Over their career, Cold War Kids have fielded music’s seismic shifts while simultaneously sticking to their own game plan. Over the course of a dozen releases – including seven studio albums, multiple EPs, and 2017’s live collection, AUDIENCE – on majors and indies alike, non-stop tours and the festival circuit’s biggest stages, massive radio and streaming successes as well as a few lineup changes of their own, Nathan Willett and his band have become a major part of the modern landscape.

Coming off of the high water marks of 2014’s HOLD MY HOME – with its smash single, “First” – and 2017’s acclaimed LA DIVINE, Willett began to hone in on what was most exciting and integral to him in both the Cold War Kids recipe as well as in the current music climate. While on tour in the summer of 2018, he and the band obsessed over the seemingly never-ending stream of Kanye West-produced records being released (particularly gravitating to those by Pusha T, Teyana Taylor, and Kid Cudi), enamored of their breezy compactness and fresh feeling. Willett became excited to explore a working relationship with his longtime producer of favor, Lars Stalfors. Upon Willett’s return to Los Angeles, the pair entered the studio to write a very specific type of album.

“The idea that those Kanye records were coming out every month felt so cool, very of the moment,” Willett says. “Eight songs, a very digestible amount of music that just keeps coming. And it really sunk in how fun it was to experience those in real time with all of us together. I wanted to do that with Lars-to make a record with just a writer and a producer. So it began a whole new chapter, what I would call Cold War Kids 2.0. I think the approach, sonically, was in taking apart the idea of what the band is and just trying to take the doors off a bit to see where it can go.”

“Complainer,” the first song written for NEW AGE NORMS, is a call to transcend and do something constructive rather than dwell on all the things that might drag us down, its message inspired Willett throughout the recording process. “4th of July,” with Willett’s falsetto delivering a laid-back but withering chorus as the beat pops smoothly around him, is a song about the mixed feelings Americans can encounter on patriotic holidays spent in celebration but without a context of appreciation.

“For me, the songs are always the most important piece of Cold War Kids,” Willett says. “And in them, having a strong message and maintaining a positive energy and output-and not just rage and conflict-is so important, and what can set us apart. But at the same time, we’re doing an old thing: rock ‘n’ roll! I don’t want to completely intellectualize it, because we don’t have this liberal, politically correct agenda. We set out to make a rock and roll record. But, the person that I am, the band that we are, the values that we have are in these songs. They’re not tropes of rock and roll urges; they’re in pursuit of a new value, a better world. And it’s not so clear cut what those are, but these are the new age norms.”