No matter what you might feel about the state of indie rock today, it's impossible to deny that Long Beach, California's Cold War Kids have carved an impressive niche for themselves. Merging early-aughts indie and blue-eyed soul with heartfelt piano ballads and pop melodies, the band has both defined the terms of the conversation around them and not succumbed to the pressure of being defined by those conventions.
Now, after 15 years and seven full-length albums, Cold War Kids has announced a new addition to their catalog: an eight-song EP titled New Age Norms Volume 1, which includes the recently released "4th of July" and "Complainer," both you've surely heard on the radio by now.
I spoke with singer Nathan Willett ahead of the Meow Wolf show about the tour, saying goodbye to nostalgia, and the new EP.
SFR: How’s the tour prep going?
Nathan Willett: It's going good. I'm excited. I always have a little bit of bittersweet feeling, leaving home and family and actually packing … and all of that.
You’ve been at this for 15 years, which is a long time for any band—how do you keep things going for that long without getting burned out?
I think music is so funny in that way, even in what might be the worst of times, it's the best thing that I could imagine doing. It's such a gift to be in a place where we can look back on so much music that we've released and touring that we've done. We've had certain songs that do well on the radio, and I think that's worth a lot, but at the same time, it's the story of a band. That to me is the best thing that you could hope for and to be: to be bigger than any one song or video or moment.
In the track “Fine Fine Fine,” you sing “No nostalgia, I’m glad that it’s done.” It almost feels like an ad hoc Viking funeral for Robbers & Cowards-era CWC. Is this a new beginning for the band moving forward?
That's totally what it is. It's almost a scrappy operation to get older and write about it. I almost feel a little nervous about that. When music is your whole identity, these songs are all moments in your life, so having a lot of them feels like you're telling your story. We're closer to that than we ever were. It's very liberating.
This album seems lighter and more compact (at least sonically) than previous efforts. Was that intentional?
I think we're always building on the thing that came before, it's definitely more compact and a drier, more straightforward album in a lot of ways.
In the song “Complainer,” there’s this really cool juxtaposition between the personal in the verse, and the chorus, where it seems to turn to a direct political call to action, can you talk a bit about the two halves of the song and where the two meet?
The writing of this was the most self-aware I was. The song starts by saying 'Do you really believe in magic?' Like, are you really the person that thinks that change is even possible, are you even that idealistic? Are you the kind of person that follows up? And in the end, the last line is 'You must really believe in magic.' There's this really redeeming thing, like 'You seem like the person that's really gonna follow up with those claims.'
You have gained a bit of a reputation as a lover of classic literature, was there anything in particular that you were reading during the creation of New Age Norms?
You know, that's something I should have a prepared answer for, but I never do. Let's see,I've been reading Among the Thugs, which is about English soccer hooligans. It's one of my favorite books that I've ever read. I always have a copy of something by John Fante with me. The Elena Ferrante Neopolitan Novels as well.
Thanks so much for your time and I’m looking forward to the show!
I adore that city, and I'm excited to actually be playing there!
Cold War Kids:
7 pm Monday Oct. 14. $35*.
1352 Rufina Circle,
*This show is sold out, but certainly a resourceful fan could find tickets online