Fit For Kings: Kings Of Leon
Kings of Leon may be from Tennessee, but so far, the band's music has resonated in a bigger way overseas than it has in its own backyard.Kings of Leon may be from Tennessee, but so far, the band's music has resonated in a bigger way overseas than it has in its own backyard.
The group and its team believe that will change with "Only by the Night," due Sept. 23 via RCA.
Kings of Leon's previous three records have sold a combined total of 620,000 in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, topped by "Aha Shake Heartbreak" in 2005 at 232,000. But overseas, the numbers are more robust.
"In the U.K. they're nearly double-platinum [at] nearly 600,000, they're platinum-plus in Australia, and they have other markets that are building, like the U.S.," RCA executive VP/GM Tom Corson says. "We have some catch-up to do. It's healthy, but we feel like this is a gold-plus act, so that's where we have our heads at and we're going for it."
The game plan from the beginning was to break the band overseas first, a strategy taken up for many reasons, not the least of which were the often misguided perceptions of a Nashville-based rock band and staff changes at RCA. "We felt like we had better go start a story somewhere else, so we went directly over to England, hired a publicist and really started working it," says Ken Levitan, the band's manager at Vector.
Frontman Caleb Followill says he's not sure why fans in the United Kingdom and other foreign markets tapped into the Kings so quickly and have stayed with the band. "In a way I think they're proud of themselves for discovering us and they're not going to give that up," he says. "It's almost like they're holding onto us as long as they can. They've made our career. If it weren't for them, I'm sure we would have been dropped by the label years ago and we might be painting houses again. I just want it to work over here without losing our fan base over there. I don't want to lose one side of the pond because the other side likes us."
Now RCA is ramping a fresh round of promo for "Only by the Night," an album of songs that seem more accessible and perhaps more ambitious musically than previous efforts. There's more layered, atmospheric production; innovative song structures; and syncopated rhythms and fewer three-minute, hell-bent-for-leather rockers. Followill's vocals in particular are more decipherable, which the singer says was a conscious effort on his part.
In the past, "I always felt that people would look at me as a guy from Tennessee who dropped out of high school and try to point out everything that I said that wasn't necessarily proper or intelligent," he says. This time, "I was writing these melodies that I felt were so pretty and so deserving to be heard properly [that] I just kind of bit the bullet and said, 'Sing the way that you know how to sing. Just try it for one record and if it doesn't work, you can go back to your shelter.' "
Followill admits it can be a bit strange to play sold-out arenas and headline huge festivals overseas, only to come back and hit smaller stages in the States. "But in a way it's kind of awesome, because we come back to America with the same type of set list and big lights, but it's in smaller venues where the kids really get to experience it up close and personal," he says. "That's changing pretty quickly. I know that people don't want to hear that, but we're actually playing bigger places now in America."