From Left: Matthew, Nathan, Caleb and Jared Followill
As any normal music fan, we sometimes aren’t satisfied with simply the songs when it comes to our favorite bands. Some of us want to know their back story, some of us want to know who they’re dating, and some of us even want to know their favorite food! While some fans are simply casual and other are downright fanatical, musicians are a different breed of fans, more like brothers in arms actually. Rather than wanting to know things that have little to do with music and more to do with the trivial personal matters in the artist’s life, musicians want the gear info! And why not? It’s a chance to look at the tools in their repertoire, compare it with themselves, or even just gain a deeper sense of what makes the band work. This week, we will be delving deep into one of the most successful and critically acclaimed bands to come out of the garage rock revival of the 2000s. Consisting of three brothers and a cousin, the Kings of Leon have not only achieved massive success and a legion of fans, they have earned themselves a few Grammys to boot! So, for those of you unfamiliar with the roots of this Albion, Oklahoma quartet – or if you simply want to get all the gear details in their setup – read on and get to know the Kings of Leon and the story behind their success.
Caleb Followill – Lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Matthew Followill – Lead Guitar, backing vocals, pianos
Jared Followill – Bass, backing vocals, synthesizers
Nathan Followill- Drums, percussions, backing vocals
The Early Years
Before they were touring the world and selling out stadiums, the Kings of Leon were nothing more than three brothers from Oklahoma born to a Pentecostal preacher father and an equally zealous mother who sheltered them from any sort of rock and roll. Much of this early history involved the boys traveling across the country with their father, Ivan Leon Followill, setting up camp for a week or so whenever he was scheduled to preach. Due to their consistent traveling, they were for the most part homeschooled by their mother or enrolled in small Pentecostal schools, although both Caleb and Jared did attend Mount Juliet High School in Tennessee for a brief moment.
After a long and secret bout with alcoholism, their father quit the Pentecostal church while he and wife Betty-Ann would divorce soon after. Although the boys were admittedly emotionally affected by their parents split, Nathan and Caleb took the opportunity to finally delve deep into the music they were once denied and moved to Nashville where they would attempt to break into the music scene. While in Nashville, Nathan and Caleb began working for Label Pistol Creek Production to sing at rodeos and it is during this period that they met songwriter and producer Angelo Petraglia who not only introduced the boys to several of their eventual influences such as Thin Lizzy, the Rolling Stones and The Clash, but helped them hone their skills as songwriters as well. Then in 1999, younger brother Jared and cousin Matthew Followill also moved to Nashville, thus setting the stage for the band’s formation.
Signing and the First Release
Kings of Leon at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards
Thanks in huge part to their relationship with Angelo Petraglia, the boys were able to meet with RCA in 2002. At first, the label wanted to form a band around Nathan and Caleb but they both refused, instead insisting that that they already had the full band in mind. The label agreed and said they would return in a month to check them out. With Caleb as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Nathan as the drummer and backup singer, Matthew as lead guitarist and Jared on bass, the boys locked themselves in their basement for the entire month leading up to the audition in order to write songs and master their skills. It was during month long period that the boys and Angelo Petraglia co-wrote “California Waiting,” “Molly Chambers,” “Holy Roller Novocain” and “Whicker Chair,” all of which would become successful hits on subsequent releases.
After signing with RCA, the Kings of Leon released the Holy Roller Novocain EP on February 18, 2003. By this time, youngest brother Jared was only 16 and had yet to sufficiently learn the bass although that did little to stop the EP from being a critical success, with publications such as Rolling Stone giving the record 4 out of 5 stars, garnering the band much attention and exposure. Not wanting to waste the significant amount of attention from the music press, the Kings of Leon released their first full length studio album less than a year after their first EP.
Early Albums and Initial Success
Youth and Young Manhood, which was produced by Angelo Petraglia (who also produced their first EP), was released in the UK on July of 2003 and in the United States later than August. Much like their genre counter-parts The Strokes, their debut album was an amazing success overseas while pretty much under the radar in the states. Weekly music magazine NME called it “one of the best debut albums of the last 10 years” while Rolling Stone praised their blend of Southern boogie and garage rock. Youth and Young Manhood managed to sell 750,000 copies overseas while only moving 100,000 units in the US.
About a little over a year after the release of their first album, the Kings of Leon released Aha Shake Heartbreak in October of 2004 in the UK and February of 2005 in the United States. The album expanded on the band’s southern rock inspired sound and did much to strengthen their growing audience abroad as well as at home. The album featured the singles “Four Kicks,” “King of the Rodeo,” “The Bucket,” the latter of which reached the Top 20 in the UK. Another track off that album, “Taper Jean Girl,” went on to be used in the films Disturbia in 2007 and Cloverfield in 2008, further bolstering their audience. The album itself, once again produced by Angelo Petraglia, received not only positive reviews from critics but from their rock and roll peers as well, including Elvis Costello, which led to touring with highly revered artists such as Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam during 2005 and 2006.
Since their first release in 2003, the Kings of Leon have put out five studio albums; Youth and Young Manhood (2003), Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004), Because of the Times (2007), Only by the Night (2008), and Come Around Sundown (2010) . They are no longer an American band that receives more attention abroad then at home but a worldwide success. Their fourth album, Only by the Night, debuted at number one in the UK charts as well as winning them praise here at home in the form of three Grammy Awards during the 2010 show.
The Gear behind the Kings of Leon
Caleb Followill – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Caleb is as well known for his signature baritone voice as he is for his love of the Gibson 325. Pretty much exclusively his main electric guitar, Caleb even had it sent for repair when he smashed it onstage on June of 2009 after a bit of frustration with the sound.
Gibson 325 Electric ‘72
Gibson Hummingbird acoustic
Matchless C-30 2x12 combo amp
Silvertone 1485 100-watt amp
VOX AC-15 and AC-30 amps
With the exception of his Boss TU-2 Tuner, the rest of his effects are on a rack mount controlled by his Voodoo Lab Ground Control unit.
Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb pedal
Boss Space Echo
Fulltone DejaVibe 2
Fulltone Full-Drive II
Voodoo Lab Ground control
Voodoo Lab pedal power
Flatwound strings (.012 gauge)
John Pearse medium picks
Matthew Followill – Lead Guitar
Epiphone Sheraton II
Gibson Heritage Cherry ES-137
Gibson Les Paul Custom
Ampeg Reverberocket R-212R
Boss Super Shifter
Eventide Harmonizer pedal
Visual Sound Route 66 Overdrive Guitar Pedal
Voodoo Lab GCX Switcher and Ground Control
D’Addario guitar strings 11's
Dunlop Tortex .60mm guitar picks
Jared Followill – Bass
Gibson EB-0 ‘68
Gibson Thunderbird Basses
Ampeg 8x10 bass cab
Ampeg SVT Classic amplifier head
Boss TR-2 Tremolo
D’Addario medium bass strings
Nathan Followill – Drums
Drum Workshop Inc kit and hardware
Collector's Birch Drums in Custom Pink & Blue Lacquer Specialty and Chrome Hardware
18x22 Bass Drum
5x14 Aluminum Snare
Pedals and Hardware:
9000 Single Pedal
9500 Hi-Hat Stand
5300 Snare Drum Stand
9799 Double Tom/Cymbal Stand
9700 Cymbal Stand (x3)
14" Signature Reflector Heavy Full Hi-Hat
24" 2002 Crash
8" Signature Splash
24" 2002 Crash
24" 2002 Ride
22" 2002 Crash
22" Signature Reflector Heavy Full Crash