For all the unedited, un-sober moments in the [artist id="1233888"]Kings of Leon[/artist]‘s “Talihina Sky” documentary (and there are a lot of them), none stands out quite like frontman Caleb Followill’s bleary-eyed, whiskey-and-marijuana-soaked confessional, which unspools toward the end of the film and is a jaw-dropper, to say the very least.
When the film premiered back in April, the scene stuck in most folks’ memories because it was so unfiltered — Followill makes no attempt to hide the fact that he’s rifling through inebriants, which is noteworthy since he and his bandmates executive-produced the film and surely had final say over what made the cut and what didn’t. But given the events of the past few weeks, as the Kings canceled their U.S. tour after Followill’s bizarre (and, many seem to think, drunken) onstage behavior at a show in Dallas , the footage takes on a decidedly darker tone … and hints that perhaps the frontman’s problems go much deeper than “exhaustion,” as the band claimed in their cancellation statement.
So, with “Talihina” set to premiere August 21 on Showtime, MTV Radio spoke to its director, Stephen Mitchell, about that notorious scene and whether he now regrets keeping it in the film.
“No, and for the record, I might have been more drunk and stoned than Caleb during that interview,” Mitchell laughed. “That was a night he and I sat down, actually it was during the Only By the Night sessions, and after working in the studio all day, he said, ‘I want you to come over to the house and let’s sit down.’ … I think it was an amazing conversation, and I think there’s a lot of the film that, looking back, [I] have regrets about showing this or doing that. We made our decisions a while ago and we’re sticking to them and living with them.
“But sure, they’re my friends, and I care about them, and a lot of this is hard for me to watch and I’m sure it’s very hard for them to watch too,” he added. “So, I guess the only thing I can say is we put the honesty out there and hopefully people at least respect the boys for not bullsh—ing them.”
Mitchell — who has known the Followills since the early 2000s, when they were first working toward a record contract in Nashville — said that while he hasn’t spoken to the band since they scrapped their tour, he’s not worried about their future. Nor did he find the reaction of Caleb’s brother Jared (who took his brother to task on Twitter following the Dallas show) to be anything out of the ordinary. After all, this is a band of brothers — and a cousin — first and foremost.
“That’s the way they always were. Listen, I wasn’t down there, I haven’t even had a chance to talk to the guys yet … about what the heck happened. But I think some of the draw to these guys is that they are brothers and cousins; there’s a magnetism to that,” he said. “They say anything and everything to each other, and it is how they sort of work things out internally; they’re very vocal. And I had to learn a long time ago that they’re not yelling at each other, they’re just communicating, and it’s loud. And sometimes the stuff they say to each other … you’ve got to have some thick skin to be walking around with those guys.”
Mitchell said that it’s that familial bond that has helped them through tough times in the past … and will undoubtedly help them navigate through their current drama too.
“It’s a fabric of the band, the roots of the band, they’re family, and I think that’s a reason that they’ve been able to find a common ground to stick together and make five albums over, what, eight-plus years?” he said. “That’s really hard to do. There’s not many bands making two albums, let alone five, during that time … and I’m not a band spokesperson, I can’t speak for them, they make the great music, but I believe in them and I think the family side of it will be the same reason we end up seeing more great shows and hearing more great albums from them in the future.”