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The Kings' new clothes 

Caleb Followill explains his band's updated sound and look

click to enlarge Kings of Leon pride themselves on being top-notch - staring contest competitors.
  • Kings of Leon pride themselves on being top-notch staring contest competitors.

When Kings of Leon entered the studio to record its latest album, Because of the Times, singer-guitarist Caleb Followill made a conscious effort not to let words get in the way of his lyrics.

From its start, this Tennessee outfit, pegged as a garage band with a Southern rock temper, has been known for hooky guitar songs with lyrics that don't always tell a clear story. See, Followill often sounds like he's got a pinch between his cheek and gum. No one, it seems, ever really knows what he's singing about.

But therein lies the bottom-line appeal of Kings of Leon. Followill's desperation and yearning is better told through sounds than it is through mind-blowing, pesky words.

(It's the same with his interviews.)

"That's the one thing with me," Followill says, calling from the back porch of his Lebanon, Tenn., home. "I've always wanted to be able to say what I want to say, but I hate when people have too many syllables and things. So with this record, it's just kind of opened up."

And that means further defining the band's sound, which for the most part remains similar to that of its 2003 debut, Youth & Young Manhood, and its 2005 follow-up, Aha Shake Heartbreak.

A friendship with The Strokes seemingly affected the quartet's first two albums. Because of the Times has morphed to integrate sounds of the acts the band's toured with since breaking into the music scene: Pearl Jam, U2 and Bob Dylan.

This isn't to suggest as critics have that the Kings of Leon are easily influenced or have no originality.

"At first, we were like, "Fuck that, don't pay attention to what people are saying,'" Followill says.

They tried not to, but that became more difficult when critics began getting really personal.

"We didn't realize that we looked funny and stuff like that," Followill says. "We had the mustaches and the bellbottoms that's really how we dressed at the time so it became about everything other than the music."

Now, with a new, more modern wardrobe at the ready, Followill hopes to make his group's music the focus of the buzz.

"We're all so much better," he says of the new, more technical sound. "I actually have two pedals now. That's a big thing for me. I was always against everything that's bells and whistles."

If all it took for Followill to figure out how to better express himself was one measly, extra-effects pedal, you can imagine how he reacted to seeing the massive array of pedals employed by U2's The Edge.

"Oh, man, he has a lot," Followill says, laughing. "It's like a back porch. I don't know how he gets his little legs across all of them."

But with Kings of Leon updating its style and sound, is there a lot of pressure to succeed? Is the new album a make-or-break effort?

"I don't ever think it's a make-or-break [album]," Followill says. "I don't really buy into that shit. We are really trying to make great records. We don't want our generation to be remembered for the shitty music that is out there right now."

Kings of Leon

Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax Ave., Denver

Saturday, May 5, 7 p.m.

Tickets: $22.50, 16-plus; visit ticketmaster.com.

  • Caleb Followill explains his band's updated sound and look

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