Unlike most indie bands today, Cold War Kids were not an early adopter of synth. Instead, the Long Beach-based rock quintet made a name for itself as a live act, playing off each other organically, with poetic lyrics that riff on faith-based notions from lead singer Nathan Willett's youth. Their sound was raw and unproduced. But the 2014 iteration of CWK is a bit different. With the addition of former Modest Mouse guitarist Dann Gallucci and drummer Joe Plummer, the band has fully embraced the electronic elements they had previously shunned. "We've always listened to bands like New Order or Depeche Mode, who both used electronic sounds early on," Willett tells InStyle. "We started to ask ourselves, 'Why not? How can we evolve what we're doing and still be us?'"
What resulted is the band's fifth effort, Hold My Home (out now), an aptly titled record considering it was the very first one recorded under Willett's own roof in Los Angeles. The 11 songs featured pick up where 2013's Dear Miss Lonelyhearts left off, with a clearer, more progressive sound and upbeat rhythm. The first single, "All This Could Be Yours," is a heavy alt-rock anthem with tinges of pop, while "First" begins with an infectious boom-clap beat and graduates to loud, reverberating guitar strokes. We caught up with Willett (above, left) in the midst of CWK's current tour to discuss the band's religious influences and their understanding of home. Here's an excerpt from our chat:
Your previous albums have been inspired by works of literature. Did any specific title influence Hold My Home?
Well, there's that famous Tom Wolfe book, You Can't Go Home Again, which there's definitely some connection to because I had previously used it as a title for something. Your home is something that you can't hold—it's not a physical, literal holding. It's something that's intangible. I just grew to like it more.
What does home mean to you?
Personally, we spend so much time away from home. We've been touring now for 10 years, and just constantly trying to maintain some semblance of home. Three of the five of us have kids now. It's a weird way to live—there's not a lot of structure to it—so I think it's that idea of home not being a place that you would turn to. You never really get back to it once you leave, but it's something that's inside of you.
You had a pretty Catholic upbringing growing up in Southern California, and there was a ton of faith-based imagery in your first album Robbers & Cowards. How has your religion had an effect on your music? How has it shifted with the new album?
When the first record came out, a bunch of outlets started extracting these insane meanings of the stuff we were doing, and making it sound evangelical and conservative. I'll always remember that time and place and being like, "How do we even respond to that?" The religious imagery is definitely there and it's definitely important to me. In hindsight, I wonder if subconsciously I was less likely to use that explicit imagery in this record. I think it made me nervous after that, but I think there's still a lot of traces of it in everything we do.
Do you mean lyrically?
There's an element of faith in the music. These aren't songs that are just about love and relationships, they're about a spiritual longing, a longing for something bigger than the people around you or the material things around you. The music that has always moved me—Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone—has always been the most profound to me.
Watch the video for "All This Could Be Yours" below, and download Hold My Home for $10 from the iTunes Store.