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Cold War Kids is an American indie rock band from Long Beach, California. Band members are Nathan Willett (vocals, piano, guitar), Matt Maust (bass guitar), David Quon (guitar, backing vocals), Matthew Schwartz (backing vocals, keyboards & piano, percussion, guitar), and Joe Plummer (drums, percussion). Dann Gallucci (guitar, keyboards, percussion), Matt Aveiro (drums, percussion), and Jonnie Russell (guitar, vocals, piano, keyboards, percussion) are all former members of the band.
Forming in 2004 in Fullerton, the band's early releases came from independent record label Monarchy Music. In 2006, Cold War Kids signed with Downtown/V2 and released their major label debut Robbers & Cowards to cult appeal from fans and critics. 2008's Loyalty to Loyalty and 2011's Mine Is Yours saw the band develop different musical sounds and lyrical content throughout to mixed reviews. In 2013, Cold War Kids released their fourth album Dear Miss Lonelyhearts. Their most recent album Hold My Home was released on October 21, 2014.
Early years and Robbers & Cowards (2004–2006)
The band members met at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. They formed a band in 2004 when they would meet regularly in Jonnie Russell's apartment above a restaurant called Mulberry Street in downtown Fullerton. Maust came up with the band's name during his travels in Eastern Europe with his brother in Budapest, where they found a park with statues that had been dumped after Communism fell. Seeing that there was a playground in that park, Maust stated "...being in that environment just made the phrase 'Cold War Kids' pop into my head. I may have heard it before. I'm a cold war kid, too – I was born in 1979." The band relocated to Whittier, California and began recording their first demo, which Monarchy Music released as the EP Mulberry Street (based on the restaurant they regularly met) in spring 2005. Between tours, the band released two more EPs: With Our Wallets Full and Up in Rags, in 2006. Monarchy Music would re-release those EPs as one compilation album titled Up in Rags/With Our Wallets Full in 2006.
In summer 2006, Cold War Kids signed with Downtown Records and started work on their debut album. The album titled Robbers & Cowards was released on October 10, 2006 with sales close to 200,000 copies. Critics were impressed with the band's blues rock sound and lyrics that told morose tales of yesteryear: Joe Tacopino of PopMatters said that "These ambitious youngsters are definitely worth the trip, even without the ostentatious vocal harmonies." Jeff Weiss of Stylus Magazine called the album "[It's] a good debut, maybe even a very good one. Whether or not this band will achieve greatness remains anybody's guess."
One of the album's biggest detractors came from Marc Hogan of Pitchfork Media, who criticized the band for its songwriting, melodies and Christian symbolism, saying that "Robbers and Cowards insults our intelligence a few times too often." Cat Dirt Sez of the San Diego CityBeat said that Hogan's review was an example of lazy journalism, with lead guitarist Jonnie Russell saying that the reviewer wanted a wittier approach to the album rather than a thoughtful assessment of it.
Loyalty to Loyalty (2008)
After two years of non-stop worldwide touring and an eventual relocation to Long Beach, California, Cold War Kids went back into the studio in spring 2008 with the producer of their first record, Kevin Augunas. Nathan described the record making process: "Throughout the record making process, we would write songs in our own little practice studio, then we'd go into the studio for, like, two days and record three or four songs, then go back into our own practice studio for, like, a few weeks. So really it was over the span of four months or something. Actual studio days probably like 15 days. We don't love being in a studio; we focus more on the writing."
The band's second album, Loyalty to Loyalty, represented a departure from its debut, featuring a lot of narrative storytelling, as well as political and philosophical references. In an interview with NPR, Nathan described the songwriting process for the album: "The choices that we make have always been organic ones, to try to grow at a rate that makes sense," Willett says. "Not necessarily talking about, 'Is there a great single? Is this a big breakthrough for us? Is this the next level for us?' But just write songs. Yeah, there is a stress, and the way we deal with it is to ignore it."
Loyalty to Loyalty was released on September 23, 2008 to generally positive reviews from critics. Bart Blasengame of Paste called it "a better-than-solid album from a band that seemed equipped to someday make a classic one." James McMahon of NME said that "Almost in defiance of poor sales and cult following, CWK and their charming second album embody everything you hoped music might be."
