Cold War Kids
It seems that all good things do take time. When I last spoke with bassist Matt Maust, Cold War Kids’ 2008 sophomore album, Loyalty To Loyalty , had been released for a mere four months and the Long Beach blues-rock/soul-punk quartet were on their third Australian tour. There had been less than a two year gap between the release of Cold War Kids’ 2006 debut album, Robbers & Cowards , and its follow-up; yet, Maust expressed their desire to unveil a third album in an even shorter time-frame. That was two years ago. Cold War Kids may have already written a string of memorable songs including Hospital Beds , Hang Me Up To Dry , We Used To Vacation , Dreams Old Men Dream and Relief, but they’ve delivered one of their most glorious compositions in Royal Blue – one of the first songs to be revealed from their forthcoming third album, Mine Is Yours .
“The tempo is so different in the verses and the choruses that they were literally two different songs before we made it one song,” Maust explains of Royal Blue’s songwriting process. “The verses were kind of a different song that we were working on with a different title back then, but we had the idea of combining the two songs into one, so that was exciting. It’s kind of like ‘when two become one’; no one really knew the whole time that ‘whoa, this is one song, not two songs’,” he chuckles. “Once you finally realise that, it’s liberating.”
Cold War Kids teamed up with acclaimed producer Jacquire King for the recording of their third album. “Our good friend Dann Gallucci played in Modest Mouse for a good amount of time and Jacquire engineered Good News For People Who Love Bad News (Modest Mouse’s 2004 album). Dann’s a really close friend of ours and he pushed us to work with Jacquire. Knowing that he’s worked with Tom Waits, Norah Jones and Kings Of Leon, they’re all great different end of the spectrum things that we like. He’s a good guy to work with... we love him a lot. He really didn’t let us off the hook that easy – he would make us do one song three different ways before we decided on the style.”
The band spent two months (February/March) in Nashville with King before reconvening in Los Angeles in August. “We took a long time off,” Maust explains. “I think Royal Blue was one of the first songs we did in Nashville. And Louder Than Ever was actually one of the last songs we recorded – we didn’t do that until we were in Los Angeles in August. We wrote that at home when we were taking a break and it came together very quickly – we wrote the song in about a day and a half, sent the demo to Jacquire and he loved it.
“As soon as he came out, we recorded it – it was one of those last minute things and ended up being the first single. It’s probably our hardest song, like most rockin’, I guess, that we’ve ever done,” he says of Louder Than Ever. “I think it was a really good burst of energy at the end.”
In regards to their soul-punk sound, frontman Nathan Willett has said the Cold War Kids are “taking that to the next level... and trying to take soul and punk into the future”. It’s a level of ambition that’s become instilled after recording two solid albums. “We really took a lot more time on this record than our other two records,” Maust asserts. “On our first two records and EPs, we would approach things by writing the songs apart from the studio, like more in a live setting and even play the songs live before we recorded them, and then not to do a whole lot of changing of structure or anything in the studio.
“We did everything backwards this time, where we wrote in the studio and really, really picked our songs apart and did a lot of changes to them before we put them into stone. And it was very refreshing to work that way – a lot more trial and error but... we probably spent about three months in the studio for this record... everyday... as opposed to, you know, two weeks for the other records,” he laughs, “or even less. I feel much more ambitious about things now; it’s great.”
During our previous interview, Maust reflected on the contrasting songwriting trajectories of their first two albums: whereas Robbers & Cowards took on more of a storytelling approach in which the focus was on ‘them’, Loyalty To Loyalty was written from more of a political standpoint in terms of ‘us’. While Loyalty To Loyalty touched on humanity’s ethical needs, suicide and re-evaluating one’s life, Willett has expressed that Mine Is Yours deals heavily with relationships, and the joys and failures of commitment – themes that had become evident to the rest of the band from the very beginning of the creative process.
“Relationships are a huge thing for not only the band – with each other – but we come from Long Beach and there’s a lot of friends going through hard times in their own relationships right now that I think really fuel a lot of Nathan’s lyrics,” Maust considers. “Certain people getting married... certain people getting divorced in the same year; and just all the difficult struggles that come with people getting married young and a lot of our friends going through different things like that. For me – knowing that the record is about a lot of our friends and me and Nathan’s own relationships – it has the most meaning to me than any of our previous records, because they were somewhat fictional stories that Nathan made up. This record is more: ‘this is what happened in the last year and a half of our lives’. Even if I don’t know exactly who the record is about, I have a really good idea and it makes it much more personal to me.”
Cold War Kids’ fourth trip to our shores will include performances at the Falls Festival and sideshows. “I don’t think we’ve really toured since almost two years ago in April, so I’m pretty ready to hit it again, actually,” Maust says, invigorated. “I moved to LA a few months ago and I haven’t really got settled there yet”.
A few months ago, Cold War Kids posted a poignant quote on their Facebook page; a memorable statement from Operation Ivy frontman Jesse Michaels: “Music is an indirect force for change, because it provides an anchor against human tragedy. In this sense, it works towards a reconciled world. It can also be the direct experience of change”. Maust affirms that Cold War Kids’ philosophy ties in heavily with that ideal. “Nathan and I listened to that record (Energy – Operation Ivy’s sole studio album) growing up and I still think that record is so fresh-sounding,” Maust enthuses, “and that’s the quote you see when you open up the record.
“I’m almost jealous that we didn’t write that, because I know that we really identify with that; we really take that seriously and know the power that music has... and to not only just be enjoyable but you can change things. There’s not a lot of quotes better than that for bands that really want to make a difference like we do. It’s something that The Clash or U2 would say or Rage Against The Machine but coming from a Berkeley punk band, it’s pretty exciting.”
COLD WAR KIDS are touring Australia, playing the FALLS FESTVIAL in Lorne over December 28-January 1 (all info from fallsfestival.com.au) and a sideshow at The Forum on January 4. Their new album Mine Is Yours is out in January.