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Jared, Caleb, Matthew and Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon.

DAN WINTERS,

Return of the Kings (of Leon)

  • Article by: Chris Riemenschneider
  • Star Tribune
  • March 2, 2014 - 9:20 AM

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 hearty on the road.

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 out and are getting along great — but that things never were really 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, which returns to Target Center on Thursday. “The simple fact was we just needed a break.”

After six fast-paced years grinding it out in clubs and theaters, the hard-boogie-ing, tight-jeaned Southern rockers broke out in a big way in 2008 with the more accessible and anthemic album “Only by the Night.” Twin Cities fans saw the ascent firsthand when the band graduated to Target Center, and Caleb announced on stage that the single “Use Somebody” had just gone to No. 1 that day.

But apparently the Kings tried too hard too quickly to keep the momentum rolling into their 2010 follow-up album, “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 [2011], 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 ’n’ rollers?

“No, I think it’s more that we just grew up,” Jared responded with a laugh. “We all kind of naturally got burnt out on the partying.”

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 an old Nashville paint warehouse, 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.”

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Here’s more of what Jared Followill had to say in an interview two weeks ago before a Philadelphia gig

On their Minnesota connections: “Playing First Avenue was a big deal to us. I remember watching ‘Purple Rain’ not long before we first played there, which made it an even bigger deal. We have these sweaty, old photos of us playing there that really bring back good memories. We’ve met up with friends when we’re there, too. Our good buddy Nick Swardson [comedian] is from there, and we’re also good friends with Garrett Hedlund [Roseau-bred ‘Tron: Legacy’ actor]. And we’re all big Sooners football guys, too, so we’re very, very big fans of Adrian Peterson.”

On the 2011 documentary “Talihina Sky,” a spotlight on their family and sibling relationships (not always positive): “I loved the honesty of the movie, 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.”

On remaining an arena-level band: “We like playing arenas. We never, ever saw ourselves as an arena band when we started. We didn’t even expect to make it past our second album, and just assumed we’d get dropped by our label. Once we got to playing arenas, though, we really started to feed off it. There are things we’re still trying to figure out and change. Like U2 knows exactly how to do it, and we’re not there yet, but we hope to rise to the challenge.”

On being in a touring band since he was 15: “I’d be crazy to complain about anything. But I do have dreams all the time where I’ll be like, ‘Oh, no, I have to finish high school.’ That’s sort of weird for me. And I did always think I’d go off to college. I bet I would have had fun in college, too, but I’m pretty sure I outdid my college partying years being in the band instead.” [Laughs]

 

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658

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