Cold War Kids weren't literally kids when they dropped their infectious single "Hang Me Up to Dry" in 2007. But the band, founded in 2004 by Nathan Willett and Matt Maust, was young enough to stand out in a crowd of fresh-faced indie rockers.
Five albums and more than a decade into their career, Cold War Kids have ascended from early blog darlings to rock 'n' roll regulars. They've continually refueled their brand of rock with bits of soul, pop and blues and visit the Majestic Theatre on Jan. 27.
Isthmus recently spoke with Cold War Kids' vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Nathan Willett about the difference between finding a comfort zone and becoming too comfortable and the importance of having the music remain constant while everything else changes.
Cold War Kids released its fifth record, Hold My Home, in October. What influenced your newest batch of songs?
This is one album where I don't think we went into it with the sense of talking about other records. We did [2013's] Miss Lonelyhearts and we kind of said, "Let's get back into it real quick this time. Let's not mess around."
Within that period Matt Maust and I worked on a record for a band called French Style Furs. So we came into this record already writing and recording with a lot of energy, and a lot of sense of being spurred to write and work quick.
This is your fifth album. I assume you're pretty comfortable writing and recording at this point in your career.
Comfort -- there's two sides to that. It's really nice to know who we are a little more, know what works well and what needs to be toned down. I think with this record, upon finishing it and releasing it, I definitely felt a big sigh of relief that I hadn't felt in at least a few records. It was kind of like, "Okay, this is what we've been trying to do; this is a really good example of who we are, what we like, what we're after."
You don't want to be so comfortable that it's predictable, but I think it's nice to be able to lean on some things that you do that work well.
In the past three years you've had to replace two band members. How has Cold War Kids evolved with the lineup changes?
For a band like us, everybody's role is pretty nuanced. As years go on, the band's identity becomes a little more set in stone. In a way, the recording process feels more streamlined. We know who we are -- it's not like we're trying to totally reinvent the wheel. And I think we're down to try things, whether its synthesizers or drum machines. We're more willing to approach songs in nonconventional ways. At the start of the band, we were so committed to four people playing live, doing it that way.
Speaking of synthesizers and drum machines, Hold My Home certainly has a poppier feel to it than your past releases. Was that a conscious decision?
I think it does [have a poppier feel], yeah. And I think that's kind of the evolution of this band, that you always kind of walk a line. There's always an element of, "It is an indie pop record." And in a way, we have been an indie pop band with elements of groovier things. But there's messiness to it as well.
And there's a modern-sounding aspect to it, too. Your first few records sound very much like works of their time.
Which I think is interesting. When bands are trying to make stuff that sounds like it's from the '60s, it doesn't. There's a point where that is really false and a little cheesy. Without naming names of bands, there's a certain point where it's like, "You know, a lot of those bands, they were doing exactly what was in their time, and you need to kind of do exactly what's in your time."
You've recently become a father. How does your new role as dad influence Cold War Kids?
I think it influences your whole worldview. You want to do what's important. We've had times where we've messed around and had longer gaps between records, and sat around and looked at each other and nobody totally knew what the goal was.
We've got a few dads in the group, and that makes you go, "Okay, what are we doing and why?" It makes you want to know the purpose.