Kings of Leon are returning to NZ and, according to drummer Nathan Followill, no one is more excited than the band.
It has been more than 12 years since Kings of Leon set foot on New Zealand soil and yet it somehow seems the perfect place for the band to take to the stage again, after a long, frustrating wait because of Covid-19.
No one could claim we are at "normal" yet, but in a bold and optimistic move Kings of Leon have released their new record and are now looking ahead enthusiastically to touring their new music. And New Zealand will be their first stop.
"This is the first show that we have announced," said Followill, 41, whose yearning for the stage is present in every syllable.
Coming out of a long forced hiatus one could be forgiven for assuming the band would start a tour closer to home, but it seems that New Zealand is quite the drawcard for the band. "I couldn't think of a better place, we love it," exclaims Followill.
Having an international act of Kings of Leon's calibre to look forward to is bound to reignite a dampened flame for many gig lovers, but, as it becomes clear from talking to Followill, getting back on tour is everything to the band too.
"Having to stop the process right before the touring, which is the fun part, that was really tough for us."
Followill feels that having been deprived of touring for so long, he is even looking forward to the not-so-fun parts, like the long flights. He wants it all: "the travelling, getting back out there, the shows, everything".
Discussing the new show - because it is so ridiculously exciting after the misery that was 2020 - Followill says the fun part will be working out the set list.
"The set list is going to be very interesting because, when you have a new record come out certain songs from the new record go in the set list and they have to kick certain songs out. That's always a neat process to see which band members are lobbying for which songs to stay and which songs to go."
When asked what songs from the new album he is most looking forward to playing Followill admits to choosing based on how fun they are for him, as a drummer. "Stormy Weather, as a drummer that's just so fun to play ... 100,000 People, I absolutely love, can't wait to play that one live." But mainly he says: "just expect a bunch of guys up there having fun".
Their latest release is perhaps a little more stripped-back and introspective than some of their big anthemic releases - like 2008's Only by the Night - but it doesn't sound like their NZ show will be anything but big. "Expect a good time, a lot of fun, a lot of dancing," laughed Followill.
Although clearly chomping at the bit to pick up sticks, Followill also admits to being very enamoured with New Zealand on his last visit. What does he remember most? Black sand, of course.
"We're Tennessee boys, there are no beaches anywhere near us, so the thought of going to the beach was awesome, but they were like 'no, this one has black sand' and we were like 'get outta here' and then we went and ... wow. I just remember it felt so natural and untouched."
Nathan also recalls being blown away by stunning New Zealand scenery everywhere they went, and was envious of how laidback everyone seems here.
"It just seemed like nobody was in a hurry and everyone was just enjoying the moment and that was really cool to experience."
The band's bold move to lock in a concert date so far in advance - when life has been so unpredictable for so long - is refreshingly optimistic. Kings of Leon have drawn a line in the sand and decided that by early 2022 we will be so much closer to normal. We will be ready to rock again.
•Kings of Leon, live at Spark Arena, March 23, 2022. Tickets on sale Friday April 30, 2021, at 10am.