Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
For Kings of Leon, fame is a relative thing.
The four-piece rock outfit from Tennessee has achieved platinum sales in the United Kingdom, where the group is a bona fide sensation. The band served as the penultimate act at last summer's Glastonbury Festival, and it counts rock royalty like Mick Jagger, Bono and Elton John among its fans.
However, in its hometown of Nashville and elsewhere in the United States, the band continues to toil in semi-obscurity as it waits on its first North American hit.
"Fame is where you are," Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill says. "Obviously we would love to be huge in America, but we've had a blast touring the world, and we've already sold more records than we ever dreamed we would."
The band -— a family affair comprising Followill, his brothers Caleb (vocals/rhythm guitar) and Jared (bass) and cousin Matthew (lead guitar) —- is about to take its second shot at breaking in the United States with the Feb. 22 release of "Aha Shake Heartbreak" (RCA), the critically hailed follow-up to 2003's "Youth and Young Manhood."
Based on early indications, Kings of Leon's stateside profile may be about to change.
The band landed the much-coveted opening slot on the spring leg of U2's tour that kicks off in March. In addition, influential alternative radio stations in Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, San Diego and Portland, Ore., have been early champions of the album's first single, "The Bucket."
With a headlining club tour of its own in February, a 15-page photo spread in Rolling Stone's spring fashion issue and TV dates on "Late Show With David Letterman" and "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" pending, Kings of Leon is likely to establish a stronger connection with American audiences.
The challenge to break the band in the States is formidable. RCA reports it has sold 765,000 million copies of "Youth and Young Manhood" around the world, including more than 408,000 units in the United Kingdom, while "Aha Shake Heartbreak" has sold more than 270,000 units in the U.K. alone since its release in November.
By contrast, "Youth" sold 122,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Setting the stage this time around are rapturous advance reviews for "Aha Shake Heartbreak." The band again worked with producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Ben Kweller) and received co-production from songwriter/producer Angelo.
"We definitely knew going into it that we were much further along as musicians than on 'Youth and Young Manhood,'" Nathan Followill says. "With the first record we were just happy to get through a song without messing up. This record we knew what we wanted."
Excerpted from the Feb. 12, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.
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