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Artist Case Study: Cold War Kids

Moderator: Brian Smith | Live Nation
Matt Maust | Cold War Kids
Nathan Willet | Cold War Kids
Gabriel Kerbrat | Hellbound Management
Jackie Nalpant | Paradigm Talent Agency
Keith Shackleford | Paradigm Talent Agency
Brett Williams | Monotone

The story of Cold War Kids is one of persistence, professionalism and efficiency.

“We wanted to keep it economical while living the life we wanted, and then figure out how to tour,” the band’s frontman Nathan Willett said.

He explained how they found a place in Whittier, “a really cheap place in L.A.” with a practice studio beneath the house, which they shared with their manager for a period.

The band had peers “who did everything wrong” such as going deep into debt to record their first album, putting them in a place where they’re forced to succeed.

“Whether intentionally or unintentionally, whether with Jackie (Nalpant of Paradigm) or the label or promoters, as I made decisions as a manager, we wanted to never leverage ourselves to where we were not in control of this. That was kind of our ethos as a group,” manager Brett Williams of Monotone said.

That freedom allowed the band to grow at its own pace creatively, so when the talent buyers caught on, the band could show what they were made of, as Paradigm’s Keith Shackleford, who books its festival appearances, noted.

“They’re the perfect band for (festivals) for a lot of reasons,” Shackleford said. “They’re a great band, they show up and do their job and everything from (tour manager) Gabe (Kerbrat) to management is just pro. And from quick decisions to professionalism to playing well on stage, it’s easy for us and we’re confident they’re going to do a good job.”

Fast forward about 10 years, and Cold War Kids had its first No. 1 radio hit with “First.” All those years of making good relationships made the added success that much sweeter.

“All the buyers loved the song, and were happy for the band since they already had developed such great goodwill and had already played for everybody for years,” Nalpant said.

Likewise, the way a venue or festival treats its artists goes a long way toward the artist wanting to do a good job.

Tour manager Gabriel Kerbrat of Hell Bound Management says that it’s not always about having the best facilities or resources, but taking pride and actually wanting to be there.

“You want to show up and it’s not a total mess,” Kerbrat said.

“And the people working there don’t seem demoralized and hate working there. When you show up and the production manager or stage manager literally hates their job you know the day is going to be long. And that really translates to the rest of the crew and the bands coming through.”

Willett mentioned the 9:30 Club as a venue that shows it cares from top to bottom.

“It’s both authentic and with tons of pride and just feels important,” Willett said. “It doesn’t feel generic or like they’re just rushing you through, and those people care about their job.”

And the extra touches like house-made cupcakes make an impression, especially on Kerbrat, Willett says. All that hard work and extra effort from all involved parties tends to lead to growth, and Willett says that’s not just about getting bigger.

“I just want to grow and that doesn’t mean necessarily in numbers or in size,” he said. “It means something bigger, and it’s
a feeling, if you’re doing good work and you feel good.”

– Ryan Borba