The Kings of Leon don't exactly have fond memories of Come Around Sundown, the album that followed their massive Only By the Night but is probably best remembered for Caleb Followill's infamous onstage freakout that came after its release.
Following that incident, the Kings canceled the remainder of the Sundown tour, and bassist Jared Followill hinted at a growing strife within the band, venting on Twitter that "there are internal sicknesses & problems that have needed to be addressed." They'd eventually return to the road, and said problems were never mentioned again. But now, after taking a break from the band, drummer Nathan Followill will admit that it was probably the darkest period in the Kings' career; one they aim to rectify on their upcoming Mechanical Bull album.
"We were able to take a year off, and step away from it for a second, and actually all got to miss what we did for a living," he told MTV News. "It was great being off for a little while, because we all had babies during that time, it was great to connect with the family in that way, but, after a while, we were ready. We bought an old paint factory in Nashville, and converted it into a studio, and we were able to go in there and make a record at our own pace.
"There was no pressure this time around; we weren't coming off the heels of a multi-Grammy winning, multi-million selling record, it was 'OK, we can make the kind of record we want to make, one that will be fun for us to play,'" he continued. "We all started having fun again, and when it stops being fun, that's when either the music suffers, or the live show suffers. It was fun just to get back in there and everybody have a creative say-so, and just start from scratch. And the result is this new record."
Followill makes no bones about the fact that Mechanical Bull is meant to be fun — the kind of record built to be blasted at top volume, custom-made for the massive stages the Kings have become accustomed to lording over. You can hear it in the first two songs they've premiered off the album, "It Don't Matter" and new single "Supersoaker," a pair of live-wire tracks that harken back to earlier efforts like Youth and Young Manhood or Because of the Times, and show that, despite their increased fame (and familial obligations), KOL are still plenty capable of cutting loose.
Which, as it turns out, was precisely the point.
"I think a lot of people were expecting a minivan record, you know, our wives are all soccer moms, and we're just out with the kids," Followill laughed. "But that's the great thing about people's opinions and imaginations: Half of them are going to expect it'll one way, and the other half are going to think something else. And that's when it really does feel good, when you go to bed at night knowing you made the record you wanted to make, and when people do love it, they're actually enjoying the art you created, and not enjoying a record you made because you thought that's what they wanted to hear."