“We’re walking a thin line here,” Willett told me of going a less travelled path than bluesy, chord-changing contemporaries like The White Stripes and Black Keys. “People want certain things from us and we want certain things with evolving, and [‘Miracle Mile’] felt like a really happy place for everybody.” In terms of that growth, Willett feels Dear Miss Lonelyhearts “accomplished a lot of things that I think we kind of wanted to work towards with the last record as far as exploration.”
And explore they do. Known for frequenting art galleries and museums in each city they travel to (they’re freshly back from visiting a Dieter Roth exhibit in Chelsea before our chat and were amazed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Outsider Art show), Nathan and Matt have strong artistic visions on the boil. While the Cold War Kids vocalist reconciles penning and singing songs for a rock band with his English major tendency to over-analyze the written word, Maust —whose imagination is behind all of the band’s album art and merch— too seeks an interwoven balance between the group and his mixed media photocopy prints and film side projects.
Constantly injecting his personal life into his songwriting, Nathan is relieved to confirm that his wife of almost five years has never once had a conversation with him about what any lyrics are about—not ever. “That, in a weird way, is so essential,” he shares with gratitude. “[Her asking] that question spoils something, and there has to be that line for me.”
Allowing their peers, aesthetic inklings, and personal lives to keep them inspired, Willett and Maust don’t envision the evolution of Cold War Kids slowing anytime soon: “We want to get busy right away,” Willett urges after I ask if new music outside of DMLH is on the horizon. Having their own studio certainly helps, and after a year of rebuilding and re-inventing themselves after fracture, their focus is inward and optimistic.
Notorious for not finishing projects of old, both band members seemed pleased to describe how they’ve become more organized creatively in recent months. The kind of group that’s less interested in songs being perfect and more interested in finding innovative ways to release a high influx of material, the California quartet can look forward to upcoming dates on their domestic and European tours, opening a handful of shows for The Lumineers, and then headlining a bigger show schedule in the fall without worrying about ideas getting lost during grueling hours spent on the road.