Kings of Leon is an American rock band that originated in Talihina, Oklahoma but formed in Nashville, Tennessee in 1999. The band is composed of brothers Anthony Caleb Followill (b. January 14, 1982, lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Ivan Nathan Followill (b. June 26, 1979, drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Michael Jared Followill (b. November 20, 1986, bass guitar, backing vocals), with their cousin Cameron Matthew Followill (b. September 10, 1984, lead guitar, backing vocals). The group is named for their grandfather Leon from Talihina, Oklahoma.
The band’s early music was an upbeat blend of Southern rock and blues influences, but it has gradually expanded over the years to include a variety of genres and a more alternative, arena rock sound. Kings of Leon achieved initial success in theUnited Kingdom with a total of nine Top 40 singles, two BRIT Awards in 2008, and all three of the band’s albums at the time peaking in the top five of the UK Albums Chart. Their third album, Because of the Times, also reached the No. 1 spot. After the release of Only by the Night in September 2008 the band achieved chart success in the United States. The singles “Sex on Fire“, “Use Somebody“, and “Notion” all peaked at No. 1 on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. The album itself was their first ever Platinum-selling album in the United States, and was also the best-selling album of 2008 in Australia, being certified Platinum nine times. The band’s fifth album, Come Around Sundown, was released on October 18, 2010.
Early years: 1999–2002
The three Followill brothers grew up in Oklahoma with their father, Ivan Leon Followill, a United Pentecostal Church preacher, and their mother, Betty-Ann. Caleb and Jared were both born in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee and attended Mount Juliet High School, while Nathan and Matthew were born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to Rolling Stone magazine, “While Ivan preached at churches and tent revivals throughout Oklahoma and the Deep South, the boys attended services and were occasionally enlisted to bang on some drums”. They were either home-schooled by their mother, or enrolled in small parochial schools at this time. Except for a five-year period when they settled in Jackson, Tennessee, the Followills’ childhoods were spent driving through the southern United States in a purple 1988 Oldsmobile, camping for a week or two wherever Ivan was scheduled to preach.
When the boys’ father resigned from the Church and their parents divorced in 1997, Nathan and Caleb relocated to Nashville and embraced the rock music and lifestyle they had previously been denied, attempting to break into the music industry in the process. While there, they met songwriter Angelo Petraglia who helped the siblings hone their songwriting skills and introduced them to the musical influences of Thin Lizzy, The Rolling Stones and The Clash in particular. Their youngest brother, Jared, who had briefly attended public school, was more influenced by the music of the Pixies and The Velvet Underground. When he and their cousin Matthew also moved to Nashville in 1999, Kings of Leon was formed.
Signing in and first EP: 2002-2003
By 2002, Nathan and Caleb had received interest from a number of music labels and eventually signed with RCA Records, who at first insisted on putting a band together for the two of them. In an interview with Billboard, however, Nathan outlined how they told RCA, “We don’t want to be Evan and Jaron. We’re going to buy our little brother a bass, he’s a freshman in high school. Caleb will teach himself the guitar, Matthew played guitar when he was 10 and I’ll play the drums. They said, ‘All right, we’ll come down in one month and see you guys.'” Later in the interview Caleb admitted to the brothers “kidnapping” their cousin Matthew from his hometown in Mississippi in order for him to join the band. They told his mother that he was only going to be staying for a week but never allowed him to return home. “We locked ourselves in the basement with an ounce of marijuana and literally spent a month down there. My mom would bring us food down”, added Nathan. “And at the end of that month the label people came and we had “Molly Chambers”, “California Waiting”, “Wicker Chair”, and “Holy Roller Novocaine”.
The band’s first record, titled the Holy Roller Novocaine EP, was released on February 18, 2003. At this stage, Jared was only 16 years old and had not learned to play the bass. The release of Holy Roller Novocaine gave the Kings of Leon a significant amount of exposure, receiving a 4/5 star rating from Rolling Stone magazine. All of the songs released on the EP were co-written by Angelo Petraglia, who also produced the record, and 4 of the 5 songs would later be released on Youth and Young Manhood. The versions of “Wasted Time” and “California Waiting” on the EP differ from their album versions, however, with the 1st having a more tense riff and different vocal style than the same track off Youth and Young Manhood, the 2nd being recorded in a rush to finish the EP. The EP also contains the song “Wicker Chair”, while a track called “Andrea” was discarded before its release.
First albums and critical recognition: 2003-2006
The Followills’ debut album, Youth and Young Manhood, was released in the UK in July 2003 and in the United States later that August. The album was recorded between Sound City Studios in Los Angeles and Shangri-La Studios in Malibu, California. It was produced by Angelo Petraglia and Ethan Johns. According to Rolling Stone magazine, the band’s retro-chic look and blend of Southern boogie and gritty garage rock inspired comparisons to both Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Strokes. The album became a sensation in the UK and Ireland, where NME declared it “one of the best debut albums of the last 10 years” and The Guardian described the band as “the kind of authentic, hairy rebels The Rolling Stoneslonged to be”. The album still failed to make any significant impact domestically, where reviews were generally lukewarm and the modern rock audience generally disinterested. In the United States Youth and Young Manhood sold only 100,000 copies, compared with the 750,000 copies it moved abroad.
