Matt Maust is on the road, but he certainly is not slumming it.
The bass player of Cold War Kids is in the middle of his band’s North American tour, and is combining his love of art with his love of beer. He’s also not afraid to wax lyrical on the twin subjects.
“I’m in Ann Arbor, Michigan,” Maust says. “I’ve got some time to myself, so I’m holed up in my hotel room sketching and drinking India Pale Ale.” Isn’t that a strange combination for a bassist? “Ha!” Maust laughs. “Well, it’s been a while since I’ve had a day off, and I like to draw whenever I can find the time. Plus, this particular IPA is excellent – there are some very nice hops happening here.”
The beer in question is brewed by a friend of the band, Vern Moen. Their fellow Californian is a filmmaker who directed the video for ‘Miracle Mile’, the lead single from this year’s fourth album Dear Miss Lonelyhearts. “We’ve known Vern for a while now,” Maust says, “but he’s getting really good at brewing. He’ll probably end up just doing that for a living. Did I mention how good this IPA is?”
Maust’s enjoyment of his day off is understandable. The band has been on tour for two and a half months with folk rockers The Lumineers. The time in transit has been utilised by Maust to good effect.
“I do all the artwork for the band,” he says. “It’s nice when I’m on tour, because it gives me plenty of time to come up with little ideas for sketches. I can normally only work at it sporadically. You know, I’ll do a little bit here, and little bit there until I’ve got a piece close to being complete.”
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts is the band’s first album in two years, following on from 2011’s Mine Is Yours. It’s their first outing with former Modest Mouse guitarist Dann Galluci, after founding guitarist Jonnie Russell left the group in 2012. Galluci also produced the record, along with Lars Stalfors (Matt & Kim, Funeral Party), and was critically praised by the music media as a return to form.
“I don’t think our sound has changed all that much,” Maust says. “I think it’s grown. There are drum machines on this album, which is a first. But we still made it in the traditional Cold War Kids way. Three quarters of it are recorded as a live band. I think this time it was a matter of layering and layering some songs. That was something we worked hard on getting right. We really slaved over that.”
The band’s members are not sitting around soaking up the critical praise. “We’re on tour, but we’re also working on making music videos for every single song on the record,” Maust says. Most of those videos are being made on the road, purely because there is no other option. “We’ll be on tour for a long time,” Maust says. “It’s not a problem for us, we’re known as a live band so that’s how we do things. We treat live shows as something special, because they are.
“I think there are two sides to Cold War Kids. It’s much easier for us to do a live show than sweat it out in the studio. But I think we’re becoming more accomplished as a studio band.”
Maust insists there is little chance of the band’s enviable live reputation changing. “Our live shows are as maniacal as ever,” he says. “And we definitely realise how spoiled we are to be able to do this night after night. It’s never not fun.”
BY BENJAMIN COOPER