Q&A: Cold War Kids

Throughout their entire career, Long Beach rock outfit COLD WAR KIDS have been cast in a different shadow compared to radio’s elite. With guidance from a notable producer (Jacquire King), they’ve transformed into an expressive spirit with an appetite for feelings that shut off heart valves. As vocalist Nathan Willett explained to us, being a bit personal has its risks but it makes you the main exhibit.

 
Is the term “third time’s the charm” a myth or a truth?

It has to be a truth. The first album is usually about having fun, exploring and having no expectations. The second album presents a lot of expectations and along with that, creates anxiety and has you doubting yourself. For us, this third record gave us ownership of who we are as a band. The third one is supposed to make you more comfortable in your skin.
 
Would you say you’ve become more comfortable in your skin?

We are a lot more comfortable with our identity. The thing with bands is they are kind of like subcultures. When we started, it was just the four of us, we didn’t belong to a scene and we had to book our own tours. Sometimes other bands we didn’t really like would invite us out on tour with them and that made us keep our identity a secret. We didn’t expose ourselves. Now, we’ve hit a point where we’re comfortable with everything that has to do with our band.
 
The new record does seem to have a fresh attitude and still keeps true to the group’s sound.

Totally. The attitude played a part in the music we created, even the album as a whole. You look at the artwork for Robbers & Cowards and you can see it’s a bit dark and moody because we weren’t sure where we were going with our career. The cover of the new album shows there’s a lot more joy.

Was it intimidating to work with a new producer?

It wasn’t really intimidating as Jacquire is pretty laid-back. He has worked on albums we admire and and a lot of friends and musicians spoke highly of him so we gave him a shot. He did shelter us a bit and watched us work. That pushed us to be on our best behavior and put more effort into the recording process.
 
As its clear in the vocals and lyrical content, why was there more emphasis on displaying more emotion?

Mine Is Yours is a record about relationships. After touring, we headed home and I noticed all of my writing before was fictional and I didn’t really want to continue on with that. I wanted to write from a journalistic point of view; write about people getting married, turning 30 years old and going through different commitment issues.
 
The mood, the content, all of it’s a bit more intimate.

It’s fun being personal. It makes me uncomfortable and makes me feel vulnerable. Even telling some of these stories makes me scared at times. Going through these emotions was something I just needed to do. There wasn’t really a reason for it. It’s just something I had to do to connect with this record. I love our other records, it’s just I didn’t connect with them the way I wanted to.
 
What would say is the most emotional track on the new album?

Maybe “Broken Open”. After we wrote it, the four of us were kind of taken back. The song just ripped through us. There’s being emotional and there’s being personal but being sentimental is an entirely different thing. We had never been sentimental before and “Broken Open” helped the band connect and cross into something new.
 

The new songs show my interests, what I’m attracted to and what makes me scared.

 
Was it a challenge to write about the joys and failures of commitment?

Yeah, it was! It took a while as I had to weed through different experiences to find out what I wanted to write about. Once I knew, I decided the lyrics had to be direct and simple. It was hard to get to that point. It’s difficult for anyone to start with nothing, become specific and then try to make their creation unique.
 
How is it different from writing about your own love life?

There are differences but choosing to talk about others even reflects me and shows people the type of individual I am. The new songs show my interests, what I’m attracted to and what makes me scared.
 
Do you think it’s important to tap into such personal emotions at least once?

“At least once”; that’s it right there. It is worth trying at least once. There are a lot of musicians I idolize that have done the same exact thing because they felt like they needed to. No one told them to do it. All art blends raw experiences with the creativity you have inside of you. Expressing those emotions is a risk, but it puts who you are on display.
 

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