For Rolling Stone‘s new cover story charting Kings of Leon’s God-fearing, booze-swilling rise to rock stardom, Austin Scaggs followed the Followills from Tennessee to Australia, swilling wine and partying with huge stars like Chris Martin along the way. RS also visited the Kings in their Nashville homes for an intimate tour of their private lives — watch the video, above — and managed to squeeze a few more facts and hilarious stories out of the foursome. Here’s 13 of the most enlightening:
1. All of the Kings go by their middle names. So what are their real first names? Singer Anthony “Caleb” Followill, drummer Ivan “Nathan” Followill, guitarist Cameron “Matthew” Followill and bassist Michael “Jared” Followill.
2. In their teens, the Followill boys threw parties at their dad, Ivan’s house. When Ivan deemed that the party was over, he put jalapeños in the microwave. The fumes burned peoples’ eyes until they vacated the premises.
3. In their earliest years evangelizing through the South with their preacher father, the family traveled in a Chrysler. “It would backfire,” says Nathan, “and we were so embarrassed that when we’d pull into a church, we’d have to kill the engine and coast into the parking lot.” Ivan could also backfire the car on command, say, when they were driving by a construction site. “The guys would literally drop to the ground,” says Nathan. “I don’t know how my dad did it. He was a man of God. He was gifted.”
4. When he was three years old, Jared would jump up on the arm of the sofa, unclasp the lock on the front door, and climb up onto the neighbors’ roof. Jared was also known around the neighborhood for riding his scooter, naked. “I’d wear a T-shirt, so I wasn’t completely naked,” Jared says. “I’d be casual, but naked from the waist down.”
5. When the Kings played Saturday Night Live last September, Caleb walked the backstage halls and took a moment to pause in front of a portrait of Chris Farley. Growing up, he was obsessed with the comic. “I knew I was going to be on Saturday Night Live,” he says. “I didn’t know that I’d be singing.” Nathan remembers the phone call he received on December 18th, 1997. “Caleb was crying his eyes out and he kept saying, ‘He’s dead! He’s dead!’ I was like, ‘What? Dad’s dead?’ “
6. Caleb was 14 the first time he smoked weed, in Henderson, Tennessee. “I was with [cousin] Peanut, and we were in a graveyard,” says Caleb. “I was like, ‘I don’t feel it,’ but when we got home I was eating a bunch of chicken tenders. Peanut said, ‘What the fuck, man, you’re gonna kill your buzz.’ That’s when I realized, ‘Maybe I am feeling this?’ ”
7. The first great Kings song, according to Caleb, was “Wicker Chair,” which appeared on their EP Holy Roller Novocaine. “Trey Boyer would play guitar while me and Nate sang,” says Caleb, remembering their first gigs in Nashville. “One day he taught me a C chord, and that night I was playing it, and Jared came downstairs and sat in our white wicker chair. When Nathan wasn’t looking, I’d get stoned with Jared and we’d have a good time. So I remember writing the opening lyrics about Jared. ‘In your little white wicker chair, unsuspicious…’ And then I wrote the rest of the song about my dad.” (Caleb also said he wrote “Head To Toe” about Matthew, “Razz” about Jared, and “Go Fuck Yourself” about Nathan.)
8. On September 11th, 2001, Nathan and Caleb were in San Diego for a songwriters conference. They were staying with a friend of a friend, and early that morning, before heading to the conference, the boys smoked weed on the deck. They failed to properly extinguish the joint, leaving it accidentally smoldering. Later that day they got a call that they’d burnt the whole deck down.
9. When they were young, Matthew, Jared and their moms took a trip to New York City. “We got into so much trouble,” says Matthew. “I was peeing in elevators, lighting towels and throwing them into the pool. We were stealing cigars, smoking ’em.” During that road trip, Matthew also went joyriding. “I stole the car and I drove it the wrong way onto a highway onramp.” Matthew also went to jail briefly (for about an hour) after he shot an old lady with a paintball gun. “When I look back on this stuff, it’s crazy. Was I possessed?”
10. Nathan’s favorite TV shows are Eastbound and Down, and “that new one with Glenn Close” (Damages). Caleb says he loves America’s Funniest Home Videos, and is well versed on all the Food Network shows. When Jared watches Oklahoma football games, he stands in one specific spot, at a 45 degree angle to the left corner of his flatscreen. When the team scores a touchdown, he does a shot of Patron. Matthew and his girlfriend, Johanna, like to watch movies in bed, each with their own set of headphones.
11. The Kings’ first gig ever was at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, opening up for the Skeeters and the outlaw country star Billie Joe Shaver. (Coincidentally, Shaver stars in the film The Apostle. Caleb compares his dad to Robert Duvall’s character in that movie.) “That was one of the scariest moments of my entire life,” says Caleb. “We walked in and saw all the cowboy hats, and I literally said to the guys, ‘You fucking country it up. Tonight, these songs will be alternative country.’ And we fuckin went out there and people were takin’ their cowboy hats off, goin’ ‘Whooo!’ and fucking lovin’ it, even though we were dressed like the New York Dolls. When the curtains closed, it was like a 90210 moment, we all gave each other high fives.”
12. For their third album, Because of the Times, the Kings entertained the idea of a new producer. “We talked about everybody,” says Jared. “We went to dinner with Dave Grohl, and met with Brendan O’Brien.” They ended up sticking with longtime producer Ethan Johns.
13. Nathan’s favorite sexual position is “reverse cowgirl, with a braid.”