STORY WRITTEN BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER
For 21st Century Media
Ten years after forming and seven after scoring a hit with the infectious “Hang Me Up to Dry,” indie rock outfit Cold War Kids have just released their fifth record, “Hold My Home,” which is easily their most immediate and ambitious since 2006’s major label debut Robbers & Cowards.
“The first record, we were such a live band that had been touring and playing and refining the songs live for a couple years before recording and putting them out,” said Cold War Kids frontman Nathan Willet, checking in via phone from his home in Southern California. “And of course the story with any band is that you don’t really ever get to do that again.”
Yet here they are, somehow managing to sound fresh and vibrant, finding that rawness and spontaneity that is more indicative of a band just getting their start instead of celebrating a decade of existence. Come Saturday night at Union Transfer, Cold War Kids will put new songs up against old for a dedicated audience.
“We’re always trying to get back to that thing, to have the songwriting expand and become sonically more sophisticated and at the same time have that raw, nervous energy,” Willet said. “I feel like this record is the best example of that that we’ve had so far of some ways capturing what we had with the first record.”
New songs like “Hot Coals,” and “First,” the former with the lyrics, “Try to unwind/To enjoy the good life/But the pressure that I hold/On my shoulders goes,” could be a metaphor for trying to stay afloat in an ever changing musical landscape. And in an industry with the mantra, “Here today/gone yesterday” becoming more and more commonplace, it’s quite the achievement to remain a lively force.
“I think we’re tremendously lucky and I think we made really good decisions,” Willet said. “It’s interesting, if anything, in more recent years, I’ve never talked to anyone who has had the same experience we’ve had. We chose who and where we wanted to make our records and we made them and gave them to the label — and that was it. And they put them out happily and were supportive and that was it.”
“The growth of these five records has been our own growth and not somebody saying, “Where’s the single?” It was always going to our own place and doing what we wanted to do.”
A key element in that freedom is having their own studio, which Cold War Kids had built a few years ago outside the sometimes stifling confines of Los Angeles, opting to head across the bridge for the sleepy San Pedro. Not having to worry about being on the record label’s dime can be absolutely liberating for a band, and reduces that pressure that tends to suffocate some artists.
“By virtue of not paying for studio time, we get to take advantage of the fact that while we have still been releasing albums in the traditional way, and on the record label and everything, we can get more creative with the way we put stuff out,” Willet said. “At the end of the day, we can write songs all day long; we also want to make sure our fans are coming along with us and are aware of what we’re doing. That’s kind of the story of where we are now.”
IF YOU GO
What: Cold War Kids
When: Saturday, Oct. 25.
Where: Union Transfer, 1024 Spring Garden St., Philadelphia.
Tickets: $25. Call (877) 435-9849
Info.: Check www.utphilly.com or call (215) 232-2100.