Kings Of Leon are a far cry from the rabble rousers of their youth.
The Nashville four-piece – brothers Nathan, Caleb and Jared Followill and cousin Matthew – arrived 20 years ago, apparently fully formed. A group of tight-trousered, shaggy-haired rockers, from a family of travelling Pentecostal preachers, like a rebirthed Allman Brothers Band with an added dash of indie.
Their name became synonymous with a certain youthful freedom and a propensity for the occasional tour bus brawl. But, obviously, things have changed in the intervening years.
“We have had a lot of time with our families,” says frontman Caleb of his lockdown experience.
“It has been great. We have young kids and to be able to be around and experience things we wouldn’t necessary have been able to if we were on the road.”
The band are due to head back to the UK soon after their tour was postponed from its original 2020 date due to Covid.
Caleb, perhaps the most droll of the Followill family, is speaking from a cloudy Nashville, where he lives with his model wife Lily Aldridge and their young children – a son and daughter.
“We are all ready to get back out there,” he adds with a sharp laugh.
“At the time you might look at it and go, ‘Oh man, I can’t wait to get home’. You get frustrated with the little things here and there.
“Now I find myself looking at the mundane aspects of life on the road and reminiscing.
“Being laid over a crowded airport sounds pretty heavenly right now.”
In some ways, the story behind When You See Yourself, the band’s eighth and most recent album (and now their sixth UK number one), is familiar.
Recorded over 10 months in Nashville’s Blackbird Studio in 2019 and early 2020, its release was put on ice as the pandemic brought disruption to the global music industry.
Despite being released a year later than hoped, some of the themes have only grown more prescient.
Trumpian politics, wildfires and lockdowns all get referenced, if obliquely, in songs such as Stormy Weather and eco-ballad Claire & Eddie.
“This one more than any other has definitely given me a little bit of an eerie feeling because some of it just fell into place. It sounds so much like it was written for the things that have been happening and none of it was on purpose obviously.”
But this being Kings Of Leon, an enduringly apolitical band, those themes are muted behind impressionistic lyrics.
“If there is something I feel is necessary for me to say I still try to camouflage it enough to where it doesn’t look like I am shaking my finger in someone’s face and saying, ‘This is wrong and this is right’.”
Do the rest of the band feel the same?
“The older we get, things affect us differently,” admits Caleb. “People can get a little more riled up than others about certain situations, but
we all know that is not our job, that is not what we consider to be our job.
“I know a lot of people think that when you have a microphone you should take advantage of that opportunity to speak truths. But like I say, my truths may not be your truths. I have welcomed the fact (this year) that I didn’t have a microphone in my hand and a bunch of people looking at me saying, ‘Come on, tell me what you think about what happened today’.
“Whenever I get back on stage again I want it to be something that is freeing and I want it to be an escape and for people to be able to close their eyes and just enjoy the music, and enjoy the fact we are out there with somewhat like-minded people enjoying something together. I don’t want to be the guy up there spouting off what I believe.”
Elsewhere on When You See Yourself the band reflect on their youth.
Caleb, now 39, spent much of their first five albums writing about angst and sex (the title of their debut was Youth & Young Manhood, and arguably their biggest hit to date remains Sex On Fire).
Now he is reflecting on that time.
Golden Restless Age is a shimmering rework of the angular indie they stormed stadiums and charts with a decade ago.
“At the end of the day, you will look back at it as one of the greatest times in your life,” he offers.
“That teen angst, that not realising that you are probably about as beautiful as you are ever going to be.
“I look back on when I was 16, 17 years old. I thought I looked terrible and now I see pictures and I am like, ‘Damn man, I looked good’.
“I had a lot of stuff going for me, a full head of hair. But no, I think that is something that is important for my kids.
“I have a daughter who is eight and she is growing quick. Teenage years will be here before you know it.
“That is something I want to teach them and not just by song, because they don’t really listen to my music, but just to tell them, just relax and enjoy it.
“Reality is going to hit you soon enough and when the real world problems start you are going to look back and realise that your youth is something you are always going to long for.”
Caleb’s daughter, Dixie Pearl, is a fixture of our conversation.
Clearly a doting father, he finds it both amusing and agonising that her music taste, somewhat inevitably, differs from his.
However, she is “fully aware” her father is a bona fide rock star.
“She chooses not to listen to my music,” he laughs.
“She knows who daddy is. I guess it’s just not that cool.
“But I have overheard her talking to a friend (about me).
“That made me very proud, that she is secretly proud of us.
“But no, she listens to dance music, I guess you would call it.
“It sounds like a bunch of computers fighting.
“But you know, that is what she is into. Maybe she will grow out of it.”
When You See Yourself by Kings Of Leon is out now.
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