Sunday, December 09, 2007

Kings of Leon interview


“If I want to write a song and say ‘Jesus’ in it, then I’ll say it, and if I want to open the album with a seven-minute track then I will.” The overtly friendly and witty Caleb Followill is in a particularly candid mood as he talks about his band’s forthcoming album, Because Of The Times. “We wanted to take things to the next level. We’re sick of being considered an indie band that opens for other bands. We feel we have got something to show and something to prove and just wanted to throw it all out there.”

Kings Of Leon’s third long-player is another absolute gem, and represents a change in direction for the three garage-rocking brothers [and one cousin] from Tennessee. Let’s get things straight though, this isn’t a departure on the scale of Bob Dylan going electric, and is still very much a Kings Of Leon record, but it unquestionably demonstrates the band’s development. “We’ve always tried to show where we are,” Caleb tells me. “We didn’t have a lot of time between the first record and the second record, so there wasn’t as much growth as there is with this one, where we got the chance to take a break. We were no longer happy with having a direction. We want to experiment with music.” I ask him if that might be considered risky, considering the overwhelming success of their first two records. “No, it’s exciting to me,” he says. “I never realised we were changing direction. It was never a conscious decision, and it’s not like we’ve got millions and millions of fans to piss off.”Included in the band’s creative wing-spreading is Caleb’s aspiration to open up a little more in terms of storytelling. “My songs are often puzzles. It’s kind of a confidence thing, as I’m scared of people critiquing me too much, but I want to really intrigue people and tell good, old-fashioned stories. People might hate me for writing obvious songs, but I’ve started to on this record.” Indeed, Because Of The Times shows a heightened coherence to his tales and in the way he conveys them. “With this record I’m opening up a little more. It’s the first time I’ve sung,” he admits. “I’ve been able to sing since I was a kid, but I would alter the way I sang so people wouldn’t understand it. I even hear the guys in the band singing our songs and getting the lyrics wrong and it cracks me up.”

Much of the inspiration for the band’s songwriting comes from a lifetime on the road. “We’ve always travelled our whole lives, and it creates a lonely feeling of knowing it’s gonna end, and you’re gonna have to say goodbye and go somewhere else. That was how it was when we were kids and that’s how it is now. It kinda makes you a little bit hardened.”He may be hardened, but there is clearly still room in the songwriter’s heart for a spot of romance, something which is illustrated by the fact that one of the tracks on the new record [the jaunty My Party] stems from his crush on The OC’s Rachel Bilson. “It’s kinda funny. I don’t know her, but I’m hoping word will get out,” he owns up with a chuckle. “I had a birthday bash, and they are always a big deal. Everyone was asking what I wanted to do. I said I didn’t mind, but I requested Rachel Bilson was there. I was deadly serious but no-one believed me. I told them: ‘You can make this happen, I’m Caleb Followill’. Anyway, we had a party and just hung out with friends, but the next night we had another party and as soon as we walked through the door I saw her. I was like, ‘Holy shit’. She looked up and the thing was, she recognised us. She was telling her boyfriend who we were. I didn’t get to speak to her though,” he says, audibly disappointed.

Caleb goes on to regale me with another lament on a missed opportunity to introduce himself to Miss Bilson in an elevator at The David Letterman Show, which prompts me to ask whether it is a surreal lifestyle for the son of a preacher man from a sleepy suburb of Nashville to be mixing with all these hot celebrities. “I’m a sucker for beautiful women. Especially if it’s someone you see on the TV or in magazines. When you see that person in real life, it’s like ‘Wow.’” After briefly pausing, he adds: “Well, sometimes it’s more like ‘Whoa! You look better on the billboards.’”

It’s not just hanging out with hot, famous women that has been floating the Kings’ boat of late, as last year they were afforded the opportunity to support one of their heroes, Bob Dylan, which is an experience that Caleb recalls with glee. “There were three legs of the tour and he said he’d let his people decide who the other two bands were but that he wanted Kings Of Leon. Just to be acknowledged by him was a dream come true.” Launching into a surprisingly passable impression of the great man, he continued: “On the last date he came into our dressing room and said: ‘Man, I’m depressed.’ We asked him why and he said: ‘Well, I just want to call those other two bands and tell them to stay home.’” To hear Bob Dylan bemoan the end of his time touring with them was a wonderful moment for the band. “We were inspired by him for years and years, and there he was giving us his stamp of approval. He asked us: ‘What was that last song you played?’ We told him it was Trani [a track from Youth And Young Manhood about small-town transvestite prostitutes]. ‘Well,’ he said. ‘That’s one hell of a song.’”

The Followills also supported Pearl Jam last year in a tour which brought them to Australia. “We love the beach, the sun and the beautiful girls – there are a lot of them,” Caleb drools. “We’re always on at our manager to get us to play over there. The people are so kind to us, and we’ve just learnt how to surf, so I’m sure we’ll be embarrassing ourselves on your shores sometime soon and running away from sharks.”

And what does the long-term future hold for a band that continues to impress with each new album? “We’ll always make music. This isn’t something we’re doing while it’s fun. I have to write these songs while they’re in me. Maybe one day they’ll run out.” However, this possibility seems to be a long way away, and Caleb Followill admits that, even before this album has hit the shelves, he is already planning the next one. “I’m always thinking. We can’t wait around for two years like the rest of the world wants us to. I’ve already started writing new songs.”


tb said...

Hey I was at Brighton too. You gonna review it?

bobbysix said...

Possibly. We'll see if my schedule permits

sinucidere said...

I was at the Brighton gig too... was wondering if you had any more photos to share, particularly the ones you took of the big screens at both sides of the stage?

bobbysix said...

I've added a couple more picks higher up the page