Initially embraced as ”the Southern Strokes” for their resurrection and reinvention of Dixie-styled rock & roll, Kings of Leon steadily morphed into an adventurous arena rock outfit during the 2000s, eventually achieving a blockbuster breakthrough with 2008’s Only by the Night, an album that generated the international hits ”Sex on Fire” and ”Use Somebody.” Sleek and anthemic, this pair of hits contrasted with the quartet’s earliest records, such as their 2003 debut Youth & Young Manhood and 2004’s Aha Shake Heartbreak, which were steeped in retro sounds accompanied by shaggy retro looks. As the band of brothers (plus one cousin) matured, their looks and music were streamlined, with the Tennessee-bred group spinning Coldplay moves into an Americana milieu. Only by the Night may have been the pivotal point but the subsequent Come Around Sundown, Mechanical Bull, Walls, and When You See Yourself maintained their global popularity into the 2020s.
Comprised of three Followill brothers — Caleb (guitar), Nathan (drums), and Jared (bass) — as well as first cousin Matthew Followill (guitar), Kings of Leon formed in 1999. The Followill siblings had spent their youth traveling across America’s heartland with their evangelist father, decamping at Pentecostal churches and tent revivals for several days at a time before moving onward. When their father resigned from the church and divorced his wife in 1997, the boys relocated to Nashville and embraced rock music (not to mention the accompanying lifestyle) they’d previously been denied. Cousin Matthew was added to the lineup, and a Southern garage rock sound quickly emerged. RCA took note, signing the band in 2001 and facilitating a partnership with Nashville-based producer Angelo Petraglia, who furthered the band’s rock & roll education and co-wrote the material for 2003’s Holy Roller Novocaine EP.