Kings of Leon

Kings of Leon

Kings of Leon is a family band. Brothers Nathan, Jared and Caleb Followill are the sons of a traveling Pentecostal minister, who dragged the family all over the Pentecostal Church circuit for years until he unexpectedly quit his job, left the church and filed for divorce. The boys moved in with their mother and immediately became preoccupied with drugs and rock 'n' roll. Caleb and Nathan, with the help of songwriting tutor Angelo Petraglia, scored a deal with RCA Records. Rather than hiring a professional backing band, they brought in Jared and tapped their cousin Matthew to play the drums. They named themselves Kings of Leon after their father and grandfather. Famed British alt-country squire Ethan Johns produced their Holy Roller Novocaine EP. Youth & Young Manhood, their debut full-length, soon followed; it's rollicking single "Molly's Chambers" had critics calling the band the Southern Strokes.


In 2004, the band returned to the studio with Johns to work on a follow-up. Aha Shake Heartbreak, released in 2005, was leaner and more accessible all around. The album fared well overseas, even if the U.S. was slow on the take. The increased notoriety won Kings of Leon sought-after opening spots on tours for heavyweights like U2 and Pearl Jam, whose anthemic stadium-rock influence could be heard on their next album. 2007's *Because of the Times*, featured tracks like the seven-minute epic "Knocked Up," the plodding "On Call" and the raucous "Charmer." Writing and recording began for the first time without Ethan Johns in 2008; the band chose to go with Angelo Petraglia and Aha Shake Heartbreak engineer Jacquire King instead. By all accounts, the time spent working on the fourth Kings of Leon album was a fog of heavy drinking and intense fighting, but as tumultuous as recording had been, the resultant album bore no trace of it.


Only by the Night was the slickest, most tuneful thing Kings of Leon had ever recorded. Caleb Followill's soulful croon sounded gloriously lived-in on numbers like the moody, foreboding opener "Closer" and the free-wheeling lead single "Sex on Fire." Only by the Night was a smash success all over the world, reaching platinum status in multiple countries, including, finally, the United States. "Sex on Fire" won the band its first Grammy in 2009, and "Use Somebody" snagged three more statues at the following year's ceremonies. Only by the Night sold an astounding eight million copies worldwide, no small feat in an industry gutted by illegal downloading of music. ~Craig Jenkins

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