COLD WAR KIDS
By larry may
Each musical generational highway is littered with the remains of buzz worthy bands that are white hot on Tuesday, and are frigid and in cut out bins by Friday. The last examples were the Medusa’s head known in the 1990s as SugarSmashChumbaEyeBlind. Of that stellar group, only Matchbox 20 has a sustainable career. The difference in buzz bands now is that instead of bloated record labels pushing mediocrity to us, we get bombarded by the ever-steady hand of music bloggers. Tapes N Tapes, Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah, blah blah. The latest entry of web-endorsed bands is the Cold War Kids. The band is complying with all of the demands of Internet fanboys, and seem to be doing the job required of all musicians: supplying great music. So far, so good. It remains to be seen if this group can make it, but I for one, really hope they do.
I spoke with the band’s singer and multi-instrumentalist, Nathan Willett. His answers were succinct, and relayed a sense of purpose that doesn’t accompany an artist his age. His end of the conversation didn’t really seem to mesh with the energetic whirlwind I had seen in video footage.
Q. Can you tell a little about your experiences before forming the band?
A.I got into music really late. It was after starting college at Biola, that I became interested.
Q. How did the name of the band come about?
Our bass player, Matt, was in Budapest and saw statues of all the old Communist leaders, and they were all falling and broken, and it reminded him of the time frame we all grew up in. We’re all definitely children of that age.
Q. Can you describe a few of the first shows you guys played?
A. We were really scared, and there wasn’t much of an audience. A lot of friends and family. Strange, very strange. And small.
Q. How does the music come together for your band?
A. We’ve always been really about collaboration. That’s the model we’ve always strived for, and hope to keep.
Q. Where did the inspiration for this album come from?
A. For “Mexican Dogs”, we went on tour in Mexico and decided to tour Mexico City. While we were walking around, we saw a group of black dogs, and it seemed like a great metaphor for a song we had about having no home, just wandering around, with no one to take care of them. For “Something Is Not Right With Me”, that song started with that expression that implies someone feels different, but morphed into a story about someone who is out of touch with technology, and the world is passing them by. It could be described as an existential issue.
Q. That segues well into the start of the band, and how much push you received from the Internet.
A. It definitely played a great part in our popularity. We’re so grateful for it.
Q. Given the popularity afforded you by the Internet, how hard is it to embrace the technological advances while still trying to sell physical records?
A. There’s a side of me that wishes it was like the old days, and we could just sell records. But I haven’t resisted technology at all. I like having an Ipod, and I like getting music from people for free. To a certain degree, as an artist, I’m really just concerned with my label finding all the different ways they can to make us money. If that comes in lieu of selling records, I’m fine with that. Downtown is kind of at the crux of figuring out how the battleground will present itself, and figuring out creative ways to make money.
Q. Is that something you discussed with Downtown before you signed your label deal?
A. That was one aspect of it, but it wasn’t’ necessarily part of them being ahead of the pack. As far as digital goes, they have done their job.
Q. Are you still interested in traditional formats like radio?
A. It’s something we have resources for, and we’re not fighting against it, but we don’t record with it in mind. After the album is released, if radio likes it, we’re all for it.
Cold War Kids have all the momentum going for them right now. They could be part of an experiment to see if musical careers can be profitable without using all of the traditional avenues. The songs and the effort is there, let’s just see if the bloggers are willing to part with some money to reward their effort.