It's just after 10 p.m. on a Monday night in New York City and the album release party for the Kings of Leon is just starting to kick into high gear at the Dream Hotel.
An open bar, coupled with smiling waiters walking around with mini grilled cheese sandwiches and models dressed in nothing but black body paint fill the Electric Room, along with new music from "Mechanical Bull," the Kings' sixth studio album. The rustic leather couches and antique chandeliers are a natural complement for a band that sprouted from the Deep South and the wood walls only help with the acoustics of the new record.
The only thing missing from the party is the Kings of Leon.
The band, whose lead singer once walked off stage to go vomit and have a beer, in that order, left well before 9 p.m. and headed home to their families. The Followill four -- Caleb, Nathan, Jared and Matthew -- who for years were known as single malt drinking ladies men, have already left to rest up for their "Good Morning America" performance.
"The call time is like 4 a.m. or something like that," Jared said just before the Kings were ushered out of the venue. Is this the same bassist who once said that "everything" was better with a cocktail? Is this the same band? Yes and no.
|"It just seems like we're not so lonely."|
The Kings of Leon were founded by the three Followill brothers -- Caleb, 31, singing lead vocals, Nathan, 34, on drums, Jared, 26, on bass -- and their cousin Matthew, 28, who took lead guitar. All four grew up in Oklahoma and Tennessee, influenced by the patriarch of the family, Pentecostal preacher and the brothers' father, Ivan Followill. It wasn't until all four members made their way to Nashville by 1999 that the Kings were officially born, along with the possible belief that rock music was the way of the devil.
From 2000 to 2010, they were veritable rock stars in every way. By 2008, hits like "Sex on Fire" earned the band its first Grammy win, with three more coming the next year for "Use Somebody." But with success also came excess. The 2011 documentary "Talihina Sky" shows a pre- and post-stardom band, adapting to fame by drinking, smoking and fighting with each other.
The band's last album "Come Around Sundown" was released in 2010 and since then, everything has completely changed. Today, all four are now married; three have kids. Matthew and his wife Johanna welcomed son Knox in 2011, followed by Caleb and his wife, Victoria's Secret model Lily Aldridge's daughter Dixie Pearl in June 2012. Finally, Nathan welcomed his daughter Violet at the end of last year. From the pictures posted on Tumblr of Dixie's first birthday, fully equipped with Mickey Mouse, a bounce house and a ball pen for the kids, you'd never know this was the same Kings who told CNN in 2009 that they could "consume more alcohol than any other popular band." The band welcomes the transformation.
"Traveling is definitely different, today everybody's with us -- the kids and everything," Matthew said. "It just seems like more fun for some reason now. Just having everybody together like a big family on the road. It just seems like we're not so lonely."
Lonely, they are not. The Kings' flight to New York was the epitome of a traveling circus. The plane was teeming with rock stars, wives, babies and nannies -- 21 people in all.