With the release of their eighth album ‘When You See Yourself’, Kings of Leon reflect on two decades of making music

With the release of their eighth album ‘When You See Yourself’, Kings of Leon reflect on two decades of making music

Words by Tammy Walters

Almost 20 years since their first record, the Followill family are still going strong.

When you think of the Followill family, the Nashville network that makes up Kings of Leon, what do you see? 

Do you see the scraggly swamp blues four-piece behind the gritty ‘Holy Roller Novocaine’ and ‘Wasted Time’ during their Youth and Young Manhood phase? 

Possibly the indie delights that delivered toe tappers ‘Four Kicks’, ‘Razz’, ‘On Call’ and ‘My Party’, from hip shakers Aha Shake Heartbreak and Because of the Times, respectively? 

Or maybe even the anthem animals that broke through with ‘Sex On Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody’, then continued with mega-monsters ‘Radioactive’, ‘Supersoaker’ and ‘Waste A Moment’? 

With their eighth album, When You See Yourself, and a big 20-year anniversary looming, drummer Nathan Followill sees Kings of Leon primarily in their present and future tense. 

“We’re a very ‘live in the moment’ band, especially now having kids and being family men and settling down – it’s definitely all about living in the moment for sure,” Followill says.

“Even after all of this time, we still go record to record. This one is done, and we’ve already started talking about getting together and jamming and maybe even starting on new stuff. When you’ve got time on your hands, it’s like, what else are you going to do?”

That being said, the drummer responsible for the kick in your step since 2004’s ‘Taper Jean Girl’ has been delving into nostalgia territory during lockdown, reflecting on the band’s rich double-decade history.

“Obviously the 20-year anniversary of Youth and Young Manhood is just around the corner, so the other day we were just talking about how crazy it is and how fast time has flown by. It’s kind of in two sections because the first three or four records were done so quickly and then we started to take a little more time between records.”

“It’s crazy – we’ll play certain places, and it’ll be like, ‘Oh, it feels like yesterday we were here’ and they’ll be like, ‘You haven’t played here in eight years’. There are things like that that feel so familiar to you but were so long ago. But all I have to do is look in the mirror: the grey hairs in my beard and on my head remind me it’s definitely coming up 20 years,” he laughs.

It’s also coming up to five years between KOL’s record rodeos. Following 2016’s WALLS, their newest addition to the family, When You See Yourself, is out today – Friday March 5. Singles ‘The Bandit’, ‘100,000 People’ and most recently, ‘Echoing’, have given us a taste of their impeccably polished, consistent country charm. 

Recorded at Nashville’s famed Blackbird Studios, the Followill flock re-recruited Grammy Award-winning producer Markus Dravs – of Arcade Fire, Coldplay and Florence + the Machine fame – for the 11-track collection, following a successful partnership on WALLS. 

WALLS was like tough love. We didn’t have a vibe on [Dravs] and at first he seemed very cold and matter-of-fact, so we were like, ‘I don’t know about this, I don’t know if this is going to work’,” Followell explains. 

“But by the end of it we were like, ‘We are definitely doing the next record with him’. We had a massive growth with him in the first few weeks on WALLS.”

“It’s amazing to see the growth from record to record but we’re all related so we are very competitive, so no one wants to go into a record process lagging behind or not pulling their weight.

“We want our idea to be the main idea for the song and we’ll all fight for that. That’s where a good producer comes in to wrangle you in and be the voice of reason when we can’t make an agreement.”

Competitive nature aside, there is one particularly non-negotiable element that goes into honing the classic KOL sound, the sound that has shaped their career and contributed to their longevity on the rough music industry road.

“We’ve gone into all eight records – maybe the first record we were more nervous – saying, ‘We’re going to make this record for us, we can make the best record we can make right now not the record we’re supposed to make, not the record people expect out of us’,” Followill says.

“We love to make albums, not just two singles and the rest are, ‘Eh, they’re good enough to make the record’. We want you to go on the Pacific Coast Highway and hit play on song number one and not touch it again unless you’re turning it up.

“We’re very fortunate to have made it this far considering the music landscape, how it changes too drastically every few years, but the fact that we’ve been able to stick around and keep our core fanbase – all around the world, lucky for us – is great for us.”


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When You See Yourself is out on Friday March 5. Find out more here.