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After overcoming band tensions and releasing 2013’s Mechanical Bull, Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill, 34, reveals how the Southern rock gods mixed things up for their seventh LP. They uprooted their families to Los Angeles to record, worked with a new producer, experimented with unfamiliar sounds, and committed to the most personal lyrics of their career. The results? Renewed purpose and their boldest record yet.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: For your seventh album, you’ve parted ways with longtime producer Angelo Petralgia and teamed up with Arcade Fire producer Markus Dravs. Was the change good?
Caleb Followill: We didn’t know what it was going to be like to welcome an outsider, but once we got in there we started clicking. We did what you’re supposed to do in the studio: We fought each other and loved each other.
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There have been rifts between band members over the years, and you went on hiatus in 2011. How are you all getting along now?
We’re in the best place we’ve ever been. We’re enjoying what we’re doing, and we have a great relationship outside of making music. A lot of bands don’t make it this long, especially family bands. Right now we’re more excited than we’ve ever been to work.
Any challenges with recording?
Seven albums deep, you run into times where you’re like, “Where do we go?” I’d think, “I can write about this, but should I?” My wife [model Lily Aldridge] and the guys would say, “Don’t let fear get in the way of what the future holds.”
What goals did you have in making this album?
We’re trying to change people’s perception of [us]. We have more depth on this album and more situations where we dipped our toe in before but never committed. Now we’re wanting to dive in. I know this is a pop-driven world and what we do isn’t necessarily at the top of the heap of music that people are listening to, but I feel like once people discover this album, it’s going to change them.
How does that feel?
It’s f—ing scary! You’re saying, “We’re not going to record in our studio. We’re not going to record in our studio. We’re not going to use the same producer. We’re going to fight and worked hard and do s— that we’ve never done.” But right now we’re rehearsing in our small studio space and it feels like, “This is good.”