper nice, but I think we like touring in America a lot just because of the comfort level. You know, being able to eat whatever you want 24 hours a day as opposed to finding one gas station that’s open and the only sandwiches they have are prawn and mayonnaise, which isn’t too tasty after about 14 beers,” he said.
While their early efforts were a kind of decidedly raunchy countrified rock, with mostly fast-paced songs that contain a kind of raw, frenetic energy in the vocals and playing, the new album is slowed down by comparison and more polished. Caleb’s vocals, usually known for being slightly slurry and half-shrieked, come through clean and almost sweet like a lullaby on some tracks, while the whole production has been cleaned up and the music has become more refined.
“Musically, like a Joy Division, or a young U2?” Nathan said of the direction on Because of the Times. “We like everything, though. I love Townes Van Zandt just as much as I like Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. We just love all kinds of music because the way we grew up we didn’t get to listen to music, so in the last five years we’ve gotten to catch up on the last 30 years of music that’s been made. So, I just heard of this band called The Beatles, I think they’re going to be huge. I think they’re going to sell quite a bit of records.”
Although the Kings’ latest album just came out last month, Nathan said the band is already working on new material. “The record was done probably last summer, but record labels have a system of which quarter you release which record in, so you have a better chance of selling records. I guess, and we didn’t want to compete with Beyonce and Justin Timberlake, so we waited until we could compete with David Hasselhoff and whoever else put out a record when we did.”
Regardless, new tracks are already beginning to surface from the Kings during their soundchecks. “We have about three or four songs we’re working on now. All of our songs, we work them up in soundcheck. Like, the whole last record was written in soundchecks. Because you just get so bored you don’t want to play a song in soundcheck that you’ve already played 50 times and you’re going to have to play it that night, too. So, we try to take that as a time to work on ideas. Then, before you know it, 10 soundchecks later we’ve got a song together.”
And, while the band shares writing duties musically, the lyrics are less of a collective effort. But as Nathan pointed out, he does pull his own weight from time to time. “Caleb does the lyrics 99.8% of the time. I’m always good for a .2% every now and then.”
Oddly enough, when Caleb and Nathan first started writing songs, they had no thoughts of actually playing them themselves. “We had no idea we were going to do the band thing, but once we realized that we could write a decent song, then we just started playing around with the idea of starting to play. But, we had gotten the record deal before anything had really happened and the label was going to help us put our band together,” said Nathan.
When the boy’s parents divorced, Nathan and Caleb moved to Nashville with their mother, while their father moved to Oklahoma City. Eventually, the brothers began writing “cheesey country songs” for publishing deals, but soon found that putting their name on something they weren’t proud of didn’t suit them. “So we changed our way of thinking and started writing songs that we would want to sing and play. The next thing we know, we got an interview with an attorney, who introduced us to a publisher, who introduced us to a manager, who introduced us to a label. That all happened within a span of maybe five months. We basically went from working at Abercrombie to having a record deal,” said Nathan.
With the label pushing to make the Followill brothers a cookie-cutter band, the boys pushed back ferociously and patched together their family band, despite the fact that few had any real chops on their instruments. “They said they’d see us in one month and we locked ourselves in the basement with the Led Zeppelin box set that the label had given us and Jared became a madman and played the bass 24 hours a day and Matt played guitar 24 hours a day and when they came down a month later we played for them and kicked their ass, and they apologized and said they would never question us again,” Nathan said.
With a new album out, one might hope that it’s time for the band to kick back a little, but the fact is that while many bands claim to be road weary, their schedules are but a weekend jaunt compared to the Kings’ mind-numbing whirlwind schedule. “We’re about to start a two-and-a-half month American tour. Then we’ll come back over here for festival season, then to America for fall tour, back over here for winter tour, then Christmas, then Australia for the Big Day Out Festival, Japan, then South America, and then we go do another record. So, we’re not going to get to sleep in our beds very much over the next year,” laughed Nathan.
:: Kings of Leon ::
:: Ogden Theatre :: May 5 ::
Spectate if you Gravitate:
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