Cold War Kids

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Cold War Kids


If you’ve ever thrown a wet t-shirt over a Hills Hoist in the past few years, chances are you’ve had the indelible earworm that is “Hang Me Up To Dry” subliminally burrow into your frontal lobe.

If you’ve ever thrown a wet t-shirt over a Hills Hoist in the past few years, chances are you’ve had the indelible earworm that is Hang Me Up To Dry subliminally burrow into your frontal lobe. It’s as anthemic as modern music gets, yet its bare-bones arrangement marks a far cry from where Cold War Kids find themselves on the third full-length, Mine Is Yours . Aussie crowds were privy to a sneak preview of its stadium-sized selection of tracks – instigating arm-in-arm singalongs well before the album’s release. "Yeah the New Years shows were amazing, it seemed like millions of people singing along," explains frontman Nathan Willet.

"Australian crowds are pretty amazing," adds slinky bass-slinger Matt Maust as we soak up the smell of a barbie by the river – in one of the few days of perfect weather this summer has to offer. "We’ve been doing about four or five songs from the new album, and people seem to know all the words, like Louder Than Ever and Royal Blue. It’s pretty crazy," Nathan adds.

Mine Is Yours marks a radical departure from the band’s previous efforts, a transition that is far more distinguished than that between first LP Robbers & Cowards and LP two Loyalty To Loyalty, thanks in part to a new producer. As Matt divulges, "We wrote ideas for the better half of 2009, then went to Nashville in March last year where we recruited Jacquire King. We thought we’d bring in someone from the outside to really help us work on our craft. Then Nathan spent four or five months writing the lyrics, then back to Nashville for another few weeks to record again," he adds.

"We spent probably six times as long in the studio as compared to our previous albums – just doing the songs, pulling them apart, putting them back together. I think this is our first record that’s very us in the studio. I feel like this is actually our first record in a lot of ways. We’ve always been in the studio for such a short amount of time, which didn’t leave us much room to experiment. We really had the luxury this time."

The appointment of Jacquire King to man the decks for their third album mirrors the trajectory Kings Of Leon took from the indie-underground of their first two full-lengths to stadium-slayers. But the similarities don’t necessarily reflect an intention of replicating the Kings’ explosion. "Jacquire did the last few Kings Of Leon records, but he’s also done work for Tom Waits, Modest Mouse and Norah Jones," Matt states.

"I mean, these bands are so eclectic so you can’t really say that when you work with Jacquire you get this ‘Jacquire King stamp’. I think he just brings out what’s already in the band, in a really good way. I’d say that’s exactly what he did with us. We’re a band with a real strong sense of identity anyway, and I think he really just cultivated that and found what was really already inside of us."

That sense of identity marks the group as one of the most idiosyncratic going around, so much so that you could probably pick a Cold War Kids track with a single instrument isolated. The label of ‘soul-punk’ seems to have stuck like glue. The amalgamation of unique voices into a cohesive unit proves to be the group’s greatest challenge, Nathan explains. "I think it’s super-unique that we can be a band on the level we’re at, and still have a drummer, guitarist, and bassist that all have that unique sound that you could pick it out just on the music alone. I think it’s so rare.

"Continuing to write songs that have the space and capability to do that is really what Cold War Kids is really about. Having that central thing that ties it all together, like the lyrics or vocal part, is really the struggle," he says. "It’s not really something that we’ve mastered, which is why I think we have so much musical tension. It’s a strength, really, even though I don’t really understand it."

As well as distinct tones and playing styles, Cold War Kids’ body of work is renowned for Nathan’s verbose lyricisms, whether it’s vivid metaphor or sprawling narrative. "I have more of a background in literature," Nathan explains. "Words are really the thing I get stressed about. If we have a piece of music and I don’t have words to it. I know as much as I try to do something that I don’t love lyrically and try to put less emphasis on it, it kills me to not know what’s going on. A lot of groups can do that, where they put less emphasis on lyrics. It’s one of things that don’t really make a lot of sense, they just take a lot of time.

"We had this gap," he continues, "where Jacquire was doing the new Kings Of Leon record, so for those few months I’d just sit down and read. It forced me to go to work – I couldn’t just write something down when I was driving and just finish it off whenever I got home. There’s something about it where you want to make it more timeless, where you could back to it a week later and make changes. That was kind of the goal," he muses.

The band’s inspiration stems from sources far-reaching outside the bounds of music, which is evident in their penchant for deeper narrative and a permeation of visual descriptors through their work. "I think we’re all inspired by so many different mediums," Nathan states, "I’d say in the last few years our band has been more inspired by film more than anything else, like music or literature in many ways."

The band’s current idol is an icon that seems like the antithesis of rock ‘n’ roll, Nathan quips, "A lot of Woody Allen. His movies have something that few others do, in that they’re all about relationships. Some are serious, some are hilarious," he states. Matt adds, "I think my one goal for the year is to watch every single Woody Allen film."

With 2011 likely finding Cold War Kids busy riding high off the success of Mine Is Yours, including a prime slot at Coachella, it seems that may be a hefty task.

COLD WAR KIDS brand new album What’s Mine Is Yours is out now through Shock.