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Kings of Leon Just Want Us To Have Fun

Bassist Jared Followill talks about the band’s eighth record and their grandfather, Leon, ‘the funniest man to ever live’
(Credit: Matthew Followill)

“The thought of prison doesn’t sound awful to me,” Jared Followill admits with a laugh, “because I know exactly what I’m doing at exactly what time.” 

He goes on to talk about becoming a “creature of extreme habit” and how having fun today is very different from the raucous rock ‘n roll days of lore, now that he’s comfortably, deeply into fatherhood. “To me, having fun is a few glasses of wine and maybe watching Netflix or something, which I don’t really let myself do too often.”

Can We Please Have Fun, the band’s impressive eighth record, is as much a therapeutic break as it is a plea to enjoy life. “It was personal at first, and then once we kind of got into it, it felt something a little more grand than that,” he explains. “I think [with] social media and things like that, you can find yourself in a really negative, dark place pretty easily. Sometimes you just want to put everything down and stay away from the news and just go have fun.”

Jared and the band performing at the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 16, 2023. (Credit: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

That notion was energized further by the inspiring natural surroundings of Dark Horse Recording studios, where they recorded this album. “It’s a very rural, beautiful little town, but a completely different vibe from Nashville—out in the woods,” describes Followill, who only lives 15 minutes from the studio. “Obviously way different than L.A., New York, and other places we’ve recorded. It felt like we were at summer camp or something…. It was springtime, and the vibrations were crazy high.”

Whatever it was they felt during those five months in the Tennessee woods, it resulted in a harmonious, balanced album—one that’s deeply meditative at times while offering heavier, bourbon-buzzed moments reminiscent of the band’s earlier records.

These moments could be credited to the production work of Kid Harpoon, a fan of “the early stuff.” And new bangers like “Nothing to Do” and “Mustang” recall the electricity of singles like “Molly’s Chambers” and “Red Morning Light” from their debut LP, 2003’s Youth And Young Manhood. Balancing these are softer, atmospheric songs like “Ease Me On” and the warm, welcoming opener “Ballerina Radio.”

Followill says that every Kings of Leon record has been written differently. For a “bulk” of Can We Please Have Fun, singer/guitarist Caleb would message his younger brother when a promising song idea appeared in his head. “He would text me, ‘I got another one, come over to my house and listen to it.’ And so I would drive over and he would play me some stuff in his office, and I would start writing on some stuff,” Jared recalls.

Rounding out the band—which started when the youngest Followill was just 15—is Jared’s oldest brother, Nathan, on drums, and their cousin Matthew on guitar. 

Sunnyvale, California in 2003. From left: Caleb, Matthew, Nathan, and Jared. (Credit: Maurits Sillem/Getty Images)

“I got my first bass in early 2002, and we went in to make our first EP in the summer—about a month after I had first started playing,” he says. “I was in between sophomore and junior year in high school, and we made the EP that summer.”

Their father, Ivan, was a United Pentecostal preacher, and Followill remembers the church services and sermons they would attend before life in the band. “Now, before [the band] seems surreal,” he says with some disbelief. “Like, I can’t believe my childhood, traveling around in the car, my dad preaching, going to church five or six nights a week.”

Before they were kings, the Followills came from very modest means growing up in the Deep South. But their grandfather Leon guided them. He was a powerful and pivotal figure in their lives, after whom they named their band. Leon passed away in 2014, but he witnessed and experienced how successful his grandchildren had become.

“We came from absolutely nothing,” Jared says. “Like, dirt, dirt poor. Nobody went to college, and nobody really graduated from high school—I didn’t graduate high school either. But [my family] were just so happy to see anybody be successful at anything and just give the Followill name any kind of meaning. They were super proud of us, and we were always super proud of them, and they taught us a ton.”

Caleb, Jared, and Nathan greet fans during a game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the UCF Knights at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on October 21, 2023 in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma won 31-29. (Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

He smiles. “He was a super funny, super sweet guy—the funniest man to ever live. Hilarious.”

Though he was the band’s namesake, Followill does not know how Leon felt about the band’s music and huge, global hits like “Use Somebody,” “Molly’s Chambers,” “Waste a Moment,” and “Sex on Fire.” Ultimately, all of that didn’t matter to him.

“They obviously listened to old country and stuff like that. I have no idea if they liked the music. Probably not,” he says with a laugh, shrugging his shoulders. “But they were just so proud to see us doing something and traveling and seeing us on TV—things like that. It meant something to them. Just seeing success and not throwing our lives away like a lot of people in that area of the country kind of can do.”

For Jared, success also includes the happiness and welfare of his wife, their four-year-old daughter, and, at the time of our conversation, a child due to be born any day. He will bring them on the road for their upcoming European tour this summer, as well as a massive 26-city North America tour shortly after. 

A recently posted video of his wife and daughter laughing at him attempting to rid the house of an exceptionally large wasp, with hilarity ensuing, has recently gone viral. 

He laughs and then shakes his head a bit sadly. “That thing has blown up,” he says. “But I’m learning people on Instagram are not very nice—they’re killing me, and I just had to stop reading it. Man…”