Kings of Leon's Caleb Falwell on 'terrible' AI, mentoring a darts player, and taking on Taylor Swift | Ants and Arts News

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“When you first start out, it's the world of your competition,” says Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Falwell, speaking from his home in Nashville, Tennessee.

He recalls the comparisons – “Southern Stroke, I think someone called us Y'all 2, like U2, which was funny” – and how each had a fire in their belly to make a name for themselves. What did

Now, with the release of their ninth album, Can We Please Have Fun (No Question), 25 years after the band was formed by Caleb and his brothers, Nathan and Jared, and cousin Matthew, Kings of Leon It certainly is.

“I feel like right now, what we're trying to do is something that affects the next generation,” Falwell says. “It's kind of hard because people don't really look to adults for answers. So we listen to kids, we're inspired by what they do.”

Caleb (center background) on stage with brother Jared in the early days of Kings of Leon. Photo: AP/John Russell

Earlier this week, according to the Official Charts, things were looking good for Can We Please Have Fun to become the band's seventh UK number one album, with only one little thing standing in the way. Taylor Swift, another artist who cut his teeth in Nashville. After topping the chart, The Tortured Poets Society is currently at number two. But this is Taylor Swift, and she's been known to climb back in before.

Falwell laughs. “Right now, I think everybody's just trying to go for number two. Which, you know, is great, too. But I love Taylor. I'm so proud of her and her success. I'm happy.”

Topping the charts again would be a “kind of validation,” he says. “It's also like a mark on the ballot that you can show your family one day — hey, we had a number.” Or multiple numbers, even. “But we don't make records so they're going to be number one. We've been beaten by a lot of music that doesn't necessarily last the length of our music.”

The band will return once again to play later this year – on stage at the British Summertime Festival in London's Hyde Park in 2017. Photo: Joel Ryan/Invasion/AP

'It hasn't been the most fun in the last handful of years'

It's been 21 years since his debut, Youth and Young Manhood, and hits including Molly Chambers and California Waiting, which saw him embrace the UK way before his homeland took notice.

The band has previously spoken about the tools and pressures of fame, sibling battles, and going through the motions. Now, Falwell says, “we have a new passion and a kind of fire that we haven't necessarily had in the last handful of years”.

Can We Please Enjoy, both in title and content, definitely feels like King of Leon with a new lease of life. There were other options for his name – Actual Daydream, Moving Spectacle, Suicide Machine among them, Falwell says, flicking a notebook to remind himself – but they all painted a different picture. Will be.

“It hasn't been the most fun in the last handful of years,” he says. “Not necessarily in the band, it's just that life has been a lot heavier. A lot more serious. I feel like maybe it's always been that way. Nowadays it feels a lot more because it's our phone. And it's in our faces with our computers.”

Their last album, 2021's When You See Yourself, saw the band move around the world NFTs, a form of cryptocurrency used to hold assets like art and music, exploded this year. He was billed as the first music artist to release an album in this manner. For a band steeped in good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll, it seemed like a surprising move.

'AI doesn't need to sound like us'

Falwell admits he “never really understood” it. “Apparently it was something that was happening and maybe still is, I don't know. I know it got us into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which was great. We were the first band to have our Sold the music as a NFT, maybe the same, I don't know.

“But we weren't trying to push some new kind of technology on people…it was just something that was kind of where things were going. So, you know, why not be at the forefront of it?” Stay?”

Since then, AI has become a huge issue affecting the music industry. Stars including Billie Eilish and Nicki Minaj recently called for more protection.. Falwell describes himself as “like an old man” when he learns of them. “I'm afraid of it, though, I think, maybe, a little bit,” he says. “I've seen some things that make me a little nervous.”

He smiles. “As for music, it doesn't take AI to sound like us, my God. We're still learning to play, so our level of skill can still only be achieved by humans. Artificial Intelligence “

After When You See Yourself, they parted ways with their long-term record label. Rather than being a negative experience, “we felt like we were free for the first time right from the start,” Falwell says.

On Can We Please Have Fun, he worked with producer mastermind Kid Harpoon, known for his collaborations with artists. Miley Cyrus, Harry Styles, Calvin Harris and Florence + The Machine. Despite being industry veterans, Kings of Leon were eager to impress.

“We had to do a little bit of recording and then he'd go away for a few weeks to do some things he'd already planned. But it was a pretty eye-opening experience because he'd go away and then just like that. Well, let's get a bunch of stuff that will impress him when he comes back.”

Winning a Grammy in 2010. Photo: AP

Strip clubs to stadiums

Last week, they performed at a ranch in Nashville to mark the album's release — “a real barn, no air conditioning, a peacock in the rafters that screamed all the time, a dog in the living room,” as Falwell describes it.

It's not the strangest setting they've ever found themselves in. That title would probably go to their first UK gig, at High Wycombe, a pub that also doubled up as a lap-dancing venue.

“I remember we were backstage at soundcheck and we kept commenting on the strong smell of lotion,” Falwell recalls. “It smelled like floral lotion everywhere.” After attracting small crowds in America, that first UK show was “madness, maybe only 100 people, but we were playing to five people in America. So it was madness”.

The band continued to fill arenas and stadiums, headlining Glastonbury in 2008. They play London's Hyde Park – “which always feels like a homecoming” – again this summer. Last year, they played at Wrexham's Racecourse Ground. A stage that at one time would have been added to their list of unlikely destinations, but After his takeover of Hollywood Now there is a huge celebrity draw.

Kings of Leon headlined Glastonbury in 2008. Photo: Reuters/Luke McGregor

Falwell says it felt like the whole town was there to see him. “We were playing the show … but I feel like they were almost supporting what was going to happen in the club that night.

“Kind of fairy tale Wrexham And what happened, it's worldwide. Americans don't necessarily know what that means with different leagues and how you can leave and all that stuff. But we know what an underdog story is and how special it is when you see someone do their job.”

All the rage with celebrity football buyouts – Will Ferrell is among the latest to invest in Leeds. – Will the King of Leon ever consider it?

“We don't have that kind of money,” Falwell says. “Maybe darts. Can you sponsor a darts player?”

Read more:
'I wouldn't dare call it football': Ryan Reynolds on Wrexham takeover
Reynolds and McElhenney unveiled plans to expand the Wrexham ground.

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They can add darts to the list of ambitions Kings of Lyon have yet to tick off. Falwell says there are. “A lot of big things I probably won't say” because at one point he found them “ridiculous”; Now, in so many years and still going, maybe less.

The singer says he doesn't look back at what the band has achieved “as much as I could or should, sometimes”. He sees reflection as something that comes when “there's not much left in the tank… and I think I still have a lot”.

But reminders are all around. “My daughter came down in a Kings of Leon t-shirt… and it's an old t-shirt too. It's like, wow.” He says these moments are “like a splash in the face… It's definitely beyond anything we've ever dreamed of”.

And watching the crowd sing along to his songs never gets old.

“It's more than just singing. That you're doing what you want to do.”

Kings of Lions Can We Please Have Fun is out now. The band will play Hyde Park on June 30 BST.

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