Cold War Kids Aim High On New LP ‘Mine Is Yours’

The four guys in Cold War Kids came to a decision a few years back: It’s time to go all in or get out.

Photo: John Davisson
Adding some indie-rock color.

The Long Beach, Calif., rockers had carved out a nice little niche over their first two albums using a do-it-yourself, punk-rock attitude to earn a fervent fan base and some buzz in the wider music community. But after their last album disappointed them in some ways, they realized it was time to stop treating the band like a hobby.

“We don’t want to lose the vibe we have, but we need to blossom and branch out or we’re pretty much going to be putting out the same record, you know, like a lot of bands do,” bassist Matt Maust said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but we don’t want to do that. I love a lot of bands for that, but we don’t want to be one of those bands right now.”

Maust paused for a moment, hit by an epiphany.

“It’s kind of weird,” he said. “I’ve never really said that out loud to anybody, but it feels good to say that. Check back with me in two years and see how I feel. All good art is contradictory, and I might deny this whole thing ever happened.”

In interviews during a stop at Jack White’s Third Man Records in Nashville and by phone, Maust and lead singer Nathan Willett painted the picture of a band that found itself at an existential crossroads as it prepared for its third album, Mine is Yours, out last week.

Photo: Scott Legato /
Vic Theatre, Chicago, Ill.

Their previous album, 2008’s dark Loyalty to Loyalty, sold more copies than the band’s shiny 2006 breakthrough, Robbers and Cowards, but it wasn’t met with the same kind of fervor.

What the band had at that point was fun. But it just didn’t feel important. Or permanent.

In some ways, the process that produced the band’s latest album, Mine Is Yours, shows the Kids have grown up and realized they could have a future in music, not just a youthful dalliance that peters out over time. Maust and Willett have both edged into their 30s and Willett and guitarist Jonnie Russell have started families.

Willett remembers shrugging his way through interviews for Loyalty. He’d grown up on a steady diet of bands like Fugazi and the “screw you” attitude of the Southern California, do-it-yourself punk and hardcore scenes, and affected a similarly “so what?” outlook when interviewers brought up silly things like expectations.

It just wasn’t cool to want a … career. Or was it?

“I realized I had huge desires and ambitions for our band, and I kind of acted like I hadn’t before, so a lot of that is playing into this record,” Willett said. “I think that this album, Mine is Yours, I hope that it opens a lot of doors for us, just in terms of more artists we can work with, more opportunities to record. I think it just showed us we are capable of a lot more.”

Cold War Kids brought in Jacquire King to help with the new album. A subtle producer whose credits stretch all the way from Tom Waits to Norah Jones to Kings of Leon, King is known as a patient collaborator who can show a band the path – without forcing them to take it.

Instead of bringing finished songs to King, the band, which also includes drummer Matt Aveiro, put together interesting bits and pieces and moved into a house together in Nashville where they spent two months – rather than two weeks – working over the new music. What emerged from those sessions is a more complex work – both musically and thematically – about commitment and relationships and entering a new stage in life.

King has helped similarly placed bands find the next level. He produced Modest Mouse’s breakthrough, Good News For People Who Love Bad News, and has guided Kings of Leon from indie darlings to international stardom.

Photo: Lynn Allen /
Henry Maier Festival Park, Milwaukee, Wisc.

“We’re a unique band in so many ways,” Willett said. “I think there’s a place for us. We’ve existed in this space kind of between being an indie band and touring all the time and doing pretty well, and also having this kind of mainstream radio play, and kind of always being right in between there. I think this record will really satisfy all kinds of people who have listened to us and those who haven’t before.”