Published Jan 01, 2006In the post-Strokes, hype-ridden world of rock, any artist is at risk of being perceived as something they are not. Memphis, Tennessee's Kings of Leon (aka the Followill brothers: Nathan, Caleb, Jared and their cousin Matthew) learned the hard way when the British press caught hold of the band early on. Primping them as good old country boys with a keen eye for fashion and some outstanding beards and coifs, magazine articles were never just about their music but how they dressed, were raised by a Pentecostal minister father (uncle to Matthew) and the classic Southern rock bands they were accused of worshipping.
Drummer Nathan Followill hopes with their second album, Aha Shake Heartbreak, people will concentrate on their music. "[Hopefully] the whole Southern rock thing with the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd shit will be put to rest. We were getting pigeonholed in that genre, but now looking back on it, I'm like, Who gives a shit?' We really don't care about it anymore."
Of course, it would be hard to look at the foursome and not take an interest in their image. They definitely have a certain flair for style, and quickly became the band to drink with when the after-show party hit, but those days are in the past. Followill says they've learned their lesson and moved on. "As a band you want to be known for the music, not for your moustache or how much alcohol you can drink or how many girls you can shag on the road. It was fun, obviously, but we didn't want to be known for that. We tried really hard over the past few months to shed that image.
"I mean, we still go out and have a good time, but at the end of the day it's like a job and you gotta be able to perform at the top of your game at all times. We just realised that you don't have to go out and party every night; you don't have to get shit-faced every night; you don't have to roll into an interview with black circles around your eyes because you've only slept two hours in three days. We just want to make the most out of the time that we have."
This newfound maturity has shaped the Kings of Leon into a much more confident and accomplished band. Aha is a remarkable second album that takes a giant creative leap forward from the "Southern Strokes" branding their impressive debut was forced to bear. Followill divulges that, "We definitely wanted this record to have elements of Youth & Young Manhood that made everyone like the band, but also, from the very first song, we wanted people to know that there isn't gonna be another ten boogie songs; there might be things on this record that you might not expect from Kings of Leon."
The Kings have indeed defied expectations. Moving beyond their debut's comfort level, they've thrown an assortment of red herrings into the mix jazzy waltz rhythms, filthy guitar riffs, tender soulful ballads, and of course, a boost in Caleb's fiercely unique vocal yelp to assure they're not the same young band as before. "We just weren't scared to try anything new," he admits. "We knew at the end of the day we're going to have to live with this record, so we definitely wanted to make it challenging enough where, one: we could have a good time making the record; and two: it could show people that we're not just country boys making two-minute songs that are all sweaty and about wild women."