When Cold War Kids singer Nathan Willett and bassist Matt Maust get really into a live performance you might see the two butting heads, literally.
“We’ve always had this physical thing that a ways into it I think we kind of figured out was a weird way of getting out nervous energy,” says Willett. “I don’t know where it came from.”
Willett says he and Maust butt heads creatively too, but that has been an essential component of the band’s chemistry for the past decade.
“It drives us both,” he says. “In some ways, maybe I didn’t butt heads enough with the other guys.”
The “other guys” he is referring to are the two founding members who have departed in the past few years, leaving Willett and Maust as the only original Cold War Kids in the band.
“The friendships move into these constantly-working relationships,” says Willett. “It’s kind of a miracle that anybody makes it out of that and I think the natural organic shelf-life of any band in that situation is probably like three years at the most, which is kind of how it would work in the ’60s. A band would only last that long because it’s kind of impossible for four people or more to have the same vision for something beyond that.”
But Willett and Maust seem to have found new partners in sound who do share their vision. The band’s latest album, “Hold My Home,” released in October, features new full-time members Joe Plummer on drums and Matthew Schwartz on keys. Former Modest Mouse guitarist Dann Gallucci replaced original guitarist Jonnie Russell before Cold War Kids’ 2013 album, “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts.”
Willett says the new lineup has led to a breakthrough in their approach to recording.
“As far as the studio relationship goes, it definitely is different now,” he says, citing the song “First,” which kicks of “Hold My Home,” and was actually the last song the band recorded.
“It came through a very strange way, where basically I had recorded the vocals way past when we thought we were done with everything on the record and then we changed some drums around and added this guitar part and it ended up being this song that we really love,” he says. “We’re going to start working in the studio again with that in mind.”
The songs on “Hold My Home” all move with a vital agitation that arguably has been missing in recent Cold War Kids releases. Words like “dark” and “broken” are recurring and one of the brightest moments on the album involves a narrator in a hotel room who feels a deep human connection when he hears a couple in the room next door get it on. So, is everything in the Willett household going OK?
“I had a friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time who said the same thing,” laughs Willett. “I think that it makes for a very strange relationship, in a way, because there’s a lot that comes out in the music that you probably can’t even have conversations about.”
He says his spouse doesn’t read too deeply into his lyrics.
“I’m actually really glad that my wife is not curious at all about that,” he says. “I think there’s a very deliberate naïveté when it comes to that, which I love. I don’t necessarily want to understand the lyrics better than I do and I certainly don’t want to have to explain them to somebody who’s such a part of them.”