Cold War Kids

'It scares me how much America is willing to get behind one person, instead of themselves.'

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Posted 11th November 2008 in Features & Reviews, Cold War Kids | By Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
Cold War Kids

Cold War Kids have recently been to these shores to tour their second album 'Loyalty To Loyalty', the follow-up to 'Robbers And Cowards'.

Martin Guttridge-Hewitt spoke to bassist Matt Maust before the gig at Manchester, where he talks about American society, how they write their songs so quickly, and his most personal Cold War Kids song.

How do you find touring in the UK?
It's going well, we have been all over the place, and people have been going crazy. Last night was Dublin, which is not technically the UK, but they were still going crazy. Glasgow was really good, our Manchester shows have always been very good too.

Your second album is musically more sombre than the first, how does this reflect the production process and your experiences making it?
I think it reflects it pretty well. We are a different band now. The new record is much more rounded and warm sounding. It's a lot more live too you know, a lot of the songs are live takes. It's also much grittier and dirtier. A lot of this is down to the mixing, the first record was made a lot more radio friendly, but this time we didn't want to go down that route, so we had the same guy mix it that produced it - a guy named Kevin. He's much more hands on with the band. The album might be harder to digest though.

You have some pretty dark themes in your lyrics, and it's been said that Cold War Kids means International Blues. Do you really see the world being in such a bleak situation?
I haven't heard that in a long time. I guess we try and stay away from the blues. Blues in the US is kind of a dirty word right now. It's becoming a kind of bastardised word. Like blues clubs - it's not really where we want to be right now. We're promoting more of a soul-punk thing. Soul has not been nearly as tainted, as bastardised as the blues. We all grew up listening to punk - good punk not bad punk. I think now we are somewhere in between Sam Cooke, Nina Simone and The Clash.

You have cited the writer David Foster Wallace as a muse, and his work is often linked with excess, addiction and US culture and society. What's your take on US society today?
There are a lot of parts to that question. We are definitely very fat right now. We have a lot of stuff we don't need. And we want a lot of stuff we don't need. I think that's true for more than just America. With Obama, I think he can do a lot of good, but it scares me how much America is willing to get behind one person, instead of themselves. I went to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and I went to the speech the next day. I think before that I was much more of an out and out Obama supporter - and I still am - but the way people thought he was, I don't know, Jesus or something. It's kind of scary, when you see his face plastered all over the walls. Like Mau or something.

What's your favourite aspect of making music - writing, producing or performing?
I would say writing. About two days ago, we had an idea for this new song - we have been writing it whilst we sound check. Most of our songs kind of come from out of the air. They tend to be written very quickly... well they seem to be very quick or very slow. When we are writing we believe in letting the music just come. Within half an hour you can have the basic structure of a song, you might add this, they might add that. I think that this kind of writing is, or seems to be, dying out. I don't know many bands that write like that. They write good songs, but in a different way. I think we are a lot more collaborative.

Your music is often very personal. Are there any tracks in particular that reflect your life?
I think on the new record 'Everyman I Fall For' is very personal. It's written from a woman's perspective, but the subject of these terrible, detrimental relationships is universal. Unbalanced, lop-sided relationships are something everyone understands.

You never cite the individual writers of the songs on your albums. Why?
Again, just because we all are. We're a very communal band - what's mine is yours. We try and live that way. It can get messy sometimes, but that's what we try and do. I suppose that kind of sums the theme of the album - loyalty to the loyal.

How much input do you have towards the artwork for your albums?
We do it all ourselves. I'm kind of a spokesperson for it, if not the executor. I did the design and the layout for the new record. The photos were taken by Matt Wignall. He actually engineered two of our early EPs, and worked on the vocals on our new record. There's images of Mexico, Lithuania, Sweden and the US. Again, it's a very collaborative thing. You've got a song and he'll say "here's a photo - does it work?" He did the avalanches spread, which I think is very fitting.

Do you try to have coherent themes in your albums?
I would say the opposite. Like the record title for instance, we thought of it almost too late. The title was due and we still delayed for a couple of days. Press releases were sent out calling it 'Self Titled'. We never really have a concept to start off with. The concept kind of develops along the way.