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The New Issue of Rolling Stone: Kings of Leon's God-Fearing, Booze-Swilling Rise

April 15, 2009 9:45 AM ET

Six years ago, the Kings of Leon were four scraggly kids who could barely play their instruments (or stay sober). Sixteen years ago, they were preacher's sons living under a strict religious mandate that prohibited music other than church songs, movies and short pants. Today, they're the hottest band in America, bringing their dirty brand of Southern rock & roll to sold-out arenas around the world while traveling in luxury planes and running up $10,000 bar tabs.

Rolling Stone's Smoking Section columnist Austin Scaggs first saw the Kings play New York's tiny Mercury Lounge in 2003 and knew he'd write their cover story one day. For his feature, he traveled to the Kings' Tennessee homes and Australia, where he got the dirt on all the Followills' brawls and Nathan and Caleb's early days as a country-singing duo while partying with famous faces who were all drawn to the Kings (Chris Martin, Pete Townshend). Grab the full story in the new issue, on newsstands now, and get a playlist of the band's 10 best tracks here.

Plus, check out our two Kings photo galleries (snaps from the family album and portraits taken in their Tennessee homes), and click above for exclusive footage from our cover shoot in beautiful rural upstate New York, where photographer Max Vadukul shot the Followills on a seemingly endless stretch of farmland. Frontman Caleb reflected on the day and his first-ever RS cover: "It's one of those things I'm pretty sure will sink in down the road, like, holy shit."

Kings in Their Castles: At Home With Kings of Leon
Kings of Leon's Family Album
All the Kings' Gems: 10 Essential Kings of Leon Tracks

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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