Interview: Cold War Kids talk new album, maintaining intensity, and dealing with a major label
The band kicked off their latest tour with an underplay at the Sinclair last Monday, on the eve of Holy My Home’s release, and it must have gone well as the following day they announced another round of dates for 2015, which close out at the House of Blues March 21.
Vanyaland caught up with frontman Nathan Willett before the Sinclair show and talked about the new album and functioning as an independent band while on a major label.
Michael Christopher: Cold War Kids are five albums deep right now. How have you changed in your approach to the band since Robbers & Cowards?
Nathan Willett: The first record, we were such a live band that had been touring and playing and refining the songs live for a couple of years before recording and putting them out. And of course the story with any band is that you don’t really ever get to do that again. But you do have to find the energy that comes with having played the song so many times and I think especially for this band, we’ve always had the problem of trying to figure out how to capture the rawness and spontaneity of everything that we do so well but then do it in the studio and then put the record out and then play it live and have that energy that would have come from it being live.
We’re always trying to get back to that thing, to have the songwriting expand and become sonically more sophisticated and at the same time have that raw, nervous energy. I feel like this record is the best example of that that we’ve had so far of some ways capturing what we had with the first record.
There seems to be more of an intensity with Hold My Home — where is that coming from?
There are a lot of reasons. It was easy to go into the studio and play what we’re feeling which tends to be a little down tempo and morose. Over the course of four records and touring you realize, “Ok, our strength is up tempo rock songs,” we’ve played a million festivals; we’ve played a million club shows. We know the things we like to play.
You’ve also been keeping a steady pace of album tour, album tour…how much of that is due to short attention spans and how much is it because you have songs you need to get out?
I think it’s a little bit of both. By virtue of not paying for studio time [Cold War Kids own their own studio just outside of Los Angeles], we get to take advantage of the fact that while we have still been releasing albums in the traditional way, and on the record label and everything, we can get more creative with the way we put stuff out. At the end of the day, we can write songs all day long; we also want to make sure our fans are coming along with us and are aware of what we’re doing. That’s kind of the story of where we are now.
The tour starts tonight. Obviously you’re excited to play the new stuff, but there’s going to be fans that aren’t familiar with it that are coming to hear the old songs; do you feel like you have to temper your enthusiasm at all or do you just go full blast with the whole set?
I think it’s really a tough one. Throughout the course of the band, we have so many records and EPs and singles that we’ve put out. We’ve had tours where we’ve pretty much played the same setlist every night and tours where we’ve put in deep cuts that maybe nobody knows.
This record is unique because I do feel there was an urgency to playing these news songs when we perform. We’re already being pretty free with what we’re playing. I think our fans our pretty generous with that.
You almost function like an independent band but you’ve been on the same label [V2] for almost your entire recording career.
I think we’re tremendously lucky and I think we made really good decisions. It’s interesting, if anything, in more recent years, I’ve never talked to anyone who has had the same experience we’ve had. We chose who and where we wanted to make our records and we made them and gave them to the label — and that was it. And they put them out happily and were supportive and that was it.
The growth of these five records has been our own growth and not somebody saying, “Where’s the single?” It was always going to our own place and doing what we wanted to do.