KINGS OF LEON: GETTING WITH THE TIMES

 
I'll never forget Bono saying, "Man, with the records you guys are making, we'd love to open for you guys one day.

-Caleb

 

Do you see the direction that this new album is taking you as a band - being a little bit more complex and more complicated sonically ā€“ as a natural evolution from the first two albums?


Kings of Leon
Nathan: The first two records are pretty live, pretty gritty, pretty dirty. We obviously don't want to make the same record over and over. We try to challenge ourselves enough to where it's different but not so much so where people won't recognize it. Or say that we're trying to make that huge record that everybody wants [us] to make and it's not the Kings of Leon. That's the last thing we want. We've got quite a few songs on the new record that you can hear and know immediately that's us. But, then there are songs that might take three or four listens and then you get it.

Caleb: When we made our first record, we didn't know what our second record was gonna be. When we made our second record, we didn't know what our third record was gonna be. I still don't know what the fuck our next record's gonna be.

Nathan: Latin polka [laughs].

There are definitely some different tones on this album beyond the layering of sounds. There's a real looming feeling of sadness and longing almost.


Kings of Leon
Caleb: We love the road. So, we go out on tour, get sick of the road and hate the road, so we go back home. Then we make a record about missing the road. The vibe of this record is almost melancholy. We came home from this great tour of England and went straight into the studio. You love being at home but you're also wondering what's going on out there while you're there. There are songs that are kind of melancholy, but a good melancholy. It's kinda like when I listen to My Morning Jacket's At Dawn. That record sounds so lonesome but they were at home making that record. I guess at home people feel more comfortable to cry.

Nathan: [At Dawn] didn't leave our CD player for probably five months. It was just one of those records where every song reminds you of five different things. You experienced every single emotion on pretty much every one of those songs. You felt happy, sad, lonely, loved, whatever. It's so amazing. It's a feel good record but yet there are songs that'll rip your heart out. But, you don't mind that your heart's being ripped out because it feels so good, so natural. It pretty much hit on all cylinders on that record and that was very influential in our headspace for our new album.


Nathan & Caleb
We weren't raised listening to the music that everybody else was raised listening to. So, when we hear something that we've never really heard before, it hits us in a totally different way. Most bands hear a record and can name you five bands that it sounds just like. We don't have that luxury, or maybe that curse. If something moves us, then shit, it's hitting a spot that's never been hit before. We can't compare it to another feeling we've had or another record we've heard or another song or another band. We respond to the way it makes us feel right then. It's very natural.

The band is huge over in the UK and Europe but not as much in the States. Is it hard for you guys to come home and be less famous in your home country than you are overseas?

Nathan: At first, it kinda bothered us a little bit. You go from such a huge high over there and not being able to go anywhere without a security guard to coming here and the only person that recognizes you in the airport is your mom. At first, we thought that was kinda shitty but it's pretty good to get to take a break when you get home. It doesn't bother us that much. We really didn't set out to conquer the world. We're just trying to conquer one city at a time, and I think we've got about 13 cities now. We're on our way.

One of the things you guys have done over the last year is open for U2. How was that experience? How did it affect the band?


Matt
Caleb: Going out with U2 really opened our eyes. Hearing their songs - song after song after song after song ā€“ and seeing them play every night in these huge arenas, it was just amazing that every one of the songs sounds so good. We wanted to make a record where it would come across playing in arenas that big. That was one of our goals for this record, to make a big sounding record that would sound good in a club in front of 200 people or in Madison Square Garden.

Nathan: U2 was a very big part of our headspace going into this [new] album. That tour is where we tapped into some of the layered sounds and effects. They opened our eyes to new guitar sounds and vocal effects. They were definitely very influential, not only musically but they kind of mentored us. Touring with them was great.

Caleb: By the end of the tour, we all had our own U2 nicknames. Matt's nickname is now "The Curve." Nathan had a beard so we called him "Hairy Mullin Junior." Jared was "Jaydam Clayton." And I was "Wino."

How'd you get the gig?

Caleb: We did some TV show or something like that with them in the UK. We finished our set and someone came over and said the band would like to meet you. We walked in the back and there was a line of people on both sides of the room and we're like, "Fuck this shit." But the folks who brought us told us to come on, and they walked us through everyone to this little room. We were sitting there by ourselves looking at the door but didn't realize there was a door behind us, too. The door behind us opened and all four band members and a woman with drinks walks in. They sat there with us for a few minutes and talked about our music. They knew a shit load about our music. To be honest, they knew a lot more about us than we knew about them at that point. We were just floored. I'll never forget Bono saying, "Man, with the records you guys are making, we'd love to open for you guys one day." We all laughed our asses off and then three weeks later we got the call that they wanted us to open for them.

Tell me a little bit about your songwriting process.


Caleb
Caleb: It goes in different ways. Every now and then I'll sit down with a guitar and be like, "I got a song, guys. Here it is." For the most part, it starts with one person at either a soundcheck playing a riff or a drum beat or a bass line. As soon as that happens, we all kind of smile and play along with it and realize it's getting somewhere. After that, we'll chug it out for ten soundchecks in a row. I'll be doing dummy lyrics and making people laugh and shit. Once I realize it's getting close, I'll sit down and write the real lyrics and try to tie it all together. Then we'll go back and try to write a bridge and shit like that. Hell, half the time I don't even tell them the lyrics. I just go in there and record them. They ask me what I said, and I'm like, "You can't hear what I'm saying? Well, that's good 'cause Iā€™m talking about you."

Nathan: You can always tell when it's gonna be a good one because we'll all walk around humming the same melody for two or three days straight.

Caleb: "The Runner" off the new album was like that. It hits really close to home.

Tell me about it. Why does it have that sad and melancholy feel?

Caleb: I had done something really stupid on tour a while back - been drunk and an asshole and pissed off the whole band like I do sometimes. Our equipment was all set up for our soundcheck and it was like an hour until we were supposed to do it. I just went up there with a guitar and I started playing this riff and all the security workers that were in there kind of turned around and looked at me. I started singing, "Our time as we go, we know our time will change. I talked to Jesus, Jesus says I'm okay." As soon as I sang that, I got chill bumps and everyone in the band gave me the look. It was kind of like me forgiving myself 'cause I knew it'd be a couple of days 'til they all talked to me. It was one of the first songs I've written where I actually talk about Jesus, but it's not religious. The song is about being centered. It's about being a son of a bitch and really having issues being the center of attention. That's why I think that song's so special. It's kind of like a song for every man. We have a lot of people that work with us that are Jewish. They don't believe the way we believe in Jesus but they walk around and the only thing they sing is "I talked to Jesus." It's one of those real ballsy lines to say in a rock & roll band.


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