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The Kings of Leon hadnt even started to think about making a new album when they headed out to play shows in Australia
and South Africa in late 2011. The four Followills singer/ guitarist Caleb, guitarist Matthew, drummer Nathan, bassist
Jared had been on a fairly relentless grind for the preceding eight years, releasing five albums and touring the world
dozens of times since emerging from Nashville in early 2003. They exhausted themselves to the point of needing a concrete
break that summer, and they announced theyd be taking six months off after the Australia tour. The plan was to relax
at home in Nashville hang out with their families, play golf, barbecue, and not even touch their instruments. But these
Kings never can seem to let more than a few months pass without writing new songs: Caleb sat down in his hotel room in South
Africa and penned a pair of tracks that set the tone for their new album, Mechanical Bull, and there wasnt really any
stopping from there.
Those songs a powerful strutter called Temple that consolidates all the best elements of the bands
first three albums into one of their most irresistible, signature-sounding bangers yet, and the soaring ballad Comeback
Story, which injects trademark Followill humor into its otherwise heartbreaking tone catalyzed an album that
sounds like a more refined version of classic Kings. We wanted to write songs that are like a little two and a half
minute punch in the face, Nathan says of the eleven tunes on their sixth studio album, which clocks in at an all-too-brief
42 minutes. We wanted to make a record that as soon as its over, people want to play it again. I call this one
our unofficial greatest hits, because it has a couple songs that will appeal to fans of every Kings of Leon album: If youre
a Youth & Young Manhood fan, youre gonna love Family Tree, because its funky and dirty and nasty.
If youre into A-ha Shake Heartbreak, youre gonna love Supersoaker.
After they returned home from South Africa, Caleb discovered a musical sweet spot pretty quickly. Once I found out
my wife was pregnant, I would cook all day and hang out with her, and then Id put her to bed at night and go to my office,
he says. I have a little amp in there, and Id sit there learning new chords and trying to push myself. I would
know I was onto something good if the door would open and it was Lily going, What is THAT? Record that! She got
me a little recorder and I started to find this zone where you could paint a picture without it having to be about yourself.
Its good to get to let your hair down a bit and lose yourself in a song.
The following year, Nathan and Caleb joined guitarist Matthew in the KoL dads club, welcoming baby daughters in December
and July, respectively. But Caleb had continued amassing song ideas, and by the time the Followills got together last fall,
he listened back to his demos and found close to twenty ideas he felt good about presenting to the band. I think Caleb
was more surprised than any of us at how much we embraced the songs immediately, says Nathan. We went in the studio
and he played like six of them in a row where we were like YES!
There are more layers to this album than there have been before, says Jared, who names songs like the hard-driving
Dont Matter and a sweetly sad track called Wait For Me as personal favorites.
We were all secretly paying attention to what people have been saying about us our fans and what they wanted
to hear, Caleb says. We didnt want songs sounding alike. We wanted songs to be anthemic in a different way
than they had been before. We didnt want songs to be all stretched out and reverby; we wanted it a little raw. We wanted
it to kind of feel like, at times youre playing with the only amp you have and the only guitar you have and you gotta
make it work. The recording process was all about making shit work: The Kings had purchased a building that used to
be a paint factory in a neighborhood Nathan describes as the Hells Kitchen of Nashville. They figured theyd
use it as a rehearsal space for a while, and eventually convert it into their own studio. But after only a couple weeks of
rehearsals they felt ready to start making the new album. The Kings invited their longtime producer Angelo Petraglia to come
hear what they were working on and told him, Were gonna do the album here. He was like, no way
well ever be ready in time, Caleb says. We were like, were doing it HERE.
Since they hadnt actually converted it into a studio yet, they didnt have anything set up properly when they
started Mechanical Bull, which they recorded over the course of eight weeks this winter with producer Petraglia and engineer
James Brown. What it looks like now compared to what it was, I would never have dreamed it, adds Nathan. Its
still only 50 percent done. The fact that we made our album there and it sounds as good as it does sonically is a miracle.
It was like our little clubhouse, says Caleb. The first month working in there, we didnt even have
furniture. It was the wild west an open frontier. There was no right way or wrong way to do it, because it was the
first record wed done in there. But we did it, and honest to god it was so much fun.
I think taking a little break reminded us not just that were blessed to get to do what we do for a living at all,
says Nathan, but it also reminded us of the type of music we can make when were all in the right headspace. Kings
of Leon making a fun record, thats what we are. Thats what made our fans fall in love with us in the first place.