In rock, certain codes of deference apply. Such as: don't hug Bob Dylan. "His people tell you not to even touch him," says Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill, "but when he walked into our trailer, I hugged him before I could even think about it.
"After that he had to hug us all, and my brother Jared accidentally knocked his hat off. His security guys were furious."
These are royal times for the Kings of Leon. Their third album Because of the Times reached No. 1 in Britain this year, and appeared in many a critic's best of the year list. After supporting Dylan and U2, the Nashville, Tennessee-raised band are gaining ground on home turf.
I've joined them ahead of their performance on American show Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Next night, they play New York's Roseland Ballroom; the gig sold out in 28 minutes. "The UK fever is starting to spread," says singer and guitarist Caleb Followill.
Bassist Jared is the third Followill brother in the band, and these three sons of a defrocked Pentecostal minister are joined by their first cousin Matthew Followill on lead guitar. Whiling away the time before they're on, talk turns to the previous evening when the eldest Followill, Nathan, proposed to his girlfriend Jessie Baylin at her parents' New York restaurant.
"I bought them a bottle of Cristal, then had a long hot bath and just wept," Caleb says.
For the Kings of Leon, whose appetite for the more carnal trappings of fame is well documented, Nathan's engagement has ramifications. When I meet Nathan and Caleb for a proper chat the following morning, both are adjusting to the altered terrain.
"If he doesn't get a pre-nuptial agreement, he's an idiot," Caleb says. "Me and him have a lot invested in each other," he adds, not looking at his brother. "We started this band. We've bought land and houses together. We've been best friends since we were little biddy boys. I don't want him to make mistakes."
But surely being in a band and having a committed relationship needn't be incompatible?
"No, but we have friends in bands who are married and their songs start being watered down because they're all about the same girl. I mean, Nathan's not writing the lyrics, but even still."
Nathan: "Look at Bono - he's been married his whole career."
Caleb: "True, but Bono still loves Bono. It's still all about him. I'll have girls come to the show who are beautiful and are in love with me, but as soon as I let them in, they start to try to change me. They don't like me going to this party, or being seen [in] pictures with that girl. But that's what I do. This is my life."
Nathan: "It's different for me, dude. I'm pushing 30."
Caleb: "You're not, you're 28."
Nathan: "It's always hard when big brother starts devoting time to a girl that would normally be devoted to little brother."
Intriguingly, Because of the Times takes its name from a preachers' conference in Louisiana that the Followill brothers used to attend with their dad as kids. Nathan says it was a chance for them to put on their best clothes, meet girls and catch up with friends.
Those were happy, fairly innocent times, with any conflict between desire and the brothers' Christian upbringing yet to be tested. But with adolescence came disillusionment, and Caleb fell hardest.
"I'd put my faith in my dad and I wanted to follow in his footsteps," he says. "I'd always looked up to ministers, but at about 15 I started to see they were just normal men and it broke my heart. I closed myself off to pretty much everyone and dropped out of school. I thought I was smarter than everyone else, but I was wrong. Now I'm trying to go back and figure some things out, and writing songs is a good way to do that."
Parts of the Kings of Leon's debut album Youth and Young Manhood celebrated their partaking of the touring lifestyle. Because of the Times, Caleb has said, is more about the consequences of doing so. Knocked Up seems to deal with the dangers of sleeping around, while Charmer, based on real events, sees Caleb resisting the charms of a preacher's wife.
Musically, the album is ambitious. Songs such as On Call and Black Thumbnail see the Kings temper their indie/Southern rock with tropes more suited to stadium-sized venues.
"After supporting U2, we wanted to write songs that were bigger than us so we could get back to those audiences," Caleb says.
More pressing was the need for the Kings to clean up their act.
"We looked in the mirror and didn't like who we'd become," Nathan says. "It would be, 'Shit! I did it again. I pissed everybody off.' You'd resolve not to drink or do any drugs that day, but before you knew it you'd be at a club with whoever doing whatever."
The rather frightening antidote, the brothers say, has been the unifying power of golf. The Followills swing clubs whenever possible, the shared hours proving a useful way to relate outside the pressure-cooker that is the Kings of Leon.
But Caleb, for one, is still partial to a bit of deviance. Only the intervention of companions stopped him peeing on to the hotel foyer from three floors up the previous evening.
He's not proud of such antics, although he's unusually open about them. So is the Followill family stance that of the honest sinner?
"To be a man means that you are born into sin," Caleb says, "so you might as well be honest about it."
Another change has been the move back home to Nashville, another way of grounding themselves after New York. "We like a simple lifestyle," Nathan says. "We bought a ranch. We're fixing to buy some horses and build us a bar in the woods, so we might invite you round for a beer if this piece of yours turns out well."
In 2003, when the Kings exploded in Britain, cynics said their back story was a product of the marketing people. The group's response was to close ranks; understandably, as one British magazine keen to verify their DNA turned up to meet them with cheek swabs.
"It was the same with some of the bands we played with," Nathan says. "They wanted nothing to do with us until we got famous, but now we're like: f*** you, you had your chance." That's a bit Old Testament, I suggest. Nathan pauses, then says: "An eye for an eye, brother."
Who: Kings of Leon - Nathan Followill (drums), Caleb Followill (vocals guitar), Jared Followill (bass), Matthew Followill (lead guitar)
Albums: Youth and Young Manhood (2003), Aha Shake Heartbreak (2005), Because of the Times (2007)
Playing: TSB Arena, Wellington, tomorrow night; Vector Arena, Auckland, Saturday