The Cold War Kids are on tour. Traveling in their bus from New York to Nashville, Nathan Willett, the lead singer, said it's all "going great. We've been playing some of the rooms we've done before and a lot of new ones. We've always had a really good time at some of the smaller clubs."
They've certainly played enough of the smaller clubs in their career, popping up in as many of them as they could in the Los Angeles area, back when they were making their music in a Fullerton apartment. That apartment was over a restaurant called Mulberry Street, and that became the title of their first EP.
Now, they're going to be in one of the major clubs, the South Shore Room at Harrah's Tahoe, on Friday. Willett is looking forward to playing the legendary venue mainly because he just bought a CD of one of Bill Cosby's performances there.
The Cold War Kids (the other three are Jonnie Russell, Matt Maust and Matt Aveiro) are touring to promote their third album, "Mine Is Yours," a departure from their first two, "Robbers & Cowards" and "Loyalty to Loyalty."
The album has been called "more intimate" than the first two, and Willett agrees. He's the lyricist for the band, and he's found that the new album is satisfying mainly because it's been recorded with what can only be called more care.
"The first two albums were the result of our eagerness and insistence on recording live. We would only be in the studio a week or two. This time we've spent a few months in the studio, and it's allowed us to make changes and capture ideas.
"I remember thinking that if 'Loyalty' is the last record we do, I'd be disappointed. It was a step, but I thought, 'We have to be about something bigger.' "
Being an indie band is all very fine and good, but maybe a time comes when a group of guys needs to go a bit more commercial, hire an outside producer, and expand on their sound while remaining true to their base.
"If you and your friends are just sitting back and speculating in the abstract about what compromise is or isn't, you're not doing anything, are you?" Willett said. "You need to be in the moment. Our band started from a thousand hours of late-night drinking, talking about what it would be like to do this. But you don't want to be an eternal student.
"There have been a bunch of great indie bands in recent years that have earned success, and they got there by going for it."
So the Cold War Kids hired Jacquire King, a producer who has worked with Tom Waits, Kings of Leon and Modest Mouse. The result is "Mine Is Yours." Willett said the band needed somebody to "fight with a little bit," to provide some outside ideas, and to respond to their ideas in a different way.
"We ended up having a pretty easy relationship. He was more of a listener and a teacher."
When asked to comment on a couple of favorite cuts on the album, Willett goes for "Bulldozer" "a favorite of all of us, a good dramatic song we love playing live" and "Flying Upside Down" "which like all of the songs has more of a feeling than a concrete image to it."
"These are portraits of relationships and commitment," he added. "What is holding these things together and what does it all mean? I felt the need to be more personal, to show the many sides of me."
As for the next album, Willett said, "It will be a little while. We need to put as much time into this record as we can. We need to have it be heard as much as it can be."
After this leg of the tour, they will return to the Coachella Festival for the first time in three years, then launch on a European leg. In June, they come back for Nashville's giant Bonnaroo.
The Cold War Kids have encountered inevitable attempts to pigeonhole their rock 'n' roll. There have been postings about Christian undertones in their songs about crises of faith and families in peril on their earlier albums.
But they refuse to be categorized, and the new album shows they have moved out of their own inner circle, growing as any good rock band should.
THE COLD WAR KIDS
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Harrah's Tahoe, Stateline, Nev.
Information: (800) 427-7247, SouthShoreRoom.com