The biggest mainstream southern rock band to come about in recent years is Kings of Leon. The group's unique performances of southern rock in an indie style has brought them success worldwide that has been widely imitated. Despite being around for years, they reached mainstream success with the release of their 2007 album, Because of the Times.
Kings of Leon was formed by brothers Caleb, Nathan, and Jared, along with their cousin Matthew. The three brothers led a nomadic childhood, as their father was a traveling Pentecostal preacher. They would often sleep in a church or the family Oldsmobile and were home-schooled by their mother. After their parents divorced in 1997, the boys were free to indulge in the rock-and-roll that they had been previously denied by their religious upbringing. Only six months later, Nathan and Caleb received a record deal from RCA on the stipulation that they would find more members to form a full band. Younger brother Jared was recruited, despite being only fourteen and not knowing how to play any instruments. The brothers then invited their cousin Matthew for a one-week visit and never let him return home to Mississippi. Nathan took up the drums, Caleb taught himself the guitar, Jared slowly adopted the bass, and Matthew became the guitarist as he was the only member that knew how to play an instrument. Kings of Leon took their name from the brothers' preacher father, who was named Ivan Leon Followill. The band's members then decided to use their middle names as their stage names to keep with the concept.
After a month spent in a basement, working on songs and smoking an ounce of pot, the group had written music for their debut Holy Roller Novocaine EP, which was released in 2003. Despite Jared still not having mastered the bass, the EP was a big success and garnered the group a sizable following. The EP bolstered the popularity of Kings of Leon's debut LP, Youth and Young Manhood, which was released in the UK later that year. While the album made only a little splash in the US, it became a huge success in the UK, reaching #3 in the charts, and in Australia where it went three times platinum. Kings of Leon furthered both their success and their southern rock sound with the release of their 2004 album, Aha Shake Heartbreak. The album once again performed excellently in the UK and Australia, as well as warmed American audiences to the up-and-comers. The album also allowed the Kings of Leon to tour with some of their musical idols, including opening concert dates for Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam.
Kings of Leon's sound became more developed and matured by the release of Because of the Times in 2006. For the album, Kings of Leon polished their rough, garage-rock sound to let their folky, southern sound shine through; a decision that would serve them well from that point on. The album received recognition from a wider audience, but a more mixed reception from critics due to the group's experimentalism. Critics were changing their tunes upon the release of Only by the Night in 2008. The band had fully evolved and the harmonious experiments from the previous album showed on Only by the Night. The album debuted at the top of the UK charts and #4 on the US charts, despite only slight recognition in the states before the album's release. The success was due in part to the popularity of the hit lead single, "Sex on Fire." The album contained other hugely successful singles, including "Use Somebody," "Revelry," and "Notion." Despite the popularity in the US and UK, the album exploded in Australia as it became the continent's best-selling record ever and went platinum nine times. Kings of Leon cleaned up at the Grammy Awards in 2010, as they won for Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Rock Song for "Use Somebody."
The group returned to their earlier, heavier sound on their most recent album, Come Around Sundown. While the album has received mixed reviews, positive accolades have been given to Kings of Leon for once again experimenting and innovating with their style.
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