Cold War Kids at the Observatory North Park

Indie-rock quintet Cold War Kids sat down with KCR to talk music inspirations, the evolution of their sound, and the highs and lows of being a band before their show at the Observatory North Park on Friday, November 15.

Cold War Kids formed back in 2004 in Fullerton, California. As stated on their Facebook page, they, “began in August ’04 with friends, jangly guitar, hand claps, and a Harmony amp in a storage room atop Mulberry Street restaurant.” Their earliest releases came from an independent record label, Monarchy Music, but in 2006, they released their debut album, Robbers & Cowards, with their new label, Downtown/V2. They then went on to release Loyalty to Loyalty in 2008, and Mine Is Yours in 2011. CWK continued to release new music in 2013 and 2014 with, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts and Hold My Home. They then signed to Capitol Records and released L.A. Divine in 2017. Their most recent release from November 1, 2019, from AWAL is called New Age Norms 1. They have been on countless tours, and have been all over the world, but they, “strive to make honest songs about human experience in orchards and hotel rooms, laundromats and churches, sea ports and school halls.”

I got to sit down and talk to Nathan before the show. We talked about their newest album, music, and the band as a whole. 

What went into your album, New Age Norms 1, and what was your inspiration behind it?

“A lot of things were happening with us where we had done a live record that kinda took a lot of work, that I was really proud of. Then our old record label was bought and we had to contractually do a ‘best of’ thing that was also a lot of work. We had to kinda put a lot of songs onto it that had been unreleased to make it something special, so that wasn’t just the same old songs. It was a season of a lot of backward looking time, over the band, over the you know, so many records and so many songs. So now we have a new record label AWAL, which is like a different, and has much more of a sense of freedom in the new season of what we’re doing. I felt like we needed to explore and just kind of try things, think out of the box.

So yeah, the idea of doing three different records that are 8 songs each, and just being committed to that, I guess came like maybe a year ago. Yeah, we just wrote forever, approached it a lot of different ways. The first one is producer Lars, that we’ve done the last couple records with. The second one, that we’re finishing now and is going to come out next year, is with Shawn Everrett, a totally different producer, a totally different sound. A lot of it was just like choosing these different ways we worked and making a record around that sort of different writing approaches we had.

It’s interesting because you have to think that so much of the way that people have released music is bound to the way the music industry has worked, and the way that records get released. When we first started, we had three EP’s that we had kinda just done ourselves. We knew nothing about anything, so we had friends that recorded us, and we paid them a little bit of money. We just had Matt Maust, our bass player, doing all the art for them. It was the funnest time because it just felt like the final product, you know a record or cd or whatever, that we were making, that we would then sell at shows and everything, it still felt like it was brand new. It felt like this is not something we did a year ago, that we’ve been laboring over. It just felt like, ‘All right we recorded these songs that we’ve been playing live and it feels fresh and has that urgency.’

Then once you get into sort of like the professional world of record labels and all that stuff, you know I don’t want to like overemphasize. I sometimes hate when an artist overemphasizes the role of record labels because it shouldn’t be about that, regardless of even if you have, I don’t know. We’ve never been in a situation where we had a record label that was so restrictive with us. But that being said, the way that the schedule of it and how far out you have to plan a release, what it takes to get a team of people behind a release. So we did the last album, L.A Divine, with Capitol, and that was kind of the one major label experience we’ve had. Which was fine, it wasn’t really good or bad, it was just kind of like, ‘Okay this was okay.’ But like who we are and what we do, this isn’t really going to benefit us a whole lot. So we should just kind of go and do what we’ve always done.

So maybe that’s a long winded way of saying, it feels like the old days. We’ve just always sort of toured first and thought about recording and releasing music second. Which is very different than now, and in general. Years ago, the model of making a record in your home studio or on your laptop or whatever, with your friends and then waiting, sort of making something happen before there is a tour to go out too. That’s like a newer thing. For us, we get in the van and start finding places to play and let it grow and all that. So yeah, it feels like that.”

So how has your music evolved since the beginning?

