Rockers Kings of Leon find a challenge on new record
For the family band Kings of Leon, one of the biggest factors in making decisions about their career is what will make their wives and children happy. So the large Followill clan, which includes three brothers, a cousin, four spouses and four children, was excited to record their seventh studio album earlier this year in Los Angeles.
“It was wintertime here,” lead singer Caleb Followill said of their home in Nashville, Tennessee. “And we knew our families were going to be away from us for long days, so we wanted to take them where the sun was shining.”
Their wives also have input on which cities the band will use as central hubs on their next tour, said drummer Nathan Followill.
“All of our kids are the same age or within six months of each other, which makes it really easy for us to all go together and then they have a built-in buddy system,” Nathan Followill said.
After breaking out early on with albums like “Only By the Night,” and “Because of the Times,” the band struggled with success and excess, which led to public fights and cancelled shows in 2011. But five years later, they are relaxed and settled as fathers and husbands.
“WALLS,” released Oct. 14, finds the band with a new producer, Markus Dravs, who has earned Grammys for his work with Mumford & Sons, Arcade Fire and Coldplay. The title song is an acronym, Caleb Followill, said for “We are like love songs.” Love, not animosity, seems to be the prevailing theme for the Kings of Leon on this record.
The band talked about the album with The Associated Press ahead of their first show in Nashville performing the album in its entirety. Answers have been edited for brevity.
AP: What’s it like playing the new music in front of hometown crowd?
Caleb Followill: Oh it’s going to be awkward. We’re going to play new songs that don’t get the reaction that we’re used to. Matthew Followill: And then we’re going to mess up on those songs. Jared Followill: And then we’re going to get mad and storm off after the sixth song. AP: What does the album title mean? Caleb Followill: We are kind of opening ourselves up to who we are truly are. And the walls coming down means something
to us too. But I feel like throughout our career, we have written songs that have a lot of heart. And to me those are like love songs. On this album, more so than any other, there is some real stuff being said.
AP: What was it like working with Markus this time?
Jared Followill: Obviously we had seen that he had done a lot of really great things, things that we liked. We had confidence in that aspect of his work, that he was going to make the songs sound exactly how he wanted them to. But just talking to him, we knew that he was a hard, hard worker and had a lot of work
ethic and it brings it out in you.
Nathan Followill: And he got pneumonia the second week and had to go into the hospital. So that kind of got us started off on the wrong foot.
Caleb Followill: He lost a lot of weight. He looked great.
Matthew Followill: Like hollow eyes, so rock n’ roll.
AP: Was he a tough producer?
Caleb Followill: We wanted to be doing something different and not feeling like we were surrounded by people who were hip to what we do. And so I feel like, I don’t even think he’s heard our music before this album because he didn’t seem like he had. So that was a good thing, I felt like we had someone that was just kind of coming in with fresh ears.
Jared Followill: We did more takes on this album than probably than any other album. Not because of mess-ups or anything like that. Strictly for tempos. Literally, it was so precise and the beats per minute had to be a certain way. Like oh my God, we had it perfect. And then you would do it again, and do it again. And then we would change a verse and rerecord it and shorten the bridge and record. Caleb Followill: Then he would come in and would be like, ‘Write a new verse,’ and I was like, ‘Ah!’