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Brothers will be brothers, which means they’re going to fight. And young rock stars will be young rock stars, which means they’re going to party.
For Kings of Leon, both of those scenarios played out in 2011 when frontman Caleb Followill walked off stage mid-show at a Dallas amphitheater, and the band abruptly hit the skids mid-tour.
Back on the road 2½ years later, rock’s most famous sons-of-a-preacher-man say that they have mellowed and are getting along great — but that things never were that bad.
“A hundred percent, there was never any doubt we’d keep going as a band,” said Jared Followill, the youngest of the three brothers in the Tennessee-bred quartet. “The simple fact was we just needed a break.”
After six fast-paced years grinding it out in clubs and theaters, the Southern rockers broke out in a big way in 2008 with the more accessible and anthemic album Only by the Night.
But apparently the Kings tried too hard too quickly to keep the momentum rolling into their 2010 follow-up Come Around Sundown, which even the band admits was lackluster.
“We were just exhausted,” recalled Jared, the band’s bassist, who was 15 when KoL started touring heavily (he’s 27 now). “We had been touring for what felt like 10 years straight with very few breaks. And when we weren’t touring, we were busy making a record.
“By , everybody was married except me, and the guys just wanted to start families and live like normal people for a while.”
Well, normal dudes who happen to be married to models. Following in brother Caleb’s footsteps, Jared wed a Victoria’s Secret babe (Martha Patterson) in 2012, during a yearlong lull in the band that also saw the three older Followills become dads. (Drummer/brother Nathan and guitarist/cousin Matthew are married to musicians.)
So was it the spouses and babies that turned the Kings into more responsible, less indulgent rock and rollers? “No, I think it’s more that we just grew up,” Jared said with a laugh.
That doesn’t mean they were lacking in fun when it came time to work on their latest album, Mechanical Bull. The quartet’s sixth full-length disc came out in September to more favorable reviews than its predecessor and has produced two modest hits, Supersoaker and Temple. They recorded it at a new studio they built in Nashville, a change-up that Jared said helped bring back the spark that Come Around Sundown lacked.
“We were way more relaxed about recording,” he said. “If we came in and didn’t feel like we were clicking that day or weren’t into it, we would just have fun and hang out, listen to music. We didn’t have to worry about paying to be on the clock, because we were already in the hole building the studio ourselves.”
Sounds more like friends than bandmates, but family still comes first, he said. “It’s what families do: We fight, we get along, we fight, we get along,” he said. “But we’re getting along pretty well right now, actually.”
Jared said he “loved the honesty" of the 2011 documentary Talihina Sky, a spotlight on their family and sibling relationships (not always positive), “and quite frankly it was a big help to us. Since the very beginning of the band, we spent a lot of time answering questions about where we came from, what it was like growing up with our dad being a preacher, growing up in the church, being in a band with your family. The movie kind of told everything so we didn’t have to answer those questions again.”