Cold War Kids lead singer Nathan Willett wants to talk about his band’s new album, “L.A. Divine,” but first he needs to finish squeezing 15 items into a 10-items-or-less lane at the grocery store.
“Pretty hairy stuff,” he said by phone after bagging his coffee and gluten-free muesli.
“L.A. Divine,” out April 7, is the band’s sixth album. Inspired by Los Angeles, it’s full of hard-driving indie rock tracks and Willett’s signature falsetto.
Willett said the band took a cue from “First,” the surprising No. 1 hit on the alternative-rock charts and the very last track added to 2014’s “Hold My Home.”
“With that, we learned about how to let the song rule and how to let the band get out of the way of the song,” he said. “It was such a distilled version of what we’ve always done, and we wanted to chase that.”
The title, a lyric from a song that didn’t make the record, reflects the recent swell of interest in L.A. “as a place where culture, restaurants and things are happening,” Willett said. “It was a way to bring that home.”
The band kicks off its spring tour at the Okeechobee Festival in Florida and then hits Columbia’s Music Farm on Saturday, March 4. Australian trio Middle Kids will open.
Cold War Kids began in 2004 in Southern California with four college friends and has undergone several lineup changes over the years. The current iteration is Willett, bassist Matt Maust, drummer Joe Plummer, keyboardist Matthew Schwartz and guitarist David Quon.
The group offered a taste of its new material last month with the release the piano-driven single “Love is Mystical” and accompanying music video.
In the video, band members walk among people kissing and moving backward in wind and rain.
It was shot in downtown L.A. by director Phillip Lopez and is based on the viral “First Kiss” video of strangers kissing, Willett said.
“The theme of the song and message is so big and universal, it seemed to fit.”
In addition to being an explosion of love, the song is about “how to dig into yourself so you can feel and be inspired,” he said.
Of the 14 tracks on “L.A. Divine,” three are a fleeting minute or less – more interludes than fully developed songs.
“Cameras Always On” is a simple iPhone recording of Willett. “I wanna be famous in your eyes, but the camera’s always on,” he muses.
“Wilshire Protest” was written after Willett attended a post-election protest on Wilshire Street in L.A. (The band has never shied away from expressing opinions, from the anti-Trump song “Locker Room Talk” to speaking out against the Dakota Access Pipeline on its Facebook page.)
“They get to kinda be more lyrically on the nose about what the record is about than some of the songs can,” he said of the ditties. “It’s strange, you can spend so much time writing a four-minute song, but sometimes something that’s so simple and short like that can be profound.”
The direct approach is refreshing, but listeners will probably prefer heading to the live show for the more anthemic rockers. For that, Cold War Kids has no shortage.
“The best thing is having as much music as we do – six records now,” Willett said. “It’s so fun to not do the same thing every night.”
If you go
Cold War Kids
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 4
Where: Music Farm Columbia, 1022 Senate St.