Nathan Willett is aware of your concerns. The Cold War Kids frontman knows that his band’s decision to bring in producer Jacquire King and go for a more polished sound on its latest record, Mine Is Yours, has been met with raised eyebrows. The group—whose raw brand of soul-punk made them quick blogosphere favorites back in 2006—now finds itself facing some backlash from fans leery of the man behind “Sex On Fire.”
“A lot of people I think were very nervous and maybe even disappointed that we’d make an album with Jacquire because of their dislike of Kings of Leon or something,” Willett says. “It’s been really interesting to see people view this record through that lens when it’s really not the ambition of it at all.”
In truth, Mine Is Yours strikes a balance between unbridled energy and studio technique, leadership and collaboration, expectations and creative impulses. On the phone from a tour stop in Birmingham, England, Willett says the album is a natural progression in the Cold War Kids’ catalogue.
“I don’t think we ever felt like it was something that was hugely different,” he says. “It’s so hard to kind of know how much to let other people’s voices get in your mind. Like I know when we put Loyalty out, people would say stuff like they wanted us to evolve, wanted us to change more, so I think you kind of find the balance between listening a little bit out of curiosity and also, you know—we do what we do.”
Cold War Kids spent three months recording with King in Nashville, where according to Willett, they entered the studio without any finished songs and learned how to work together more effectively.
“I think bands are like little countries, where you have a bunch of people that don’t really have prescribed rules, and they have to figure out what works for them,” he says. “I never really wanted our band to be how so many bands are—where one guy is in control of everything and the rest kind of follow, and I think in many ways there are very few real bands where everyone collaborates and has a say in what happens…. For me it’s just a matter of learning how to be a better leader and how to write songs and allow everybody the space to perform them in ways that we can all be happy.”
The group will spend March touring the U.S. before playing the festival circuit this summer, and Willett is confident that its performances will win over the skeptics.
“The songwriting, and the recording and everything about [Mine Is Yours] is better than the things we’ve done before it,” he says. “Touring behind this record and just performing it is, I think, what it’s going to take for old fans to see that these songs really fit well in the context of all our previous material.”