Behave Yourself and Mine Is Yours (2009–2011)
The band spent the end of 2008 and most of 2009 on the road touring for the album, highlighted by a national tour with Death Cab for Cutie. In between touring, the band returned to the studio to record what would become their seventh EP Behave Yourself. In an interview with Flavorwire, Maust talked about the differences between this and Loyalty: "It's basically the happier, more vibrant songs that didn't really fit on the [Loyalty] album. We realized that in a way, we were starting to work ahead of ourselves, so this [EP] works as a nice bridge between records." Behave Yourself was released digitally on iTunes on December 21, 2009 and given a physical version on January 19, 2010.
The band went back into the studio in February 2010. Nathan, when speaking to Filter Magazine, said, "Album three is in the works now. We are working with a producer named Jacquire King. He has a sweet and eclectic roster of Modest Mouse, the last Norah Jones record, Tom Waits' Mule Variations, the last Kings of Leon record...So, he is going to work miracles with us. All of our music has always been written entirely by us, without any influence, so to have him step in and help us with the direction is tremendous. I was just watching the Wilco Documentary again, and I think that in many ways Wilco is to country/Americana as Cold War Kids is to soul/punk. We are taking what we do to the next level on this record. The EP is the final reminder of the good old days of quick and fun, minimal Cold War Kids recording."
Mine Is Yours was released on January 25, 2011 and garnered mixed reviews from critics. Billboard said that "the band has emerged with a set that's more inviting than its first but just as catchy." Sean O'Neal of The A.V. Club said that the album has "the bland sound of a band trading identity for ambition." They supported the album with a spring tour across North America that included festival appearances at Bonnaroo and Coachella. On February 8, 2012 the band announced that lead guitarist Jonnie Russell left the band due to personal reasons.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts and Hold My Home (2012–present)
In January 2012, the band announced that former Modest Mouse guitarist Dann Gallucci would take Russell's place in the band and premiere on their new single "Minimum Day". On January 15, 2013, the band announced a new single, "Miracle Mile" for their fourth album, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts. The latter was released on April 2, 2013. They followed that up with an EP titled Tuxedos, released on September 17, 2013. They promoted both efforts with a US headline tour that ended on November 6, 2013. In November 2013, they announced that a fifth album was in the works.
On November 10, 2013, the Orange County Register reported that drummer Matt Aveiro had left the band, and that Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer would be holding his place indefinitely.
In March 2014, they collaborated with Belgian brewer company Stella Artois and sonic inventor Andy Cavatorta for a project titled "Chalice Symphony", that involved using the brewer's famous drinking glasses as instruments for the band to use to record the track "A Million Eyes". The behind-the-scenes videos were used as commercials and were uploaded on the brewer's YouTube page. The song was released on iTunes on March 3, 2014 and the music video that went along with the track premiered on YouTube on April 4, 2014. In May 2014, Willett and Maust worked on a side project with We Barbarians' Nathan Warkentin called French Style Furs. The project's debut album Is Exotic Bait was released on July 8, 2014. The lyrics used on the album were adapted from the poetry of twentieth century Catholic monk and philosopher Thomas Merton, and was recorded with the assistance of Nick Launay.
On July 15, 2014, the band released the first single, "All This Could Be Yours" from their fifth album Hold My Home, which was released on October 21. The release of Hold My Home had drummer Joe Plummer and multi-instrumentalist/singer Matthew Schwartz being credited as proper members of Cold War Kids on the album's liner notes as opposed to touring members as previously credited. The album also spawned the single "First" in February 2015.
Despite mixed reactions from critics on the overall quality and consistency of the album, "First" went on to chart at number 1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, making it the band's highest charting single ever.
On March 16, 2016, Cold War Kids announced via their Instagram the departure of lead guitarist Dann Gallucci, and that he was to be replaced by We Barbarians' David Quon.
On October 31, 2016, Cold War Kids released a single called "Locker Room Talk", as part of the 30 Days, 50 Songs project protesting Donald Trump's presidential run. The band stated that "[A]t this point in the game, taking a shot at Trump almost feels unnecessary. Too easy. More negativity. We're all so tired of him."
Musical style and influences
AllMusic's Heather Phares cites Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Jeff Buckley and The Velvet Underground as influences for the band's blues rock-influenced indie rock sound. The band has identified other major influences as Fiona Apple, Nick Cave, Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, The Smiths, U2, and Tom Waits.
Cold War Kids