Cold War Kids’ Nathan Willett Talks Wiping Slate Clean for New Albums and Tour

The Cold War Kids are starting anew postbellum.
The Cold War Kids are starting anew postbellum.
Rodrigo Villodoro
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Before heading out on the road with Cold War Kids for a long fall and winter tour in support of the band’s new album, New Age Norms, Vol. 1, singer Nathan Willett is at home doing some last-minute packing and finishing up some coloring with his daughter.

“It’s been some interesting psychological preparation,” Willett says of the process for gearing up to support an album that displays a different direction for the band. “I’m trying to channel a new kind of energy, and that’s a challenge because what we’re bringing is really fresh.”

When the band was on tour last summer, Willett and company became inspired by the continuous stream of Kanye West-produced albums, particularly those of Pusha T, Teyana Taylor and Kid Cudi. The albums were easily digestible, eight-song bursts with a fresh feeling that got the band to team up with longtime collaborator Lars Stalfors to produce a specific kind of album.

“I think I really deliberately wanted to do this three-volume New Age Norms idea because I felt like we still had a lot to explore creatively, musically and just how we operate,” Willett says. “We needed to shake up the model and do things differently. There's a lot of new in our lives. We've had some lineup changes over the years, and we're in a place now where the chemistry amongst us is just better than it's ever been.

“We’ve been playing some of these songs for 15 years. We needed to have that moment where we wiped the slate clean, and it just feels like this is that time for doing a three-volume thing.”

The first of these three volumes will be out Nov. 1, but fans in Dallas will get a preview of the album when Cold War Kids make their Wednesday, Oct. 9 stop at The Rustic. The plan is for the second volume to come out mid-next year and the third at some point after that.

“I think some of that was just organically,” Willett says of Vol. 1’s funkier, groovier sound. “This record definitely had more like outside writers than we've ever had before. We had Asa [Taccone] and Matt [Compton] from Electric Guest come in for half the record and that had a big impact on things.”

While the first volume of New Age Norms will show a natural progression from the band’s last three Stalfors-produced albums, Willett says the second volume will show the band returning to their Robbers & Cowards roots.

“It's definitely different,” Willett says. “We are finishing volume two with the producer Shawn Everett, who engineered the Alabama Shakes record [Sound & Color]. It’s the whole band getting into the room to just create and vibe and play off each other, which was a big part of what we did before the last few records.”

As for the third volume, things are still coming together, which Willett says is all a part of the fun of what he is calling Cold War Kids 2.0.

“You know, working in this way where we’re doing press for the first volume that is coming out and then finishing the second one, then being about halfway through with the third one is what I love,” Willett says. “To be in this mode where we’re slowly working through is the most fun thing of all — to feel like we are in an ongoing process of record creation. I think there's going to be something really unique and special that each volume has its own category.”

Dallas holds a special place in Willett’s heart, going all the way back to the band’s first tour when they played the now defunct Gypsy Tea Room & Ballroom.

“It was kind of like a wild night,” Willett remembers. “It was a fun period for us where we were just finding out who we were. Being with some really different artists like I think Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Dr. Dog was really enjoyable. We were all playing and crossing over in our show. It was fun.”

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