Kings of Leon’s Nathan Followill on Their New Album, ‘SNL,’ and Keeping Sex Fiery

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Michael Krebber's Bruce Jones (2008). Photo: Getty Images

Nashville garage-rockers Kings of Leon’s as-great-as-expected fourth album, Only by the Night hits stores today, and they’re celebrating the occasion with a sold-out, sure-to-be-raucous show at Webster Hall, having made their triumphant SNL debut this past Saturday night. Drummer Nathan Followill spoke with Vulture about the new album, being dissed by Pitchfork, and the joy of getting Pineapple Expressed.

So, how was playing Saturday Night Live?
This was our first time ever. We’re all pretty stoked about it. When we first started out, that was one of those things where, if we ever got to play that, we would retire the day after. So you know, that’s it! No, it's just one of those things where we grew up watching it. It’s such a huge thing.

And your host was James Franco. Did you see Pineapple Express? Did you like it?
I was Pineapple Expressed when I watched it so, yeah, it was hilarious.

Speaking of SNL, Pitchfork has called your band "the SNL parody of U2 lost in the rural South." Do you find that flattering or funny or rude?
I don't think Pitchfork has ever really been a fan of ours. We put about as much weight into that as we do taking out the trash.

Well, would you guys ever make that parody skit?
I don’t know; we'd all probably fight about who got to play Bono. There would end up being four Bonos. [Pauses.] With pitchforks.

You’ve been getting some mixed reviews on your new album. A lot of people are saying it's stadium rock now, a bigger sound. You want to play the bigger arenas?
Going into this record, I don’t know if we necessarily set out to make a record that would sound good in stadiums or arenas, but we had the fortune of touring with bands like U2, Pearl Jam, and Bob Dylan, and we got to play to crowds that were much bigger than we’ve ever played before, especially in America. I think it's kind of hard not to subconsciously go to that place when it comes time to start the process of making a new record. We definitely wanted to keep it in mind that we would still be playing to smaller crowds in America — as opposed to the crowds in Europe, Glastonbury, all that stuff — so we didn’t want to make a record that would alienate our audiences over here by songs that are way too big-sounding for the size of the room we’re playing.

And your new single: What was the inspiration behind the single “Sex on Fire”?
I would say … really good sex. Caleb was writing it, but it was him watching the others having really great sex. He used it as inspiration.

Is that a normal Kings of Leon group activity?
Only when we’re Pineapple Expressed. It makes all the inhibitions kind of disappear. [Laughs.] No, we’re just all at a point where, you know, early on we just partied. We did as much as a band could do in ten years and wrapped that up in about three. But now, we all got girls, have relationships, and have regular sexual encounters.

And yet they're still on fire. How do you keep the passion going?
They have this heating oil stuff. It keeps it hot for sure.