Kings of Leon: Out of the Church, Into the Fire (Relix Revisited)
Twenty-five miles northeast of Nashville, the four members of Kings of Leon and their cousin live in a house with a soundproof rehearsal space that was purchased with an advance from RCA. Across from their house on Old Hickory Lake lives Johnny Cash. They describe the area as generally quiet, real country with tall grass, definitely laidback. It’s the very picture of domesticity compared to their nomadic childhood, following their father Leon, a traveling Pentecostal Evangelist, from revival to revival throughout the South.
“He was a different church every week, basically,” sys Nathan. Often accompanying their father on these excursions and playing the music at the revivals (which Nathan calls “gospel rock and roll shows”) provided the best possible training for the Followills’ current life on the road as musicians. “We did 18 weeks one time, all five of us in the cab of an ’88 Dodge Ram, three-and-a-half hours one way. We’d get out of school, get in the truck, drive to church, drive back that night, get home at two o’clock in the morning—from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Gravette, Arkansas,” says Nathan.
It was in the church that the Followills first fell in love with gospel music, which soon led to other music. “At first I guess coming out of the gospel influence, I really connected with oldies music. I used to sleep with a radio under my pillow,” says Caleb. But oldies music was a gateway to the blues to Chuck Berry to Tommy James and the Shandells to the Pixies, and to the time-honored southern tradition of walking away from the church, drawn by the secular sounds they found outside its doors.
“It is funny how in every one of our songs, people think that we’re doing something religious,” says Caleb, addressing the fact that religious themes do not exist in their current music. “Our songs are pretty much exactly the opposite. They’re about murder, transvestites and prostitutes,” says Jared.
“‘Holly Roller Novocaine’ was the only song that we’ve had any religious undertone in… and it’s not really religious,” says Caleb. The story of “Holy Roller Novocaine” documents a lascivious and horny Southern preacher and is taken directly from the Followills’ firsthand, behind-the-scenes experiences. “It’s calling someone out,” says Nathan.
“Straight outta 1966,” says Warren Haynes, describing the band. Haynes is leaning against the wall at the back of the Mercury Lounge in lower Manhattan two nights after the show at The Saint. The scene is considerably different; the air is thick with the smell of leather, attitude and reservation as Kings of Leon take the stage in front of over 200 music industry insiders for their first major showcase in the Untied States. Slowly people begin to warm to the band and by the end they have won over a good portion of the attendees, most skeptical of the considerable hype. The show, far from flawless but filled with raw enthusiasm and energy, is approximately the band’s twentieth public performance. “It was refreshing,” says Haynes.
In many people’s eyes, a group of young white relatives from the South who play rock music are either Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Allman Brothers. “It’s obvious that there’s only a few bands from the South that they can pick from and say, ‘alright, you’re this and you’re that,” says Caleb. A man who knows a thing or two about southern music places their music across the ocean. “They sound kind of British,” says Haynes. While the accents are clearly different, Kings of Leon fit the archetype of the young British-garage bands who invaded America in the mid-sixties and figured out how to play their instruments as they went along, not allowing their inexperience to stand in the way of their music.
The following day I meet the King of Leon in the lobby of their hotel. They are happy with the response to their show from the previous night. In between stories of the groupies in London, discussions of Warren Haynes’ presence, daydreams of returning to the church at the end of their career as a house band in Montana when they are bald and fat, there is one question that seems to loom larger than the others. Before I can finish the question I am cut off with a resounding “yes.” Do you ever feel all of this is happening too fast? “We’re all sitting here going ‘what the fuck,’” says Caleb. “We can look at each other and know that we’re not fuckin’ rock stars. We’re a bunch of assholes who are just lucky and getting to play music.”
The Howlin’ Brothers take to the Relix rooftop and share a song they wrote with Warren Haynes.
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
Goodnight, Texas share a song from their latest studio album, A Long Life of Living, live at Relix.
Warren Haynes performs a solo, acoustic version of “Railroad Boy” and explains how he adapted the traditional Celtic song for Gov’t Mule, backstage at the Hangout Music Festival.
Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
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