The Kings of Leon are growing up.
In a teleconference with reporters to plug the band’s tour that hits Minneapolis, Minn., on Thursday, the three brothers and one cousin reflected on their wilder, hairier early days and the more sobering responsibilities of new families and filling arenas in 2014. Just don’t think they’ve gotten complacent.
“It’s easy to feel like what you’re doing is a routine,” said vocalist Caleb Followill. “But I think there’s something inside us that drives us … we come from a very competitive family. For me, every time I see a young band and I hear a song that I think is really good, there’s a part of me that gets a little angry. It’s like, ‘S—, man. We should have written that song.
Caleb, Nathan (drums), Jared (bass) and Matthew (guitar) Followill signed their first record deal a dozen years ago and quickly earned a cult following in the U.S. thanks to the foursome’s freewheeling songs that drew from Strokes-style cool and Southern-rock stomp. The British mainstream embraced them on a wider scale, turning them into major stars abroad. The States caught up in 2008 when Kings of Leon scored a pair of massive hits with “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody.”
Two albums later, the band has yet to match the success of those singles, so attendance for their current U.S. arena tour will show if there’s enough interest to keep them operating at this level. Here’s what the guys had to say about making it in the music business and making babies in the real world.
ON WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE TOUR
Matthew: “We’re going with a bigger show. I don’t want to give away too much, but it should be better. I think now we’re trying to pay attention to what’s going on around us and we’re trying to pay attention to what people want to hear in the set list.”
Nathan: “If people are going to spend their money to come watch you, you might as well have them leave thinking that it was quite the experience. I think this is the first tour where we’re like, OK, this is the beginning of trying to do something special and something different.”
ON HOW THEIR LATEST ALBUM, “MECHANICAL BULL,” COMPARES WITH THE REST
Jared: “We were super, super young (when we made our debut). That could have been our first and last album, and I don’t think it would have surprised any one of us. We had no real direction. We were just doing what we thought was cool at that time and kind of imitating the bands that we thought were cool. Now, we’ve grown up a little bit and we have a little bit more of an identity. Going into an album now, we know what we want to do and it’s not really like we’re free-throwing.”
ON LOSING EARLY FANS AS THE BAND BECAME MORE POPULAR
Nathan: “We’ve experienced the full gamut as far as fans go, from our early days where you couldn’t understand a word that Caleb was singing and it looked like we had walked off the set of ‘Almost Famous’ to (the worldwide success of) ‘Sex on Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody.’ Once you get into the game of trying to make the music that you think people want you to make, that’s kind of thin ice. For the longest time, I don’t think any of us listened to our first few records. I don’t know if it was because we were embarrassed at how horrible of musicians we were or the way we sounded or what. I feel a little guilty for giving up on those records because looking back on them now, we were making fun music that I actually enjoyed playing every night.”
ON RETURNING TO THE ROAD NOW THAT 3 OF THE 4 BAND MEMBERS ARE FATHERS
Nathan: “It changes your perspective on what you do after the show. Because your daughter’s waking up at 7 a.m. whether Daddy went to bed at 10 p.m. or 4 a.m. I actually enjoy the thought of my wife and daughter being able to come out on the road. I’m pretty sure the back of the bus will be turned into a nursery instead of a nice luxurious king-sized bed for Daddy. But hey, it’s worth the sacrifice.”
ON WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Caleb: “There are so many things that we’ve done and we’ve done them a million times. And after a while you start to look for something else. For me at this point, I’m excited to go out and step up our game, to go out there and try to compete with all forms of music as far as our show goes. It’s not just about being in a rock ‘n’ roll band … and it’s not all about the party for me anymore. Or at least not this week. But we’ll see what it’s like next week.”