California four piece Cold War Kids have long been critics favourites for their soulful take on indie rock. Early releases such as Robbers and Cowards and Loyalty To Loyalty saw the band break onto the national stage with their raw and charmingly genuine approach to songwriting, coupled with an intense touring schedule throughout. 2011 saw the release of Mine Is Yours, a record from which the band were predicted to follow musical peers such as Arcade Fire and The National down the lines of breaking out of the underground and into the mass market, adding a radio friendly pop element but without compromising the punk spontaneity and raw intimacy that built them.
Mine Is Yours received mass critical acclaim, showcasing some of the bands best work to date, however not all was right from within the four piece. Shortly after its release the band parted ways with guitarist Jonathan Russell, forcing the band to regroup and rethink their next steps for what already looked to difficult fourth record and follow up to arguably their most successful work.
Late last year the band announced the addition of new guitarist and former Modest Mouse member Dan Gallucci, as well as the news of their fourth record Dear Miss Lonely Hearts. Coming to life at the band's San Pedro studio space, the band enlisted Gallucci as well as Mars Volta and Funeral Party producer Lars Stalfors to work on the record, spawning an upbeat indie pop sound that merges equal parts the stylings of Mine Is Yours with a new found drive and flare, showcased on leading single 'Miracle Mine'.
We caught up with Nathan Willett, taking a break from rehearsals ahead of the bands recently announced live dates to talk about the concept behind Dear Miss Lonely Hearts, rebuilding the band with Gallucci and retaining their punk spirit.
You're on the verge of releasing Dear Miss Lonely Hearts, your fourth full length, what did you set out to achieve with this record?
I think there's a combination of things, because we have a new guitarist and studio of our own there were a lot of boundaries that we didn't have to set out to change, they just played themselves out. We wanted to have certain songs that were very true to our sound, and some that go off in different directions. There's some that have like an electro dance vibe and some straight up rock songs with more of a live kind of feel.
This release comes just over a year from Mine Is Yours, which received great critical acclaim, the quick turn around suggests a band that have really found their footing, musically.
Well yes and no, through loosing our old guitar player and gaining a new one in the last year, it was in some way a year of rebuilding the band. We were really happy with Mine Is Yours, but we felt we needed to mix things up and find a more sure direction. We've been trying to mix things up but keep them fresh. We got busy right away, we didn't want to sit around and waste time. We've always tried to move really quickly and keep a good momentum.
You've stated before that where the initial records dealt with more vicarious and fictional lyrical concepts, Mine Is Yours was a more personal album for the band. What is the inspiration and theme behind Dear Miss Lonely Hearts?
I guess it's kind of an evolution of everything we've done, there are some narrative pieces, there's some more personal and abstract all mixed in. We didn't want it to be too much one thing, or too conceptual, it's a little bit of everything.
This is the bands first release with new guitarist Dan Galluci (Modest Mouse), how did this new dynamic effect putting together the new record?
It was a new way to think in many ways; being the producer of the record he was wearing a lot of hates. With his experience in Modest Mouse and making records, there was a freedom; he was quick to let us experiment whilst still retaining Cold War Kids sound. He helped push us to places we may not have gone before hand.
Can you give us more of an insight into the new album title?
It's taken from a book 'Miss Lonely Hearts' by Nathanial West, an American writer from the 1930s. It's the story of a guy who's an advice columnist who has this spiritual crisis when he realizes that he cant give advice to all these people, he's hit a point where he cant give really generic advice anymore. He's trying to find out how to help people in a genuine way. That story felt really significant to me and I really identified with it.
In regards to helping people through your music?
In a broad way, as an artists and musician you write songs for a broad reason, in some ways for yourself, but also for other people to find meanings and things that you didn't necessarily intend to. We've been doing this for four records now and you slip into something else, for me being a writer is not just about writing a perfect story, but writing something that's quite surprising and kind of weird. To know the songs have message weather or not you want them to and to know that people take advice from them in some way is really great.
Cold War Kids have always undertaken a heavy touring schedule, how do you feel that has affected the way that the band write?
I guess in some ways we didn't tour the last record as much as we normally do, due to internal issues, we knew that we would need to switch guitar players. We began to loose momentum on that record and maybe it came off a little misunderstood. We hope to tour this one quite a bit more, I feel that on a fourth record with a new member we feel a lot more reconnected to what we're doing.
You've chosen to release weekly trailers of studio sessions, in the build up to this release, what do you feel is the importance of giving you're fan an insight into you're creative process?
The art and the videos and everything has always been a vehicle to have more content and more meaning contributing to the record, it's always been a big part of our band. It gives people a little taste of the music that's there, the people that are our fans always stick really close to us and appreciate hearing new things, so it's just a fun way to get things out.
With recent material the band have managed to develop into a more mainstream audience without compromising your initial appeal or alienating your core fan base, how do you think that's been made possible?
Because from the very beginning being an independent band has always been really important to us, plus it came about in an age of myspace and the internet being such a phenomenon for bands, that we were at the middle of. I feel it's still crossed over to us now. With social media it's so easy to connect to people in a million ways, we've come from a place where we've always had such a strong dialogue with our fans, through everything from artwork, to contact. You in some way loose the power to gauge the connection your making, but I guess you just keep hammering away at it.
Lastly, what's your favourite track from the new record and why?
There's a song called 'Lost That Easy' it's probably my favourite one, it definitely has that different direction on being more 'dancey', but it's also a dark song. It has a continuation of the last record but also something new for us. It's really special and I'm really excited for people to discover it on the record.
Cold War Kids release Dear Miss Lonelyhearts on April 1st via Downtown Records/Cooperative Music. They play the Forum in London on May 9th, and the Ritz in Manchester on May 10th. Head here for more information.