There’s a defining angst and clear emotional response elicited by the Cold War Kids’ catalog of songs.
“We Used to Vacation” smolders with its imagery of contemporary life gone bad. Other tracks like “I’ve Seen Enough” and “Hang Me Up to Dry” are delivered with equal intensity by lead vocalist and songwriter, Nathan Willett.
Willett and his band mates honed their signature sound in Southern California. Since the band’s inception in 2004, it has wowed the college music charts and impressed crowds from Coachella to Reading Festival in the UK. I spoke with Willett about the band’s forthcoming show at Pappy & Harriett’s Pioneertown Palace on Feb. 15, as well as the first single “Miracle Mile” off Cold War Kids’ latest LP, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts.
Your single “Miracle Mile” recently dropped and it’s got very thoughtful lyrics. What was the inspiration behind the song?
It’s funny because it was the very last song that we wrote for the album. And it kind of came about the quickest in a way. Sometimes I think really hard about the lyrics but this one was really simple. Miracle Mile is the stretch of Wilshire Blvd. in L.A. and that name was just so striking.
How does being a band from California influence your sound and the music that you make?
We grew up in the height of Southern California groups like No Doubt and Offspring. We started the band when I was 24, which is sort of old enough to be reacting against the things I grew up with. I think we all sort of related more to New York bands or British bands – bands that weren’t from Southern California.
But your sound is so distinctive. That has to come from somewhere. What kind of instruments do you guys play?
We’re kind of all over the place. I like playing Fender guitars all the time. I’m a little boring that way. [Guitarist] Dann likes playing lots of different Harmonies, Silvertone – lots of older guitars. At this point, we just sort of have so much gear that we’ve built up in this studio in San Pedro. We play so much of everything.
I’ve noticed that Harmony guitars have gotten really popular lately. What is it about that particular instrument that you like so much?
There’s so much more character to them. I think the White Stripes playing with them has gotten so many people interested in them. You used to be able to find those guitars, great ones, for, like, $500. Now, they’re triple.
Nathan, you’ve got such a clever way of delivering music to your fans through your playing, singing and songwriting. But who do you actually like to listen to?
I loved the Frank Ocean record from the very beginning. That was one of my favorite things that I’m really happy is so popular.
What about Odd Future? Does that interest extend over to them?
I’m completely not interested in Odd Future at all. I just like [Frank Ocean]. There’s also this guy called Matthew Dear and I’m really into his record a lot. It’s kind of electronica.
Well, in just a few short days, you’ll be returning to the desert for your show at Pappy & Harriet’s. When you’re in town, where do you like to spend your down time as a band?
We’ve gone to Ace Hotel a lot. If we’re feeling really adventurous, we hang out at the Parker hotel for a little brunch action. Or going on little hikes while we’re there.
What can fans of Cold War Kids expect from the Pappy & Harriet’s show and the other performances that you’ll be doing in support of Dear Miss Lonelyhearts?
The whole thing has so much newness to it because we’re playing all of those songs for the first time. We’re probably going to play 7 or 8 songs from the new record, so that should be pretty interesting.
Cold War Kids will play Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace (53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown) on Feb. 15. The single “Miracle Mile” is available for download on iTunes. For more on the band, visit www.coldwarkids.com