Cold War Kids have a grown-up con­ver­sa­tion with Lau­ren Mur­phy,

Af­ter be­ing laid low by Dif­fi­cult Sec­ond Al­bum syn­drome, Cold War Kids spent time catch­ing up with friends who were ‘get­ting deep into com­mit­ment’. No sur­prise, then, that their new al­bum deals with ma­ture themes. But don’t worry: the mu­sic isn’t get­ting

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

IT’S EARLY 2006, and a lit­tle-known band from Cal­i­for­nia is lead­ing a rous­ing sin­ga­long in the cramped con­fines of Dublin’s Tri­pod. The re­frain, ad­mit­tedly, isn’t the cheeri­est – “I promised to my wife and chil­dren I’d never touch an­other drink as long as I live / But even then, it sounds sound sooth­ing to mix a gin and sink into obliv­ion” – but it’s de­liv­ered with a sur­pris­ing level of gusto and soul­ful pomp. We Used to Vacation, a cut from the quar­tet’s de­but Rob­bers & Cow­ards, re­mains their best-known song to date, even af­ter an­other al­bum (2008’s Loy­alty to Loy­alty) and a lot of tour­ing. But Nathan Willett, lead singer of the Long Beach band, doesn’t feel that the song is a neck-en­cas­ing al­ba­tross of any sort, even four years on.

“I guess I don’t think about it too of­ten,” he says down a crackly phone line from an un­usu­ally rainy Cal­i­for­nia. “A lot of our songs that peo­ple like are the ones that we re­ally like too, and I know that’s not al­ways the case. Bands write songs that maybe they didn’t love, and it be­comes their biggest hit. I don’t have any prob­lems with peo­ple be­ing at­tached to cer­tain songs. But at the same time you al­ways want peo­ple to have the same love for the newer ma­te­rial, and to feel like it’s evolv­ing.”

And when it comes to the newer ma­te­rial, the thir­tysome­thing singer is par­tic­u­larly buoy­ant. Loy­alty to Loy­alty may have gained a more re­spectable US chart plac­ing than its pre­de­ces­sor, but on this side of the At­lantic its fail­ure to launch meant that the Cold War Kids bub­ble was in real dan­ger of be­ing burst quicker than it had in­flated.

The four­some in­tend to make amends with their third record. Mine Is Yours isn’t ex­actly a repli­ca­tion of their de­but’s punchy in­die, but it’s a lay­ered, son­i­cally ma­ture record that re­wards re­peated lis­tens. That was par­tially down to the fact that the band made sure not to rush the process this time around.

“With pre­vi­ous record­ings we’d only spent a week or two in the stu­dio each time – we’d writ­ten all the songs be­fore­hand, and recorded them pretty much live. But we spent a few months on this one. We got to think much harder about it, and work through the parts a lot more. I got to spend a lot more time on lyrics, and had the time to make ev­ery­body wait for me to re­ally be happy with what I was do­ing, which was im­por­tant to me. It was dif­fer­ent for a lot of rea­sons, but I don’t think it’s an enor­mous de­par­ture from our sound; I just think it’s a much clearer vi­sion of it.”

The ti­tle is a dead give­away, too. As with their pre­vi­ous ma­te­rial, much of the al­bum deals with re­la­tion­ships – but this time it’s se­ri­ous.

“Be­fore this al­bum, we got to take some time off to re­con­nect with our friends, and I think it had a big ef­fect on all of us,” he says. “See­ing the places that peo­ple were at in their lives . . . a lot of our friends that we went to col­lege with are now com­ing into this time of life – of be­ing 30 and re­ally get­ting deep into com­mit­ment. We’ve seen peo­ple get mar­ried, we’ve seen peo­ple get di­vorced, we’ve seen peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence the whole gamut of re­la­tion­ships and com­mit­ment. And I think that’s why I knew what I wanted the al­bum to be about.”

Sure, lyrics such as “I’ll take out the garbage, I’ll squeeze your juice / So good to be mak­ing scram­bled eggs with you” hint at do­mes­tic bliss, but does that mean that their fizz has been taken out of the mu­sic? Does it ’eck. Mine Is Yours dis­plays enough vari­a­tion be­tween their trade­mark bluesy stomps ( Cold Toes), slow-build­ing tunes with mem­o­rable cho­ruses ( Bull­dozer and Fi­nally) and slinky soul num­bers ( Good­night Ten­nessee) to keep things tick­ing over. Al­though the band quickly recorded a stop­gap EP, Be­have Your­self with the man who pro­duced their first two al­bums last year, their third record was over­seen by Jac­quire King, who has pre­vi­ously twid­dled knobs for ev­ery­one from Tom Waits to Kings of Leon.

“I think Loy­alty was kind of a darker al­bum, and in many ways the cliche of the ‘dif­fi­cult sec­ond al­bum’,” Willett chuck­les. “There wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily a clar­ity to it. In ways, I guess it kind of lacked vi­sion. And y’know, for the first two al­bums, we didn’t re­ally have any song­writ­ing in­put in the stu­dio. With Jac­quire, I think we wanted to have some­body who had a greater vi­sion for the sound, and where it could go. Some­body who could re­ally son­i­cally lift ev­ery­thing we do up a notch.

“A lot of it was trust­ing him, based on the al­bums he’s recorded. I think he’s re­ally great at help­ing artists find their own sound, and I think he did that with us.”

King was also happy to place an em­pha­sis on one of the band’s key fea­tures: Willett’s soul­ful war­ble. As com­par­a­tively dis­tinct as all three of their al­bums are, the singer’s voice has been amainstay of their sound, and­some­thing that has set Cold War Kids apart from their peers, both past and present. Back in 2006, the band were part of a tidal wave of in­die acts from the US and Canada that in­cluded Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Tapes ’n Tapes and The Spinto Band. Now that that wave has sub­sided some­what, there’s no “scene” to float in on, no con­ve­nient foothold al­ready wedged in the moun­tain.

“It’s hard,” he agrees. “We toured with a lot of those bands, and it wasn’t un­til af­ter the sec­ond al­bum that I re­alised how un­like a lot of them we are. I think we al­ways kind of knew that we’d sur­vive and grow through that phase, so yeah, it’s one rea­son amongst so many oth­ers that I think

irish­times.com/cul­ture

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