The band’s second album, Aha Shake Heartbreak, was released in the UK in October 2004 and in the United States in February 2005. Building on the southern-infused garage rockof their first album, the album broadened the band’s domestic and international audience. The album was again produced by Angelo Petraglia and Ethan Johns. “The Bucket“, “Four Kicks“, and “King of the Rodeo” were all released as singles, with “The Bucket” rising into the Top 20 in Britain. “Taper Jean Girl” was also used in the 2007 movie Disturbia and the movie Cloverfield in 2008. The band garnered accolades from several of their rock peers, including Elvis Costello, and also toured with Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam during 2005 and 2006.
Major commercial success: 2006–2009
The band’s third album was titled Because of the Times and was released on April 2, 2007, in the UK, and a day later in the United States, preceded by the single “On Call“, which became a hit in the UK and Ireland. It debuted at number one in the UK and Ireland and entered the European charts at No. 25, selling approximately 70,000 copies in its first week of release. Although it was lauded by some critics  others found the album inferior to their previous efforts.
In 2008, Kings of Leon released its fourth studio album, Only by the Night, on September 19, which subsequently entered the UK Albums Chart at No. 1 and remained there for one more week. The third and fourth singles were “Revelry” and “Notion“. Only by the Night also had two single-week stints as the UK No. 1 album in 2009, one directly after the BRIT Awards. In the United States, the album reached No. 4 on the Billboard Charts. Reception to the album was the most polarized yet, with the British press granting the album glowing reviews, while in the United States, reactions to the album were more mixed. The album was officially named as the UK’s third-biggest-selling album of 2008 and the biggest-selling album of 2008 in Australia. “Sex on Fire” was the first single released for download in the UK on September 8. The song became the band’s most successful as it peaked at No. 1 in the UK and in Ireland. They won Best International Band and Best International Album at the Brit Awards in 2009, where they also performed “Use Somebody” live. Kings of Leon also performed on March 14, 2009, at Sound Relief, a benefit concert, for the Victorian Bushfire Crisis. The song “Crawl” from this album was released as a free download on the band’s website on July 28. The third and fourth singles were “Revelry”, which peaked at No. 19 in New Zealand, and “Notion”, which peaked at No. 24 in Belgian charts. Only By The Night was certified Platinum in the United States by the RIAA for selling one million copies in less than a year after its release. In 2008, Kings of Leon headlined the Glastonbury Music Festival, and in 2009, the band headlined a number of music festivals, including Reading & Leeds, Rock Werchter, Oxegen,T in the Park, Gurtenfestival and Open’er Festival in Poland, Europe, along with Sasquatch, Lollapalooza, and Austin City Limits in the United States.
The band released its first DVD, Live at the O2 London, England, on November 10, 2009. It was later released on Blu-ray Disc on November 24, 2009. The footage was filmed in London’s O2 Arena on June 30, 2009, when the band performed a 22-song set in front of a sold-out crowd of over 18,000 fans. In an interview with Billboard.com, drummer Nathan stated, “England is really the first place we broke (…) We figured what better place to make a live DVD than where the fans have been the craziest for the longest.” The show featured songs from all four of the band’s albums, and Nathan continued by saying, “We just put the cameras in the back of our minds and acted like they weren’t even there.”
On January 31, 2010, Kings of Leon took home the Grammy Award for Record of the Year, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Rock Song for “Use Somebody” at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards.
The band’s fifth album, called Come Around Sundown, was released on October 18, 2010 in the UK, and October 19, 2010 in the U.S. It was recorded in Nashville and New York between February and June 2010 with Angelo Petraglia and Jacquire King once more at the helm. Following the release of Come Around Sundown in Australia, the band released all the tracks from the new album on their website.
In June 2010, the band embarked on a tour visiting over 50 cities in North America and Europe. The tour dates ran from June 5 to September 23. On July 27, 2011, during a concert in Dallas, Texas, singer Caleb Followill appeared to be heavily intoxicated and slurred incomprehensibly between songs, often rambling about nothing. He then left the stage, claiming he was going to vomit, drink a beer and return to play three more songs. He never returned, causing the rest of the band to apologize to the crowd and end the concert abruptly. On August 1, 2011, the band announced through their website that the remainder of their U.S. tour would be canceled with no reschedules due to dates they already have scheduled.
On October 31, 2011, the band announced that after the conclusion of their Australian tour in November that they would be going on hiatus. Nathan stated that the band’s hiatus should not take any longer than 6 months.
On August 22, 2012, Jared and Nick Brown from Mona revealed their song “No Tell” under the name Smoke & Jackal. On August 23, 2012, when asked if it was the end of Kings of Leon with Smoke & Jackal announced, Jared said “Not even close. Working on album 6 very soon.”