drummer Nathan Followill of Kings Of LeonEven strapping young lads like Kings Of Leon’s drummer Nathan Followill aren’t immune to the aches and pains of touring. It’s par for the course when you’re a grizzled road dog by your mid-twenties. “When your leg’s cramping and there’s a fast song coming up, you just have to psych yourself out,” says the twenty-seven-year-old Followill. “That’s what Josh Garza from Secret Machines taught me. Tell yourself, ‘Screw it, I’ve got to get through this song.’”

Followill, the senior member of the familial (three brothers, one cousin) Southern-reared quartet, is certainly qualified to dispense such wisdom. He estimates Kings Of Leon have played nearly five hundred shows touring behind 2003’s Youth & Young Manhood and 2005’s Aha Shake Heartbreak–records that exceeded the hype spun by scribes fascinated with the band’s painted-on bell-bottoms, bushy beards, and Dixie roots. “It’s like they’d never seen pictures of Skynyrd before,” laughs Followill.

Those discs were the sound of a wise-beyond-its-years band of hungry whippersnappers flying the flag for the greasy underbelly of ’70s arena rock: early ZZ Top, Thin Lizzy, and Crazy Horse. While that trademark sound informs their new album, Because Of The Times, it doesn’t define it. Because isn’t the “difficult third album” bands often feel obligated to make. Rather, it’s Kings Of Leon meeting every challenge it poses to itself, from the newfound funky swing of songs like “My Party,” to the more daring arrangement arc of seven-minute opener “Knocked Up.”

“That was a good one to start off with,” Nathan figures, “because it lets people know it’s probably not going to be the record you expected.” On the track, Followill plays ghost notes on the snare while keeping straight time on the kick and hi-hat–a twist on the old chugging feel–and adds random snare thwacks for tension. “Its kind of like the old train beat,” he explains, “but not in the traditional sense. The effect on the loud snare hits came about because someone accidentally left the echo chamber door open. I hit the drum once and it sounded like a shotgun going off. We were all like, ‘Wow, that’s a pretty good little accident there.’”

Patrick Berkery