Defending Kings Of Leon: Blood Is Thicker Than Tequila
Since there's been so much talk about Kings of Leon after Caleb Followill's abrupt "heat-induced" exit last Friday in Dallas, Tuesday afternoon Rocks Off's in-house brain trust emailed back and forth about the possible long-term effects of last weekend's events on the band.
Kings of Leon, Bonnaroo 2007
Mark C. Austin
Craig Hlavaty: The Kings of Leon Dallas meltdown last Friday made me reflect on my experiences with the band for almost the past decade. As a fan of KOL since 2003 and that first coke-snorting, .38 Special-sounding beast of an LP, I can ignore the new fan base and tune them out.
I get that they have had a new douchey audience since Only By the Night came out, but I was there first, so they don't matter. We've all watched them grow up, and you aren't the same artist at 20 that you are at 29. Shit changes, and you let new musical influences into your stew. God knows we all aren't the same as we were a decade ago.
But the KOL storyline is almost movie-perfect. Solid rock band comes from the "sticks," looks good and makes the girlies squirm, they struggle, break out in the UK, do OK out here in the U.S., make some very interesting, growth-oriented albums, and then they finally hit on something that goes wide, namely by turning into a baby U2 with modern-rock leanings.
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And so the cash grab begins. Nickelback starts covering your shit live, pretty blonde girls and the boys that chase them start blaring your stuff in the party buses, and these poor bastards put themselves on tour for the past four years straight. Maybe break to sleep, eat, drink and record an album, which is actually one of my favorites of theirs.
The sick reality is that this how a rock band makes money in 2011. Not by selling albums, but by touring relentlessly and selling $40 shirts. You and I both talked about KOL needing to ease off. I talked with friends who had been fans like me (forever) about how tired they looked, even in 2009, two years before what happened on Friday night in Dallas. We all saw this coming...
Chris Gray: I don't think anyone needs to be running up any Amy Winehouse-type red flags for Caleb just yet. The tone of the other Kings' tweets after the Dallas walkoff told me they were not so much concerned about his immediate health and well-being than just mildly to moderately annoyed, like, "Oh shit, here we go again."
It's true, I do remember both of us being very surprised to see they were coming back to The Woodlands again. Even disregarding the Final Four "Big Dance" show, which was a one-of-a-kind special event, it's still been less than a year than they were here with the Black Keys. I hope this helps them realize that they're not indestructible, and that even the most hardcore road dogs need to know when to pack it in and go home for a while.
Maybe that's what the others were alluding to when they talked about the "sicknesses" within the group - the Kings who had wives and girlfriends were ready to get back to them, and the single Kings wanted to stay out on the road for obvious reasons. Maybe they'll grow up a little after this, and even become a better band because of it.
Craig Hlavaty: Yeah, I assume that Caleb can take care of what he has going on. It doesn't look like anyone is smoking crack or tying off before the encores. I think what I want to see is an extended break, you know? Pull yourselves off the road, release a greatest-hits disc, build a house, make some kids. Caleb can chill out, finally make his solo country crossover record, and the rest of the guys can also start exploring music outside of the band, because I have always wanted to see that.
Some weird-ass Bill Wyman, Ron Wood stuff. Come back in five years, and more than likely the pesky new fans who could give a shit about anything before Only By the Night will have moved on, or at least gotten wiser. The core fan base will always be there, because we've grown with the band.
Emo's Austin (outside), 2006
Mark C. Austin
Chris Gray: I think that's why the band stayed out as long as they did - that they or (more likely) someone with their label/management company wanted to forestall that from happening as long as possible. These folks, who have been in the business a lot longer than the band themselves, are all too familiar with how fickle pop fans can be, especially these days.
It's especially interesting that they didn't cancel the international dates when they axed the U.S. tour. Seems to me the Kings may need a little more than six weeks of down time, like at least six months. And that core fan base is still a lot bigger overseas than it is here, so presumably it needs less feeding and watering than the domestic market. Even here, the demand was obviously still there - five Houston shows in four years, cough - but the supply finally ran out.
The Kings have definitely lost some momentum from this, but it's hard to say how much. "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody" are pretty much permanently embedded in stations like Mix 96.5 and even - gasp - Sunny 99.1's playlists. Say they do go away for two or three years before putting out another record and going back on the road. Where do they play when they come back? The Woodlands? Reliant Arena? Surely they wouldn't fall all the way back down to the Verizon level again?
I think you're right about something else, too - it's entirely possible we see a club/theater show from one or more of the Followills' future side projects before we see the whole band again.
Craig Hlavaty: I mean, I don't know if he will pull a full Darius Rucker and start opening for Carrie Underwood and playing RodeoHouston, but I know a few million women who would be into it. It's funny, after being a fan so long now, that I feel I have some sort of vested interest in the band, like I need to defend them. But then again, very few of my favorite bands have gotten so big that droves of hipper-than-thou folks totally hate them.
And another side to this is that we are looking at a family having an internal crisis. These aren't just four dudes who met in high school or at a club and decided to be a band. When dealing with family, the emotions are much stronger, yet more malleable. You can forgive a brother, actual blood, than you could some dude you are now in a monetary venture with.
I'm reading the Steven Tyler book right now and he is talking about his own LSD (Lead Singer Disease) and how it gets hold of you. It's not a myth. You already see in the trailer for the KOL documentary, Talehina Sky, that there is strife in their midst, maybe even a spiritual battle.
Chris Gray: It took me several listens to Only By the Night, probably a dozen, before I finally warmed up to it. I still haven't spent much time with Come Around Sundown, but when I saw them at The Woodlands last year, several new songs clicked instantly because they were rootsier and "more Southern." Except "Radioactive," which I thought was kind of plastic, and still do. (Ironically, I did see Kings of Leon Saturday - NBC reran the episode of Saturday Night Live where they were on with Emma Stone.)
Blood is thicker than tequila. The Kings may slow down the output after this, and they definitely will eventually, once they start having families, but I think it would take something pretty severe to get them to shut it down for good.
I don't think the Davies brothers ever really got along, and it took more than 30 years for the Kinks to finally say no mas. And look at the Ramones - they weren't even related (technically), but they kept going for a good 15 years after Johnny married the girl Joey was in love with, even if those two basically never spoke to each other again.
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