“It’s funny, like, it’s a really good question. But like evolution is, in a lot of ways, it’s the same in some ways, and totally different in other ways. So the way of kind of like being 4 or 5 guys in a room, with their instruments in their hands, sort of waiting for something to spark all of us. That type of energy is really great, and that’s how we started, but I got really burned out on that way of working and just wanted to be more focused about writing slowly. Sort of not letting the lyrics be something that has to come together on my own time, but something that I could create the amount of time I want to write a song. Not just sort of have it be….It’s that thing, a balance, music and lyrics. Sometimes music can be too heavy on it and lyrics are an afterthought. Sometimes it can be the opposite.”

What is your favorite song to play live on this tour?

“I think ‘Complainer‘ is the song that is just the most unlike any other song that we have. I mean, it’s always the weirdest thing when you’re in the studio working on something and think like, ‘does this make sense with our music? Does this make sense with everything else in our setlist?’ And then you do it and it always does. ‘Complainer’ is just a little different. It’s strange that it’s actually hard to write a song that is unlike everything else that you’ve done. I would always think like, ‘What if this doesn’t sound like us?’ It always sounds like you in the end. It always comes from you, but it’s actually hard to do something that’s really different from what you normally do. “

What made you want to play music with your other bandmates?

“I just think it’s the funnest thing in the world. From the first time we started playing together, for me, the excitement and the feeling that anything is possible and just like living in that moment of, I don’t know, playing guitar, piano, or writing something. But just the feeling of being creative in that way, with a room full of people and being really vulnerable, it feels like kinda scary, and I like that. I didn’t grow up doing any sort of drama or any kind of creative stuff, at all really. I always grew up listening to a ton of music, and going to see bands and my friends were in bands. My friends were all in like punk and hardcore bands. I wanted to do something more soulful and kind of rock and roll. To my surroundings, there wasn’t really anything like that, there wasn’t a scene for anything like that. So I didn’t start a band, until kind of later. I was like 24, 25, when we started. Discovering that kind of like minded appreciation of music, and how special it is. Being able to share that is the best, it’s great.”

What is your ultimate goal as a band?

“I wish I knew. That is such a strange thing. We were actually in the van and driving from Phoenix to here today. We were just talking about how friends’ bands that have either you know, failed or gotten lost along the way of what they’re doing. Not having a goal that is like selling a certain amount of tickets or selling a certain amount of records, or being a certain big; looking at your life and saying, ‘Am I living the life I want to live? Am I happy doing the work that I’m doing? If so, I can keep doing it.’ For me, over the years, as we’ve had highs and lows, and even different members changing, and how really hard that can be. Of course, there’s always lots of moments of doubt, but I have always just loved it.”

Cold War Kids Live

On Friday, November 15th, Cold War Kids played a sold out show at the Observatory North Park. I have never seen Cold War Kids live, so I was very excited for the show! Their merch table was set up by the entrance, so it was the first thing I saw when I entered and I loved it all. It was super eye catching and different from what other bands are putting out right now. 

The crowd was filled with people of all ages, from kids to adults. I got to see the first three songs from the photo pit, as I was shooting the show. Along with that, I got to hear one of their most well known songs, “Hang Me Up To Dry,” from the photo pit. I turned around and saw how happy the crowd was, and how they sang every single word. The crowd was constantly moving, dancing, and vibing along to the music.

They played a mix of new and old songs, but a majority are off their new album. They played a total of 21 songs including: “Love Is Mystical,” “Miracle Mile,” “Hang Me Up to Dry,” “Complainer,” “Fine Fine Fine,” “Dirt in My Eyes,” “Calm Your Nerves,” “4th of July,” “Waiting for Your Love,” “Can We Hang On?,” “Mexican Dogs,” “Restless,” “Beyond the Pale,” “Drive Desperate,” “So Tied Up,” “Audience,” “We Used to Vacation,” “Hospital Beds,” “First,” “All This Could Be Yours,” and “Something Is Not Right With Me.” When talking to Nathan before the show, he mentioned how “Complainer” is his favorite song to perform live because it is so different from their other songs. After seeing it live, I completely understand why it is his favorite. The crowd was screaming along to the song.

