Cold War Kids Frontman Nathan Willett on New Album ‘LA Divine’ and Looking to a Higher Power
The Cold War Kids are still going strong ten years after their debut album. For their latest, “LA Divine,” they decided to salute their California roots but also go beyond the surface and address major topics that have impacted their world and their fans. Entertainment Voice spoke with lead singer Nathan Willett and he opened up about what inspired the messages in “LA Divine,” how the collaboration with Bishop Briggs came about, and the group speaking on their beliefs in their music.
“LA Divine” is a salute to Los Angeles. At what point did you and the band decide you wanted to recognize the city with the album?
It was actually really early on. I had a line that said, ‘Los Angeles is divine and music is worship.” I love that line. We ended up not using the song for the record but everything moved around that line. It felt right and appropriate. And then we started writing to that in a way when it subconsciously seems to be the theme of everything.
“LA Divine” has been described as a “politically charged” record. What inspired the band to go this direction?
I don’t know if I would say ‘politically charged’; if it’s a good or bad thing. I think we’re in a time where politics and letting your viewpoint be known is less political and more the new normal. I just think it was inevitable. This is the year that letting your thoughts on what’s happening in the world and being affected by it, it really wasn’t a choice anymore. Everyone is affected and you have to kind of say what you think. Of course that’s going to be in your music and in your art.
You address the stereotypes of Los Angeles residents in the video for “Restless.” What fueled you to speak on this?
I think there’s a view of Los Angeles that it’s very a “film place.” I think about music that we grew up with and it’s kind of just sex, drugs, rock and roll, and less about the places and the kind of style that we live in now. I think that image is changing a lot with the image of neighborhoods and smaller communities. I just wanted to show that, along with people in relationships and families. Just kind of a different perspective.
Cold War Kids collaborated with Bishop Briggs for “So Tied Up.” How did this decision come in to play?
I actually heard her song on the radio and I was blown away by her voice and how soulful and powerful it was. I felt like she was the female version of my voice. I was like ‘Wow! I want this girl on a song with me.’ it’s perfect because it’s a male-female thing. We switched parts so it turned out perfectly. I love it.”
“Love Is Mystical,” another song from “L.A. Divine,” speaks to the power of love and has received a good amount of attention. What does the song mean to you?
It’s at a time when people need to be reminded that love is not just physical or material, and attraction is bigger. There’s something supernatural happening – not just in our relationships but in the way we live our lives. It’s bigger than us. I wanted that to happen throughout the record. I think anytime there’s a lot of tragedy in a year like this, people start running out of answers and looking toward the supernatural and the mystical.
What was the band’s most memorable experience while creating the album?
Good question! I think it was so different to do it at a time when so much is happening in the world, and we’re touring and coming home and writing. It felt like it could be so current and show us that things that are bigger than us. I really think the song “So Tied Up” is like a moment of epiphany. It came very easy and very natural.
Which song on “LA Divine” resonates most with the personal experiences you were having during the process of creating the album?
Personally, I think there’s a few. I think “Part of the Night” and “Restless” both have to do with relationships. And I, being married and having been touring for the last 10 years – there’s such a struggle in distance that happens with a relationship and the sacrifices that you make. I think that is not something that’s not represented well in songs. So often you hear about new love or a breakup; but that really tough sort of long-term relationship and the sacrifices that you make, I think there’s a weird beauty in that and a lot of emotion in it. I think “Restless” especially has that in it, and I hope that it connects with people.
You have always been open about your faith and had to address stereotypes after making religious references in previous albums. Is this still something you deal with?
You know, it is but I feel like I’m sort of more open. I think I was pretty shy about it opposed to some first record reactions. I’m less inclined to think about faith and write about it. I know it’s very hard this time around with “L.A. Divine” and looking at “Love is Mystikal,” which is very supernatural and about looking toward God or whatever you want to call God and the higher power.
It’s been over a decade since Cold War Kids’ first album. How do you feel you and the band have evolved since the beginning?
This record in a lot of ways is kind of taking the original sounds in the band, and taking all the original tools and building the best songs around it. Keeping it lean and not wandering too much from the strengths we’ve always had.
“LA Divine” is available on Apple Music April 7.