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Cold War Kids shifts direction; hopes to expand its fan base

Parker Dial
The Cold War Kids
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Cold War Kids are making a stop at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room at 9 p.m. Friday, April 8.

I recently had an opportunity to talk to the band’s main attraction, lead singer Nathan Willett, whose voice is as soulful as it gets. This man’s voice belongs to something beyond today’s music, the melody and depth he delves into is something that hasn’t been heard fro since the voices of Motown’s heyday.

The Cold War Kids are a band on the verge of a change. The new album, “Mine is Yours,” is a shift in a new direction for the band, Willett told me the day after a sold out show in Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club.

“We did a bunch of things different for this album,” he said. “The first two records we recorded in a really short time, each about a week or two. When you record quickly like that, there are always things that you wish you had had more time for.”

The Kids used a new producer, Jaquire King, who previously helped the Kings of Leon bridge the gap from indie royalty to mainstream sing-a-long champions with “Only by the Night,” and who is known for bringing acts on the verge to the forefront of the music world.

This outside help was a step away from the Cold War Kids’ usual method of recording live in as few takes as possible.

“With this album we did a lot of overdubs, a lot more layering of sounds and guitars, Willett said. “We had a chance to really work out the tones and work try a lot of different instruments.”

Their first studio album, “Robbers and Cowards,” was a masterpiece. It threw out a sound that had not been heard from before. With Willett’s vocals leading the charge, it brought you through the depths of the human soul. On songs like “We Used to Vacation,” the singer brings you through the mindset of a man struggling with the stresses of his life where nothing will sate his restlessness and the only escape is the one thing he has promised to give up.

This departure has not seemed to affect the bands intensity live, as most shows have already been sold out for the tour.

“We’re already about three weeks into the tour and most of the shows have been sold out and really fun and crazy,” Willett said.

Their sets include about half new songs and the other half consisting of their older stuff, so it is hard to tell if their new direction is what is taking this band to the next level.

The Cold War Kids are a band that has been labeled “Indie” since its beginnings, but with this new record are shedding that label and encouraging their fans to overlook this effort. Asked if this effort has changed their band, and that without this label the band is no longer considered cool, Willett simply replied, “No, we’re still the same band.”

With a listen, you can tell that the singer is telling the truth. You can hear that it is the same band, but is just reaching out towards a larger audience. The songs speak to a broad audience, asking questions and telling stories about the human condition. Stories and songs that deal with the “push and pull of human relationships, the glue that holds them together, and the equilibrium they sometimes find.”

Willett studied literature in college, and believes his songs “come out of places that you don’t entirely know, that come from where you can’t see.” His reading list contains authors like Doestoevsky, David Foster Wallace and Flannery O’Connor, all of whose influence is readily seen in the lyrics that adorn the soul-punk music this band composes.

From a singer who confessed that when his band plays this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival that the artist he wants to see most is Kanye West, the ups and downs of the human condition are worn on his shoulder.

The Cold War Kids are a band headed in a bigger direction. Its music is something that is a rarity these days, they have actual talent. They previously played the Crown Room at North Shore’s Crystal Bay Casino, and this year are playing nearly every huge festival the world has to offer, including Lollapalooza in Chile, Bonnaroo in Tennessee, and Coachella in Southern California. Their live act is where this band shines, without the big shot producers and overdubs but with the full-bodied melody of Nathan Willett’s strong voice in your face and in your ears.


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