For their third studio album, Long Beach, CA, quartet Cold War Kids were ready to polish and expand their scrappy indie blues and soul-punk sound into a career-defining, breakout rock record. So, when the boys hit the studio last February forMine Is Yours (out January 25), they called in a specialist: Kings of Leon producer Jacquire King.
“It has a grand and sprawling sound,” frontman Nathan Willett tells SPIN of his band’s new effort. “[It’s] a big, ornate rock record.”
For the new album, Cold War Kids — Willett, drummer Matt Aveiro, bassist Matt Maust, and guitarist Jonnie Russell– upgraded from their practice loft in San Pedro, CA, to high-end studios in Nashville and Los Angeles. King referred to the band by ex-Modest Mouse guitarist Dann Gallucci, who worked with King on the Seattle band’s 2004 tour de force Good News for People Who Love Bad News — forced the Kids to spend more time than ever in the studio.
While they’d recorded their previous efforts over just a few days, Cold War Kids labored over every detail of Mine Is Yours‘ 11 songs for over three months, layering and overdubbing multiple tracks to reach their ideal sound. “We really strapped down and wrote songs that are more ornate and intricate than anything we’ve done before, while also refining and capturing the wildness of our live shows,” Willett explains.
Mine Is Yours also finds Willett exploring new territory lyrically. Their first two releases — 2006’s Robbers & Cowards and 2008’s Loyalty to Loyalty — were “very character driven,” says Willett, but the upcoming effort “speaks for me.”
The recently married Willett, 31, was inspired by avant-garde film director, actor, and producer John Cassavetes to explore the complexities of his relationship. “[Cassavetes] emphasized that there’s nothing more interesting than a relationship between two people,” says Willett. “His  movie A Woman Under the Influence really hit me. It made me want write songs about the simple struggles between a man and woman.”
Among those songs is “Skip the Charades,” which is based on “the idea of using charades in a relationships” and “relationships being very theatrical,” explains Willett while rattling off a verse over the phone from his Long Beach home: “Let’s skip the charades / You’re seeing right through me anyway / Can we just speak plain? / We’re playing for the same team / I’m the one that’s acting like I’m so strong / You’re the one that’s acting like nothing’s wrong.”
“Bulldozer,” meanwhile, is about “plowing over a relationship to start over again on fresh soil,” he says. “For where I’m at in my life, in my thirties and still living around some of the friends that I went to college with, I’m seeing people grow up; they aren’t young anymore. People get married and divorced in such a short time now. They get hardened. It’s about friends of mine that haven’t been able to work it out, but it ends on a positive note.”
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