Every year, the three brothers and one cousin who compose Kings of Leon make a pilgrimage to Talihina, Oklahoma, for a weeklong family reunion – but not this summer.
"This is the first year we have to miss it," drummer and vocalist Nathan Followill told Rolling Stone a few days after a striking new documentary about the band, Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon, screened as a work-in-progress at the Tribeca Film Festival. "You gotta do what you gotta do."
The reason? A just-announced 29-date summer tour, kicking off July 25 in Orange Beach, Alabama and wrapping up on September 12 in Seattle, Washington. "We're still in the honeymoon phase with Come Around Sundown," Nathan said of the band's last album. "We haven't done a ton of shows in the U.S. for it yet, and we hadn't played it much on the previous tour, because we didn't want the whole record to leak before we released it."
The annual reunion – and what family means to the Followills – is the subject of Talihina Sky, which is also showing this Thursday and Saturday. The film gives a strong sense of what it was like to grow up the sons (and nephew) of a Pentecostal minister, learning to perform religious songs at backwoods revivals where the truly devout often spoke in tongues. "We wanted to keep it as we were, as real as possible," Nathan said of the film, "just to show that we're the same kids who were crawdad-hunting in the creek when we were 10 years old."
The rapture of crowds at rock shows – cheering what was considered "devil music" in the band members' childhoods – isn't all that different from the frenzy of their revival days. "When you see the scenes of people with hands in the air, imagine that in a small, sweaty club with 250 people," singer Caleb Followill said. "That's what it feels like at the old-time revivals. Anyone who got on stage, the people giving testimonials would turn them into songs, just off the top of their heads. 'Today I went to the market…' When I was a little kid, I thought that was awesome. Some woman singing about her day? That was cool."
"It was like the blues," Nathan said.
There's plenty of footage of the pre- and post-stardom Followills. But some of the footage chronicling the making of the band's first album Youth & Young Manhood in Los Angeles is missing from the movie. "We had filmed every bit of the process," Caleb said. "Us in the garage, writing songs, learning E chords and G chords, really good stuff. But we had a rental car, and we left the camcorder in the car, and it was stolen. They stole the most priceless footage. People are going to want to know more about those early days, but we don't have it."
As the documentary demonstrates, the rest of the Followill family has made its peace with rock & roll, and is now among the group's biggest fans. (A moment when the cover of Rolling Stone featuring Kings of Leon is shown on "The Price is Right" prompts a flurry of proud phone calls.)
"Our dad still enjoys the celebrity of being Leon," Nathan said. (Leon is their dad's middle name.)
"If that was it, and no one else saw the movie, I'd still be pretty proud of what we've done," Caleb said. "We got to bring our family to New York [for the premiere]. They got to walk down the red carpet and be stars themselves for a day."
After the band finishes showing the film for acquisition and distribution, the next step is to figure out the live show for this summer.
"Everything has been done," Caleb said. "We've toured with Bob Dylan, who is the most minimal, and U2, which is the biggest of the bigs. Pearl Jam is kind of the happy medium, but they move around a lot more than us. Eddie Vedder has a death wish – he'll swing from the rafters. If someone throws a cake on stage, he'll run and go slide right through it."
"That's where we draw the line," Jared said. "How is it going to make our hair look?"
Kings of Leon with Band of Horses tour dates:
July 25 - Orange Beach, AL - The Wharf
July 27 - Atlanta, GA - Aaron's Lakewood Amphitheater
July 29 - Dallas, TX - Gexa Energy Pavilion
July 30 - Houston, TX - Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 2 - Tampa, FL - 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre
August 3 - West Palm Beach, FL - Cruzan Amphitheater
August 5 - Charlotte, NC - Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
August 6 - Virginia Beach - Farm Bureau Live
August 9 - Washington DC - Jiffy Lube Live
August 10 - Wantagh, NY - Nikon @ Jones Beach
August 12 - Camden, NY - Susquehanna Bank Center
August 13 - Hartford, CT - Comcast Theatre
August 16 - Buffalo, NY - Darien Lake PAC
August 17 - Holmdel, NJ - PNC Bank Arts Center
August 19 - Boston, MA - Comcast Center
August 20 - Saratoga, NY - Saratoga Performing Arts Center
August 23 - Detroit, MI - DTE Energy Center
August 24 - Cincinnati, OH - Riverbend Music Center
August 26 - Chicago, IL - First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
August 27 - Indianapolis, IN - Verizon Wireless Music Center
August 29 - Bonner Springs, KS - Sandstone Amphitheater
August 31 - Denver, CO - Red Rocks Amphitheatre
September 1 - Denver, CO - Red Rocks Amphitheatre
September 3 - Las Vegas, NV - Mandalay Bay
September 4 - San Diego, CA - Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre
September 6 - Phoenix, AZ - Ashley Furniture Home Store Pavilion
September 8 - Irvine, CA - Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
September 10 - Mountain View, CA - Shoreline Amphitheatre
September 12 - Seattle, WA - Key Arena