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Kings of Leon aiming to stay ahead of the curve

| Thursday, April 16, 2009

Caleb Followill, lead singer of the Kings of Leon, says the band has a simple philosophy of never wanting to repeat itself musically.

That outlook has become especially apparent on the group's third and fourth albums, the 2007 release "Because of the Times" and the band's new CD, "Only by the Night."

"We're the kind of band that we try to change from album to album," Followill says. "We try to do things that we haven't done before. So after three albums, you look back and there were things that you'd done that you just barely kind of dipped your toe into the water as opposed to really just diving in. And that's something we tried to do with this album and something that we tried to do with every album."

Kings of Leon perform Wednesday at the A.J. Palumbo Center, Uptown, with opening act the Walkmen.

Many observers feel the Kings of Leon's sound has grown by leaps and bounds on the two most recent CDs -- shifting beyond the rather straight-ahead Southern rooted rock of the band's acclaimed first CD, "Youth & Young Manhood," to embrace a more spacious, epic and ambitious range of music.

The arc of the musical development of the Kings of Leon makes sense considering the band's history.

The three brothers in the band -- Caleb (vocals and guitar), Nathan (drums) and Jared (bass) Followill -- grew up with a father, Leon, who was a popular Pentecostal preacher. The boys traveled extensively with their father, participating in tent revivals and at church services throughout the southern United States. In their teens, the brothers began discovering rock music, and in 2000, they recruited first cousin Matthew Followill (lead guitar) to form the Kings of Leon. At that point, Nathan, at 21, was the group's oldest member.

Despite their youth, the Followills made rapid progress in developing their sound, and got signed by RCA Records, which released a debut EP, "Holy Roller Novocaine," in early 2003. "Youth & Young Manhood" followed a year later to critical acclaim.

While that album enjoyed decent success in the United States, it was a major hit in the United Kingdom. And as subsequent albums have arrived -- "Aha Shake Heartbreak" in 2004, followed by "Because of the Times" -- the Kings of Leon have remained one of the most popular bands in the U.K. Now, with "Only by the Night," the band's popularity stateside is catching up with the U.K. The CD has given the band two No. 1 modern rock singles, "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody."

The group's members have made no secret of the fact that they are still discovering many styles of music. And because the group got a late start on its rock 'n' roll education, the music the band is finding is helping to fuel the Kings of Leon's expanding range.

"We're very competitive and almost jealous," Caleb Followill says. "If we hear something that's good, it doesn't matter if our album just came out, we immediately want to start writing songs. You kind of want to be on the front end of the curve."

Caleb Followill says the new CD's songs have had a major impact on the group's live show.

"I would say this is the first album that we really can go out there and play every song on the album," he says. "I don't know, man, they really bring the show together, I feel. ... The new songs, not only do they go over well, but they bring some length and some depth to the set that wasn't always there with our little two-minute songs. Some of these new songs, we can go out there, and if we wanted to, if we were a hippie band, we could go out there and stretch these songs to 10 or 15 minutes. We won't do that, but they really lend themselves to have a big production."

Additional Information:

Kings of Leon

With : The Walkmen

When : 7 p.m. Wednesday

Admission : $42.50

Where : A.J. Palumbo Center, Uptown

Details : 800-917-6835 or www.ticketmaster.com

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