At Home In Nashville
Jameson, Asian Girlfriends and Jacquire King with Nathan Followill
Words by Martin Halo
Nashville, TN — I have an old tattered Rolling Stone clipping back from March of 2005 crudely hanging by my desk. The Kings of Leon were still young boys as they slugged Jack Daniels through their thick facial foliage while sprawled out over velor decor. Their hands were shoved down the dresses of Asian women and made the photo spread. The band performed in New York City the night prior to prepare for the release of their sophomore LP, Aha Shake Heartbreak (RCA Records).
It is nearing almost four years since then and the Kings of Leon have survived the hype, expectation, and the classic vices of rock n roll. As drummer Nathan Followill will explain a lot of things have changed since then, but some things remained the same.
“The beards are gone, the Jack Daniels has been traded in for Jameson, but”, as Followill pauses, “we still have our hands all over Asian women.”
The Kings of Leon are gearing to release their forth full-length, to be entitled Only By the Night, on September 23. The brotherhood has remained intact, but the sound continues to evolve. Youth and Young Manhood alongside Aha Shake stood as a testament of punishing rock n roll. The tapes were loaded — the record button was depressed –and what you heard is what you got.
“When we released our first record [Youth and Young Manhood] we were scared shitless”, says Nathan Followill. “It was just one of those things. We were in Los Angeles ready to record and there was no turning back. They mic’d us up and whatever came out, that was the record. We were four guys from Tennessee who never had a passport.”
“Aha Shake was without a doubt more of a urban vibe rather than a rural country record. We toured between releases and I think it would have been impossible to not be influenced by being in another country every other week. The influences of Tennessee couldn’t have been farther away.”
“A lot of people now want to know why our sound has changed. They want to know if the shift that was our third record, Because of the Times, was intentional. The answer is no. We were just growing musically. This is the first and only band any of us have ever been in”, Nathan offers. “What you are hearing is us getting more comfortable with ourselves and our instruments.”
Only By the Night is very much a sonic statement. The record’s opener ‘Closer’ will seduce the mojo before making you think twice about you are sleeping with by way of ‘Sex on Fire’. With the lucid nature of creative energies fueling the band, there was one element of the old Kings of Leon rawness that was returned for the Only By the Night sessions; engineer/producer Jacquire King.
Originally introduced to the band as a sound engineer for Aha Shake, Jacquire King was specifically chosen to capture what he does best, live performance-based sound.
“He is a really cool guy”, says Followill. “He is laid back and lives in Tennessee which made us like him right off the bat. I still remember those sessions for Aha Shake so clearly. We were in the studio and Jacquire got a Fed Ex package. Now anytime somebody gets a package your natural curious instinct wants to know what it is. We were like, ‘let’s see what it is’. Instead of opening it he put it up on the shelf behind him and left it sitting there all day long. By the end of the day we were all dying with suspense, like ‘fuck it already, open the stupid package’. He knew the whole time what was in there, he was just letting it eat away at us.”
Turns out, Followill finally shares, “it was a Grammy that he won after working on a Buddy Guy recording. Jacquire, in a no fireworks manner, said ‘Oh, a Grammy’ and then put it back in the box and just kept on working.”
“What a fucking asshole”, exclaims Followill as a burst of laughter falls over the conversation. “When Jacquire King touches our records they sound amazing. Still to this very day I think sonically Aha Shake is my favorite sounding record. He is big on getting good drum sounds and I’m a drummer, so naturally…”
Jacquire King is indeed a fine man and after an absence on Because of the Times he returned to the Kings for the Only By the Night sessions back home in Nashville.
“Part of what happened is over the course of their four records was they began with a production aesthetic that was very simple. It was straight performance based, and it was live”, says Jacquire King. “By the third record the band had grown and wanted to experiment more with production. They wanted to take a little bit more time in the studio. They wanted to have an opportunity to layer on some things and do some editing of arrangements after the recording. The role of the studio was changing as well. It became more than just a place to document, it became a place to experiment.”
“Most of Caleb’s vocals on the first three recordings were sung as part of the basic tracks”, continues King. “He is an incredible singer, but one of the things we wanted to explore on this last record was being able to fine tune, and finesse, his vocals over the basic track a little bit more. Everything was going down at once and in hindsight Caleb wished they happened a little different. To correct that on these sessions we didn’t record any vocal more than three times and what it then came down to was what take we wanted to use.”
“The growth you are seeing is the band wanting an opportunity to experiment on this record”, King offers. “They are becoming sonically adventurous and I think their best work is still in them. Based on their track record for the past four albums I feel they are in a position to take a big step after this record. I have seen them grow, and I can tell you the new album is tremendous. They just keep finding new things within themselves. All of that rings true. The Kings of Leon have greater records to make.”
“Every record we make has a stigma”, as the conversation shifts back to Followill. “You have your whole life to write your first record, so it better be amazing. Then you only have six months to write your second record, so it better be amazing. The third record is your make or break album, so it better be amazing. The fourth recording has no pressure associated with it because you have just made it that far.”
“This record was fun man”, says Followill in conclusion. “We were doing it at home in Nashville where we got to sleep in our own beds and were able to rub on our Asian girlfriends every night.”
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