Cold War Kids had so much energy on stage. They engaged and interacted with the crowd; the audience could not stand still, everyone was having an amazing time. The show was absolutely amazing, I did not want it to end.

If you have not listened to Cold War Kids, it is time to hop on the train. You can listen to their new album here.

Written by: McCaeley O’Rourke
Photos by: McCaeley O’Rourke

Hozier at Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre

Hozier gave a powerful performance that evoked moments of catharsis from the crowd at Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre on Saturday, October 26, 2019.

The stage was basked in red light as Hozier and his band members appeared. Accompanied by Rachel Beauregard, Jessica Berry, Cormac Curran, Rory Doyle, Emily Kohavi, Kristen Rogers, and Alex Ryan, Hozier began the show with “As It Was” followed by “Dinner & Diatribes”.

Behind the band, images of protests and fighting for rights were shown during “Nina Cried Power.”

The song is “a thank you note to the legacy of artists from the 20th Century whose work still inspires us” and would not be the first instance of protest music during the night. Hozier played his new song “Jack Boot Jump,” after politely asking the crowd to not record it and just “be present.” The rest of the band members left, leaving only Hozier and Doyle on drums for this “not subtle” song inspired by the protest music of Woody Guthrie and named after George Orwell’s quote “‘if you want to imagine the future, imagine a jack boot stomping on a human face forever”.

While Hozier’s newest album, and namesake of the tour, Wasteland, Baby!, is beautiful and had the crowd singing all night, his old material is what gained the most excitement.

Songs like “Someone New” and “Jackie and Wilson” from his first album seemed to receive the most reactions. Personally, these were some of my favorite songs of the night because his first album as a whole is special to me so it was quite fulfilling to finally hear some songs from it live.

Classic “Take Me to Church” was the last song before the encore and probably the one with the most overall energy to “end” the show. For the actual end, Hozier performed “Cherry Wine” and “Work Song”, and the stage was now adorned in vines to complement the beautiful feeling created by these songs musically.

Hozier made a point throughout the show to thank the people helping him; introducing the band members with a spotlight, saying their names whenever he had a chance, listing members of the crew, and displaying their pictures after the show as a final thank you.

Listen to Hozier here.

Written by: Emerson Redding
Photos by: Emerson Redding

Clairo at House of Blues San Diego

Clairo played a sold-out show at the House of Blues San Diego on October 18th and certainly did not leave her fans disappointed.

The 21-year-old lo-fi bedroom pop singer, Claire Cottrill, has recently blown up after the release of her debut full-length album, Immunity, gaining positive feedback from fans and critics alike. It was only about two years ago since Clairo released “Pretty Girl” on YouTube and took the world by storm. 

Being a huge Clairo fan myself, I was excited to see what type of crowd she would attract to her sold-old show. I have only seen Clairo perform once and it was at Coachella 2019, where the crowd was small and her set was short. While it was clear that the show was all ages, there was a large representation from Clairo’s young fanbase. At first, I was surprised to see so many young teens in baggy pants and oversized graphic-tees, but I realized they matched Clairo’s aesthetic almost perfectly. Regardless of age, the crowd had high energy that radiated throughout the venue. There were smiles all around, and I could tell that everyone in the room wholeheartedly loves Clairo and that they were ready for a memorable night.

First to take the stage was Oakland-based band, Hello Yello. This punk-alternative-rock band came on stage with high energy and even got the crowd moshing at some points. The band recently released their first EP, Love Wins, and played a few tracks before getting the audience ready for what’s to come.

The next opener was Beabadoobee, staring Filipino-British indie singer Bea Kristi. It was no surprise that she is touring with Clairo because they both have a soft 90’s-alternative sound in their music. The crowd roared as Bea took the stage with her two bandmates, playing hits like “Dance with Me,” “If You Want To,” and “She Plays Bass.” Since the band produces soft and somewhat-emo music, their stage presence relayed accurately as they kept a calm demeanor throughout their set.

