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Kings of Leon appeared to be on the downswing after an unexpected breakdown in July 2011; it was uncertain whether the band would swing back up again. Two years later, the group is revitalized and returning with its sixth album, Mechanical Bull.
The band of close male family members — brothers Nathan, Caleb and Jared Followill, accompanied by their cousin Matthew — had been traveling on the road together for a decade straight. With his voice growing ragged and no sign of a break in sight, lead singer Caleb Followill took matters into his own hands at a Dallas performance: He announced to the audience that he was leaving the stage to vomit and drink a beer, but would return to finish the show. He never did.
"I think, at first, we were all pretty tough on Caleb backstage that night. We were definitely angry," drummer Nathan Followill says of his younger brother's onstage antics. "At the time, we didn't realize how severe it actually was, health-wise, for him."
After seeing a throat specialist, Caleb Followill was told that he was one show away from permanently damaging his vocal cords.
"I think that was just kind of something that was bound to happen," the singer says. "We had been running pretty hard for almost 10 years, and our bodies were just spent."
The release of Mechanical Bull marks the end of a tough period for Kings of Leon. Moments of optimism — however sarcastic — are perceptible in tracks like "Comeback Story."
"It's kind of tongue-in-cheek, saying it's the comeback story of a lifetime," says Caleb Followill.
Nathan and Caleb Followill recently spoke with NPR's David Greene about their familial roots and how their intimate lives changed after a not-so-intimate announcement that summer night in 2011. Hear more of their conversation by clicking the audio link.