In what feels like not so long ago, Cold War Kids were the embodiment of indie rock. Yes, that term has lost its meaning over the years, but in 2007 when they released Robbers and Cowards, the then early twenty-somethings were the darlings of that underground scene.
Fast-forward to 2018, Cold War Kids are a force of nature in popular music. With six full-length albums and several chart-topping hits including the song “First” which peaked at number one on the U.S. alternative charts, the label of indie rockers hasn’t applied to them for years. For lead singer Nathan Willett, looking back on his career (and looking forward) the name of the game is being the best versions of themselves they can be.
“I think this far in you know your strengths. I’m insanely proud of our first record – that in itself is rare – but the problem that comes with that is you want to look around a bit and say, what do we do next? We don’t want to do the same thing again. The style, sonically, musically, and arrangement-wise of Cold War Kids was so solid from the beginning that we need to write the best songs we can, give the best performances we can and not try to necessarily totally reinvent what the band is,” says Willett in a recent interview with BandWagon Magazine.
In April, the band released their sixth studio album, L.A. Divine, to warm critical praise and heavy radio play. They once again maintain the elements long-time-fans have loved while still taking themselves to a new level. In the process, Willett says he is proud of everything he’s learned along the way. “There were times when I regretted certain things we did musically on different records. But having had the fortune to make this much music, I’m happy to look back and say we got to learn from all these different things. I just want to take the best of the sound that Cold War Kids is – the stuff that has been there from the start – and find ways to keep it new, exciting and translate in a bigger way.”
For Willett, that learning process has translated to a lot of aspects of his life. Touring as hard as Cold War Kids have, Willett expressed the importance of maintaining yourself on the road, and how most people handle it differently. “It’s self-preservation, you know? No one can tell you exactly what you need. Some dudes can watch a show on their iPad for eight hours up until the show. Other people need to get out there and be active. It’s a weird zone where you have to do whatever works for you. I think that’s why you can become a weirdo on tour and become selfish with your time.”
These days, Willett has gotten over things like nerves before a big show or hitting the studio. Although from time to time something will come along and catch him off guard. “I guess it depends. We did a song with Bishop Briggs – she was doing a performance and wanted me to come and sing that song with her. I was really nervous. I get really nervous when I think I don’t have my band with me. When you have your crew, you don’t feel nervous. You’re like, alright it’s another show. But when I’m taken out of that I’m like – just a dude alone in the world.”
Excited to come back to Colorado, Willett has a lot of great memories playing in the state. “We were just in Aspen for a few nights. It was just so rad. My family got to come – we got to hang out and walk in the snow, go to the museum and just cruise around town. It was just so special. It was this incredible vacation but we’re working! There was this moment in time where we were outside in our little condo jacuzzi and it was snowing on us, drinking tequila. We were like: this is crazy. This is amazing. Those are the moments where sweating through being in a parking lot in Arizona when it’s 110 degrees makes it all worthwhile.”
Cold War Kids play The Mishawaka Amphitheatre on Wednesday, June 27th.