A brief encounter with
vocalist Nathan Willet, discussing his band’s recent EP and their plans for the




The number of artists melding blues, rock, pop and soul into
one is on the rise. However, many musicians merely reenact sounds from our
musical past and often remain in the confines of this paradigm. Enter California’s Cold War
Kids: they have manipulated this fine equation to create a sound all their own,
injecting a jolt of adrenaline into this evolving genre.


En route to Anchorage,
Alaska, the last stop of Cold War
Kids’ short tour in support of their latest EP Behave Yourself, lead singer Nathan Willet took a few moments in
between flights to chat. So while sitting in an airport amongst crying children
and chattering passengers Willet discussed future plans for the Kids – Willet,
guitarist Jonathan Russell, bassist Matt Maust, drummer Matt Aveiro – and the
recent release of Behave.


However you’d like to define “success” it is fair to say
Cold War Kids is on the cusp of it. When the Kids formed six years ago, they
did not put the cart before the horse with delusions of grandeur. “We didn’t
really know what our hopes were from the beginning.” Willet says, adding, “All
we knew is that we liked the kind of music we were playing. Now we’ve kind of
come into success and found our place, it’s very much what we’ve hoped for.”


Humbled by the experience, Willet admits, “I’m always amazed
– especially with this last record – that people know all the words, even to
the old recordings. It feels good, it’s incredible, it really blows me away.
Over the last four years of touring it keeps growing and it’s really great.”
However, from the other side of the mic, it is easy to see why spectators become
enamored by the Kids; one live performance and they will reform naysayers and
recruit new fans. (After having personally witnessed Cold War Kids in action, I
can say this with assurance. Before the show began a security guard approached
and asked, “What kind of music do they do?” After their sweltering performance
I had to ask for his thoughts: with a shrug and smile the bouncer admitted, “Oh
yeah, they were good.”)


And three EPs and two LPs later, Cold War Kids compositions improve
with each release. A bridge between Loyal
to Loyalty
and their upcoming third LP, Behave is a collection of songs that did not make it onto the sophomore release. One
listen to the short, four track EP it’s clear that these songs were not cut due
to an inferior sound. “The last record had a darker, broodier sound,” Willet explains.
“These songs are more uplifting… lighter, so we re-recorded them and released
them on their own so that people would have a different ‘feel’ before the next
album.” Indeed a “lighter” affair, Behave
triggers that happy place in your sonic pleasure center. However,
Cold War Kids’ music has always incorporated an upbeat tone even when a sense
of foreboding lingers; the key to this juxtaposition, Willet’s lyrics.


Whether a contemplative pessimist in “Something is Not Right
With Me,” a lovelorn woman in “Every Man I Fall For,” or a thieving church-goer
in “Passing the Hat,” Willet is known for weaving creative, narrative-styled
words that unveil troublesome tales from unique perspectives. But since the
band wants to explore new terrain for their upcoming third LP, this may change…
perhaps. Willet chuckles as he stammers, “You know, I don’t know yet. I do know
that [the lyrics] will be more personal and less narrative…maybe.”


Well, possibly it’s too soon to make a definitive decision
on the future creative process. Yet, one thing is certain: for the first time
the Kids will be working with a producer throughout the entire process of album
creation. Jacquire King, talented mixer to musicians such as Tom Waits, Josh
Ritter, Buddy Guy and more, will add Cold War Kids to his roster. “This is the
first time we’ve worked with someone who has a say in the songwriting and helps
to shape how things are going to sound. It’s going to be a great experience, having
his wisdom,” Willet says. “The old recordings were quick and fun, not a lot of
overdub. This recording will be a much more lush arrangement. I think that this
is the first time we have a high expectation for people to really respond to a


And with the upcoming LP hopefully the Kids will achieve
their ambitions. Fans will have faith; the Kids have every element to make this
dream a reality – great music, unique lyrics, and a memorable live show.
Willet, clearly, has confidence in his and his bandmates’ abilities when he
observes, “I think we are incredibly unique as a band especially compared to
the mainstream world. I think that our qualities, combining soul and punk, are
unique to people and we are forging ground on a musical category that no one is
really doing right now.”


Worth noting, too, is the humanitarian side of the band: Cold
War Kids let a portion of their recent ticket sales aid those in Haiti –
in addition to a benefit concert recently performed in NYC. Also, they continually raise awareness for Water Wells for Africa. Says
Willet, “When we were on tour with Death Cab for Cutie we did a running [competition]
where we raised money for [the organization].”


Once back in the sunny hills of California, Willet and the Cold War Kids will
soon begin work on the third album. So, on this cold day, resting in an airport
before taking off for Alaska,
Willet gets one final question from BLURT: If you could choose five words to
describe your band, what would they be?


Willet’s response after a moment of deliberation: “Soul punk
for young souls.”



[Photo Credit: Matt Wignall]


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