Kings of the Road
'Even if you're Amish you know who U2 are.' Kings of Leon talk to U2.Com about touring with you know who.
It was as much a surprise to them as to anyone else.
But when U2 asked The Kings of Leon, three brothers and a cousin from America's Deep South, if they fancied playing support on 'Vertigo//2005', they didn't think twice about it.
And a few weeks into the tour, having adjusted to playing nightly to 20,000 fans waiting for the arrival of U2, bass player and youngest brother Jared Followill, sat down with us to reflect on the experience to date.
U2.Com: Were you surprised when you got the call to play with U2?
Jared: 'Dumbfounded. We didn't know what to do. Their manager said, 'Don't give us an answer immediately, take your time, talk it over. Come back to us when you have thought about whether it is the right move.' So we all looked at each other and said YEAH! and called them back within a few seconds! It was like, 'Dude we don't have to think about this - it's U2!'
U2.Com: Did you know their music before ?
Jared: 'Absolutely. The way we were brought up - our father was a preacher - we didn't get to listen to certain kinds of music and we couldn't watch television. We were in that till I was 13, now I am 18. But even if you are Amish you know who U2 are, that they are an incredible band and you hear their music. But about a year ago we dove into some of their more recent records and it was so awesome that we started listening back to their earlier records and it really blew our minds.'
U2.Com: So, with a few shows out of the way, how does it feel to be opening up for them?
Jared: 'It's amazing and also kind of weird, opening up for a band which has such a following and also such a powerful message. Every night it is like listening to the best greatest hits record - you get to hear it and it is always different. We had a respect that was so high for them - and it's like we now have a new respect that we didn't think was even possible!'
U2.Com: Most people in the audience will not be familiar with your music. You've had quite a bit of success in places like the UK, but in the US you are not so well known yet ?
Jared: 'It's cool, I think the people who listen to U2's music take on the energy that U2 puts out so they have been extremely respectful to us. In the past we've played shows which have been far worse - but U2 fans haven't been hassling us at all, they've been great, really accepted us. I suppose that as U2 let us open for them, they trust the judgement of U2.'
U2.Com: How important can a tour like this be for you ?
Jared: 'Extremely. For us, we didn't know what to expect coming in to it, and I don't know what it will do for our career, but it can only be good. It's not going to skyrocket us to fame but it will get so much attention just the fact that U2 wanted us to open for them. And only us!'
U2.Com: U2 put down their success in the US to persistent touring, year after year, in the early days ?
Jared: 'If even 5% of the people at these shows like us and buy our record, we will have done a great thing with this tour. But, you know, for us it is enough just to be playing with U2. It's a big learning process to be watching them every night: we all have our notepads out, because they just show you how to create a show that is so much bigger than anything we have ever seen before.'
U2.Com: Adam, Larry, Edge and Bono have known each other since they were teenagers at school, they have grown up together in a band. You guys are actually family members growing up in a band.
Jared: 'It's always been like that for us. Our first EP sold out in the UK before we had been a band for about a month. None of us were good on our instruments but as a whole there was something special, something new that you couldn't put your finger on.'
U2.Com: Who are your big influences ?
Jared: 'The Band, Johnny Cash, Joy Division, The Ronettes, Patsy Kline, Talking Heads, Creedence Clearwater Revival... it's a pretty wide spectrum we have!'
U2.Com: And you never heard rock'n'roll or saw TV when you were growing up ?
Jared: 'We were raised in the United Pentecostal Church which is much more strict than Baptist and only a step away from Amish. The women wouldn't cut their hair or wear make-up - they all wore dresses - and you couldn't watch TV or listen to the radio. Once we got out of it we realised how weird it was, but if you are born into something like that you think it is normal - same as our parents thought - and it goes down the line. Rock'n'roll was the devils tune - there would be people from our church like picketing outside a Guns'n'Roses show. Not me though, I was at home asleep. I was only about 5!'
U2.Com: What do they think of you now?
Jared: 'A lot of our family have gotten out of it now and they love us, they are as proud as they can be. But I am sure people we used to go to church with are still in it - it's not the smartest religion to be in. Like if you go to the homes of a lot of those people now they will be watching TV - they change with the times!
'We are only in contact with our family from those days really and they are pleased with how it is working out, they help run our fan club. My mom came to the Anaheim show with U2 and it blew her away. She knew who U2 was but she wasn't a super fan and quite frankly I have never seen her dance so hard. It kinda grossed me out! She is definitely a big fan of U2 now.'
U2.Com: And have you had a chance to hang out with U2 much so far?
Jared: 'We have hung out with them a few times. They pass by and we say 'hello' and shake really hard and bow!
'No, seriously, they are really nice, they are very much about equality, that's the message on stage, but you feel that offstage with them too. With their personal lives they are so down to earth. I feel like I am talking to friends of mine.'