Kings of Leon may be from Tennessee, but the rock band’s music has resonated in a bigger way overseas than it has in its own backyard.
The family foursome hopes that will change with its fourth album, “Only by the Night,” due September 23 via RCA.
Kings of Leon’s previous records have sold a combined total of 620,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, topped by second album “Aha Shake Heartbreak” in 2005 at 232,000. But overseas, the numbers are more robust on a per capita basis.
RCA says the band’s albums have sold nearly 600,000 copies in Britain, and more than 70,000 in Australia.
Frontman Caleb Followill says he’s not sure why foreign fans tapped into the Kings so quickly and have stayed with the band.
“In a way I think they’re proud of themselves for discovering us and they’re not going to give that up,” he says.
“It’s almost like they’re holding onto us as long as they can.
They’ve made our career. If it weren’t for them, I’m sure we would have been dropped by the label years ago and we might be painting houses again. I just want it to work over here without losing our fan base over there. I don’t want to lose one side of the pond because the other side likes us.”
“Only by the Night” seems more accessible and perhaps more ambitious musically than previous efforts. There’s more layered, atmospheric production; innovative song structures; and syncopated rhythms and fewer three-minute, hell-bent-for-leather rockers. Followill’s vocals in particular are more decipherable, which the singer says was a conscious effort on his part.
In the past, “I always felt that people would look at me as a guy from Tennessee who dropped out of high school and try to point out everything that I said that wasn’t necessarily proper or intelligent,” he says. This time, “I was writing these melodies that I felt were so pretty and so deserving to be heard properly (that) I just kind of bit the bullet and said, ‘Sing the way that you know how to sing. Just try it for one record and if it doesn’t work, you can go back to your shelter.”‘
An online giveaway of album track “Crawl” prompted nearly 100,000 downloads in a seven-day window, RCA said. And debut single “Sex on Fire” sold nearly 8,000 downloads during its first week on iTunes — a record for the band.
The press machine is also rolling, with a Spin cover coming around street date and TV appearances including “Late Show With David Letterman.”
Fans were able to pre-order the album via iTunes when tickets went on sale for a fall tour that begins on October 11 at the Joint in Las Vegas. They can also upgrade to a deluxe version of “Only by the Night” that includes a bonus track, an exclusive video for “Crawl” and the official video for “Sex on Fire.” All pre-orders will come bundled with CSS’ remix of “The Bucket” from “Aha Shake Heartbreak.”
Followill says it can be a bit strange to play sold-out arenas and headline huge festivals overseas, only to come back and hit smaller stages in the States. “But in a way it’s kind of awesome, because we come back to America with the same type of set list and big lights, but it’s in smaller venues where the kids really get to experience it up close and personal,” he says. “That’s changing pretty quickly. I know that people don’t want to hear that, but we’re actually playing bigger places now in America.”