Clairo, House of Blues San Diego 10/18/19
Photo by: Brittany Roache

Finally, it was Clairo’s turn to take the stage and you could literally feel the energy of the crowd buzzing from wall to wall. When she finally graced us with her presence on stage, the venue shook and the screams seemed to never end. My heart was racing as I stood in the photo-pit, staring directly at one of my favorite female artists of all time.

This is the first (unedited) picture I took of Clario at the House of Blues San Diego. I find this picture special because it captures the raw essence of her beauty and the angelic glow that she constantly resonates.

Opening with her lead song “Alewife” off her debut-album, Clairo draws the crowd in and keeps their attention focused on the music. Some artists like to open their show with a bang, but Clairo needed to start off the night with something emotional and real – and it was perfect.

Throughout the show, Clairo kept the crowd engaged, frequently taking a knee to get face-to-face with her fans in the front. Playing a mix of songs both old and new, it seemed as if the crowd knew the words to everyone. If her fans weren’t dancing, they were in a trance hearing the melodic tones of the young singer’s voice.

Halfway through the show, Clairo paused and did something that left me speechless. Since Cottrill’s rise-to-fame started on the internet, it is only fitting that she made a joke that recently went viral on Twitter. On the count of three, she made the entire crowd sing Kylie Jenner‘s “Rise and Shine” meme. Even if you were unfamiliar with the meme, it left everyone laughing after hearing the audience sing the words “Rise and Shine” in a high-pitch tone.

This interaction was only the beginning of how Clairo chose to engage with the crowd that night. After singing hits like “Flaming Hot Cheeto’s,” “Bags,” and “Sofia,” she asked her band to leave as she brought out a stool and guitar to switch up the mood. Clairo told the crowd that she has only recently started doing this, but she wanted to end her shows by playing an unreleased song that she wrote on tour in Brooklyn. The song was charming and vulnerable, with lyrics stating “if timing was everything, I’d make some more time.”

As she began to close the concert out with the final song off her album “I Wouldn’t Ask You,” the crowd sang peacefully in unison, getting ready to say goodbye to the beloved singer.

After saying goodbye, it only took about a minute of cheering from her fans until Clairo and her band came back on stage for a three-song encore. She started with her hit “4EVER,” which effortlessly got the crowd dancing.

Before singing her biggest hit “Pretty Girl,” Clairo decided to do something different. She asked the crowd if she could bring a few audience members on stage to host a dance party with her, and it didn’t take long for everyone’s eager hands to shoot up in the air. It was a really special moment to watch as Clairo brought five fans on stage, greeted them with a big hug, and danced their hearts out on stage together.

Clairo and fans on stage during “Pretty Girl” – House of Blues San Diego

Clairo officially ended the concert with her song with Mura Masa, “I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again,” and allowed fans to get one final dance in before ending the night. This may have been Clairo’s second time headlining a show in San Diego, but it definitely won’t be her last.

Written by: Brittany Roache
Photos by: Brittany Roache


Sleeping With Sirens and Bring Me The Horizon at Viejas Arena

Sleeping With Sirens and Bring Me the Horizon, two veterans in the alternative scene, returned to San Diego with full force at Viejas Arena on Saturday, October 19.

Thirteen year old me is living by having the opportunity to photograph both Sleeping With Sirens and Bring Me The Horizon. Now, I want to paint a picture of thirteen year old me. I loved One Direction (still do) and stumbled across a Sleeping With Sirens video on YouTube. “If I’m James Dean, You’re Audrey Hepburn” changed my music taste and life. Now, I am thrown into my emo phase, wearing beanies so far on the back of your head that it is about to fall off, along with two arms full of the rubber band bracelets from Hot Topic. I credit Sleeping With Sirens as the band that got me into this music and I thank them for that.

