Cold War Kids Take More Aggressive Approach on New Self-Titled Album

Group brings its 20th anniversary tour to House of Blues on February 26

click to enlarge Cold War Kids. - Sean Flynn
Sean Flynn
Cold War Kids.
Dating back to the '80s, Orange County, CA, home to acts such as Social Distortion and the Offspring, has delivered its share of alternative and indie acts. Cold War Kids, a band that formed in Orange County in 2004, has tried to tap into that energy during its 20-year run.

“From No Doubt to Sublime and Social Distortion – all these things were very inspiring,” says singer-multi-instrumentalist Nathan Willett in a phone interview from a Vancouver, BC tour stop. Cold War Kids perform at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 26, at House of Blues. “We liked the aggression of the punk scene, and that’s always been important to us.”

For the latest album, last year’s self-titled affair, the band took its time. As a result, the songs feel polished while still capturing the manic energy that comes across in Willett's yelping vocals and the lurching soul and blues-inspired music.

“We had done a trilogy of these eight-song EPs,” says Willett. “We just wanted to mix it up and do something different. After doing that, we wanted to get back to a more focused album with a vision. I got together with a lot of different producers and tried new things. It’s a little different approach. We didn’t start it and say, ‘We’re gonna make this record in four months.’ It was more low-key. I wanted to do it in a way that was on my schedule and as if it was a more sustainable day-time job. It was really amazing.”

Willett says he knows there are drawbacks to “overcooking” the recording process, as he puts it, but he says he enjoyed revisiting ideas without any real pressure. He says one of the first songs he completed for the new album was actually the album’s first single, “Run Away with Me.”

“It’s funny because we had that song for a very long time,” he says. “We had started recording during the pandemic and had recorded so much music. We were struggling because I was looking for something different and couldn’t find the sweet spot. We started the song with Carlos de la Graza, but then his daughters’ band the Linda Lindas blew up and he was about to start a Paramore record.”

Producers such as Militarie Gun’s Max Epstein, Casey Lagos (Kesha, Wrabel), Ethan Gruska (Phoebe Bridgers, Weezer), Jenn Decliveo (Miley Cyrus, Hozier) and Malay (Frank Ocean, Lorde) all wound up contributing to the album.

Album opener, the jittery, self-referential “Double Life,” sets the album’s tone.

“There’s something about weaving through these genres and types of songs that are ‘indie,’ which to me means they have more abstract lyrics, and doing something more confessional and pop,” Willett says when asked about the tune. “It’s about presenting a version of yourself that you want people to know, but you can also be a dad behind-the-scenes and we’re championing that.”

The live show at House of Blues will celebrate two decades worth of material, and Willett says the band has particularly enjoyed presenting material from the past four years in a live setting.

“We rounded things up a bit to make this into a 20-year anniversary tour,” says Willett. “There were so many songs we recorded during the pandemic. We didn’t even know how they would work live. Now, we have the chance to play them live and stretch things out and make the most of things. I have the mindset now that I just want to write. I want to get the music out there, and I don’t care if it moves the needle for the band. This self-titled record is the story of the band in songs. It’s who we are.”

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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