Mellow Cold: Cold War Kids grow up

Cold War Kids
photo by Lucy Hamblin

Cold War Kids are self-professed "soul punks," but they might just be settling down a bit with age. After six years together, they prefer to talk books over booze, and they have no problem admitting to the occasional influence by mainstream radio. Their forthcoming album, Mine Is Yours, is a blues-infused romp coated with a higher level of production polish than their previous outings, and while Nathan Willett has toned down his signature warble, it might be the broader life changes that have had the biggest impact.

The Hook: Robbers & Cowards was called “original” and Loyalty to Loyalty has been called “darker” in comparison. If you had to sum this one up in a word, what would it be?
Nathan Willett: A word is hard. Intimate, I guess.

The Hook: It's not out yet – are you playing new stuff live?
Willett: About half and half.

The Hook: The lyrics on this album are more personal, mostly about relationships and commitments. How did you approach writing them?
Willett: After the second record, I was trying to do something more poetic and abstract. I realized that I wasn’t as connected as I wanted to be. I liked it, but I didn’t feel closeness to it. This time I think I spent enough time at home to get a sense of real life, to see my friends and what they were really up to. At this stage in our lives, everyone is crossing into thirty, things are getting serious, and people are resisting it.

The Hook: Your vocals have a lot of depth on this record. How'd you get there?
Willett: In the past, I had this intrinsic belief that the emotion just had to come through and it didn’t have to be in key. Going back on the other records and hearing that made me really want to get it right and have the emotion there as well, nailing all of the parts this time.

The Hook: What’s the greatest challenge facing four guys who have spent the past six years working and touring with each other?
Willett: In a lot of ways, I’m more married to the guys in the band than my wife. Staying personable and vulnerable while being an artist, creating, and being professional is hard. It’s like a tightrope. The fact that any band cannot hate each other and survive is monumental. We do incredibly well.

The Hook: You’re a married man now. Has that changed your music and touring?
Willett: This time around, I was more aware of commitment. That was something to write about. In a way, bands that I’ve always admired have had principles. We grew up in Southern California with a lot of punk and hardcore bands. Whether it was about being vegan or straightedge, there was some kind of foundation. Whether it’s Fugazi or now Arcade Fire, you feel like they’re invested in something. They’re committed. I understand marriage the same way.

Cold War Kids perform at the Jefferson Theater on December 2 at 8pm. Tickets cost $18 in advance and $20 at the door.

1 comment

So serious