My freshly fourteen year old self decided to beg my mom to let me go to Warped Tour since both Sleeping With Sirens and Bring Me The Horizon were playing that year. She said yes, which led to one of the most fun days of my childhood. I got to meet Sleeping With Sirens, and you guessed it, I cried. My friend Amanda, who also dragged her mom along, also cried along with me since we just met our heroes. Now, this was my first ever concert that was not pop music. I was at barricade for Sleeping With Sirens, and when my mom saw all the crowd surfers, she was blowing up my phone. She thought I was going to get absolutely crushed, but I was just mad at her for interrupting my recording of “Congratulations.”

Later on in the day, we all got to see Bring Me the Horizon. This was shortly after their album Sempiternal came out, so they played “Antivist.” If you don’t know that song, I recommend listening to it so you can understand my mom’s horror. The crowd was filled with people with their middle fingers up, screaming the lyrics back. After that, my mom told me I was never to listen to them again, and I am pretty sure Amanda’s mom said the same thing to her.

Apparently the “never listening to them again” thing did not last for long, because Amanda and I saw Bring Me The Horizon again in the following February. This time we got to see them at their own headlining show. We both thought it was a very smart idea to wear shorts, in Toronto, right next to Lake Ontario. An even better decision we had was to wait in line outside for an hour or two before giving up and heading back to our moms in the car. That show still lives up as one of the best concerts I have ever been to.
It is really funny to think about how my mom went to tell me that I could never listen to Bring Me The Horizon, to now loving them. “Can You Feel My Heart” is her absolute favorite song. She is a way bigger fan of Sleeping With Sirens and even had me download their cover of “Iris” to her phone off YouTube.

Since then, I have obviously grown up, being twenty years old. When I saw that these two bands would be touring together, I was excited. I became even more excited when I found out that I would be photographing the show. This threw me back into my emo phase, and I had never been more pumped for a concert.

Sleeping With Sirens started out the night. The majority of the songs they played came from their new album, How It Feels to Be Lost. They only played five old songs, coming from albums such as Let’s Cheers To This and Madness. The songs they played were: “Leave It All Behind,” “Never Enough,” “Tally It Up: Settle the Score,” “Better Off Dead,” “Blood Lines,” “Medicine (Devil In My Head),” “Break Me Down,” “Agree to Disagree,” “How It Feels To Be Lost,” “Kick Me” and “If You Can’t Hang.”

Being up close in the photo pit was amazing. I love all the energy that they exude when on stage. After leaving the photo pit, I got to sit in the stands and watch the rest of their set. Seeing how wild the crowd was going for them was absolutely awesome. I had never seen them play at their own show, only at Warped Tour. It was so exciting to see how they interact and hype up the crowd.

Following Sleeping With Sirens, Bring Me The Horizon headlined the night. Since I have not seen them since 2014, they have majorly upgraded their shows. They have an amazing stage set up, matching outfits, and even dancers. They played a total of fifteen songs: “MANTRA,” “Avalanche,” “The House of Wolves,” “Medicine,” “Wonderful Life,” “Shadow Moses,” “Sugar Honey Ice & Tea,” “Happy Song,” “Nihilist Blues,” “Antivist,” “Mother Tongue,” “Can You Feel My Heart,” “Follow You,” and “Throne and Drown.”

Getting to see one of my favorite songs from the photo pit was an experience I will never forget. Also, shoutout to the lovely people I met at the barricade. Once I left the photo pit, I made my way down to my seat to watch the rest of the show. General admission was absolutely insane. The pits were constantly going crazy, with Oli Sykes, the singer, hyping everyone up.

They brought a fan up on stage for their song “Antivist,” which is something that they have been doing on this tour. Oli also thanked the crowd for being the reason he is alive, which was very touching. My favorite part of the show was during their last song. Oli came down into the general admission area, walked around, and sang “Drown” with fans surrounding him. He even made his way up to the seated area, right next to me. He finished the song on the stage and thanked the crowd over and over again.

This had to have been one of the best shows I have seen in a long time. The crowd was also so into the music and so into the bands. The energy in the arena was unreal. If you get a chance to see this tour or any of these bands on tour, do it. You will not regret it.

You can listen to Sleeping With Sirens’ new album here, and Bring Me The Horizon’s new album here.

Written by: McCaeley O’Rourke
Photos by: McCaeley O’Rourke