Exclusive Q&A with Frontman Nathan Willett of Indie Rock Band: COLD WAR KIDS
Posted On 22 Apr 2016
Tag: All Access, All Access Music, All Access Music Group, All This Could Be Yours, Aloha, Artist, Artist Interview, Band, Bradley Cooper, Cameron Crowe, Cold War Kids, Dann Gallucci, Emma Stone, Exclusive, First, French Style Furs, Hold My Home, Interview, Joe Plummer, Lars Stalfors, Matt Maust, Matthew Schwartz, Mister Heavenly, Modest Mouse, Murder City Devils, Music, music interview, Nathan Willett, Patti Smith, Robbers & Cowards, The Shins
Ten years have come and gone since Cold War Kids first took to the stage in their homegrown Southern California scene. Time is typically unkind to indie rock bands. So how is that Cold War Kids are still here in 2015, selling out tours and releasing their fifth album in a decade amidst these 40 seasons of torrential fate winds, while so many of their peers have vanished?
“We worked really fucking hard, that’s the answer,” says Nathan Willett. “We worked really hard and we were successful, which is freakishly impossible, and we should embrace it. That’s our story.”
From his post at the front, Willett—along with the band’s bassist and visual director Matt Maust has led Cold War Kids through the tricky 21st century rock and roll landscape, soaring over the peaks and facing the valleys head-on while carving out a place of the band’s own. Reaping sky-high praise from a mid-2000s blogosphere then growing wings as a live show juggernaut, they stand now with their fifth studio album Hold My Home as both a different animal and an unaltered beast all at once. The band first hit the scene with their smash hit song, “Hang Me Out To Dry.”
The band wrote and recorded the album in their own San Pedro studio, with guitarist Dann Gallucci and Dear Miss Lonelyhearts collaborator Lars Stalfors at the production helm. It is at the same time a more pure and also more bombastic album than anything they have ever made, utilizing their environment, experience, energy and cohesion while still driving home the familiar Cold War Kids sound that has been honed and perfected over this past decade.
“This record is a testament to some of my strengths—loving words and stories—but also getting out the other side and creating a fun song that is in the spirit of the band,” says Willett. “This fifth record is probably the most simple, in a way, since the first one.”
Cold War Kids began as a four-piece of college friends but has undergone a couple of lineup changes in the past few years, from the fulltime addition of guitarist/producer Gallucci (Modest Mouse, Murder City Devils) to the departure of two original members, including most recently drummer Matt Aveiro. Replacing Aveiro on the album and on tour is seasoned veteran Joe Plummer (The Shins, Modest Mouse, Mister Heavenly), and also onboard is touring keyboardist/vocalist Matthew Schwartz. Together, they are the perfect complement; to wit, when Willett and Maust formed the side-project French Style Furs last year, that experiment only brought more energy and ideas to Cold War Kids.
“French Style Furs showed us how fun it needs to be making a record,” says Willett. “And that sometimes you have to tear something off to create a new energy.”
The one-two elevated punch that launches Hold My Home is undoubtedly the band’s strongest leadoff since Robbers & Cowards. “All This Could Be Yours,” the first single, packs influences from Patti Smith with its chugging piano chords and sing-along refrain, while the second song, “First,” (which is featured in the new Cameron Crowe movie, Aloha starring Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone) is perhaps their biggest sound yet. The band just released the video for their latest single, “Hotel Anywhere.”
All Access Music writer, Nicole DeRosa had a chance to catch up with frontman, Nathan Willett. Read more in their interview below.
Hi Nathan! Where does this interview find you? What’s on the agenda today besides our interview?
I’m going to the beach to run on the sand with my dogs.
For those not as familiar with you and your music, how did you get your start in music? Who or what was the catalyst for you?
I had been in school with some of these guys, studying Literature. Then I was doing my teaching credential in a high school in LA, hating life. I was motivated to do music with all my might. So, I quit and we started touring, having no idea what we were doing, but having a great time.
You released your latest fifth studio album, Hold My Home this past October. What did you learn between albums that you felt you wanted to infuse into the new record?
So much. We were happy with Dear Ms Lonelyhearts, but we felt like we were on to something that we needed to get back in to the studio. Dann, our guitar player, also engineered and produced that one and we had done it in our space in San Pedro, so the vibe was feeling fresh and good.
Also, Maust and I started a side project called French Style Furs. We made an album in New York with an old friend of ours and had a blast doing it. We did a handful of shows in LA and New York, but started working on Hold My Home soon after. I think we are learning how to work quicker and have more fun doing it. Not get so bogged down by expectations, while staying ambitious.
Can you share with me what your inspiration was for the song, “First”? I understand it will be featured in the new Cameron Crowe movie, Aloha. How did that come about? Did Cameron reach out and was the song written for the movie?
Ya. I love the lines “Flying like a cannonball falling to the earth, heavy as a feather when you hit the dirt” It reminds me of some friends of mine who have been pretty wild but seem to land softly.
Word on the street is that Bill Murray requested the song for the trailer. I hope its true.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
A lot of punk shows. Stand By Me on cassette tape. “Nothin but a G Thang” cassette single. I was all over the place.
Do you remember the first album you bought for yourself?
I bought Kriss Kross and U2 Rattle and Hum Cd’s at Tower Records.
What was the first song you fell in love with and why?
Stand By Me
Who is in your current playlist? Any artists, musicians or genres we might be surprised to find in there?
Bowie, Frank Ocean, D’Angelo, James Blake, Stevie Wonder, Iggy Pop, Eno’s latest
What’s on tap next for Cold War Kids? What are you most excited about in 2015?
We have a rad 5 song EP coming out for Record Store Day. Otherwise, more touring more music. Good things happening!
To learn more about COLD WAR KIDS , visit them HERE .