Interview with Nathan Willett of The Cold War Kids

[Interview by David J. Miller]

The Cold War Kids are in the midst of a tour that brings them to the City of Brotherly Love on Friday, January 31st, 2020 at The Fillmore. Back in November, lead singer Nathan Willett spoke with us about the new album, their live show, the challenges of adapting to new band members, and a few curveballs.

Independent Philly: ‘New Age Norms Volume 1’ is due out next month. Is ‘Complainer’ an ode to the internet warriors that sit around and complain on social media instead of taking real-world action?

Nathan Willett: That is definitely a big part of it, yes. For sure. New Age Norms are anything that is very now, that wasn’t yesterday: the new rules. From the idea of canceling people to the idea of what you can and can’t say. Being self-aware of what you are saying relative to who you are and where you come from, is an important thing that shows a great evolution as to where we find ourselves. In writing it, I tried to be very aware of not just coming from a place of great privilege. Hopefully, it has a more universal appeal that people outside of myself can relate to.

Independent Philly: What was your thinking of releasing the new music as a trilogy: three albums, eight songs per album?

Nathan Willett: Originally it kind of came from the idea that we were doing the first volume with more outside help than we ever have before. With the second volume, we had a full band playing together, live, which was a total departure from the first volume. That’s when I realized that these are totally separate projects, in the process of making them, that should each be records. Volume three is yet to be finished or we’ll see how that has its own voice.

Independent Philly: Your tour is about to kick off. We’ll be seeing you here in Philly on January 31, 2020. What can fans expect from a Cold War Kids show if they’ve never seen you perform live before?

Nathan Willett: We are going to definitely be playing a lot of new songs which is very fun and something you always want to do at the start of a new record. We are in a better place to do that than ever before with all of the new stuff plus the stuff that’s kind of rear-view-mirror looking. We are a band that’s been together for a long time and I think we’re really good.

Independent Philly: Speaking of which, you and Matt Maust have been in the band since its inception. Has it been hard to adjust to the new band members along the journey?

Nathan Willett: Great question. The changing of line-ups has been the most difficult part of the band. Those relationships, and friendships, as they merge with the business along the way and the creative process, and all of those things get intertwined. Band members changing have been some of the most devastating periods of my life, but at the same time, to get to the place where we are now, where the five of us are almost like a new thing, is really happy and confident. It’s a thing where, when the relationship is working really great, it’s actually pretty easy. When you have a dysfunctional relationship, you’re always trying to figure out how to solve all of these problems. Had it not been for the other guys and the chemistry that we had, we wouldn’t exist anymore. It’s almost like reassembling a band. The fact that we can still exist with the original spirit of the band, was somewhat of a miracle. It’s one of those things that we probably talk less about, and people ask less about in interviews, so you’re getting a look behind the curtain at one of the biggest obstacles to staying afloat.

Independent Philly: Do you have any personal favorite memories from a show here in Philadelphia?

Nathan Willett: We’ve had a lot of great shows there. We had a show with Dr. Dog at First Unitarian Church in 2008 or something that was just crazy, and cool, and had a million kids, and just felt very in-the-moment. Back then we weren’t playing in traditional venues as much so it was a different kind of room every night in these spaces that weren’t all originally designed as concert space for a rock band. I really remember that show being a special night.

Independent Philly: Curveball, do you believe in ghosts?

Nathan Willett: I do. My five-year-old daughter is obsessed with Halloween. I watch her and I don’t totally understand the attraction but I try to appreciate it. I believe in ghosts but I guess I don’t know what to do with that [belief].

Independent Philly: What was your daughter for Halloween this year?

Nathan Willett: Moana.

Independent Philly: Tell me something about yourself, or the band as a whole, that would surprise, or even shock, our readers.

Nathan Willett: Our band and crew have been together, cumulatively, for so long that how much we all laugh together, and the level of sarcasm used, is surprising. I don’t know if you really think of our band or the songs themselves as being funny, or irreverent really, but our band, and the style of humor that we have; these are some of the funniest dudes in the world. I don’t think people would assume that about us.

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