SAN PEDRO, California — The Cold War Kids were looking for a place to disappear. For more than 100 years, San Pedro, a roughly hewn, ethnically mixed port town in the southern tip of Los Angeles County, has been about as good a place as any for people to do just that. Every morning, fishermen head out into the Pacific to ply their trades. In the lead up to World War II, the Navy kept a fleet of battleships docked here. And in the early '80s, local legends the Minutemen left town packed in a van, powered by their proletarian brand of punk.
So, naturally, San Pedro was where the Kids chose to build their new home: a gutted rehearsal space in an abandoned office building, attached to a plumber's depot, where they wrote and polished the material on their brand-new Behave Yourself EP, which hits stores on Tuesday (January 19).
"We've always put a lot of emphasis on being not in L.A. proper — for some reason, it helps to be emotionally removed," Cold War Kids frontman Nathan Willett told MTV News. "We live in Long Beach, just over the bridge from San Pedro, so when we found this spot, we knew it would be a good place to make our home base. San Pedro is kind of like the forgotten L.A. ... We can disconnect out here. Overall, there's just not a lot of distraction. There are some good Mexican restaurants though."
The beauty of their San Pedro space is its simplicity: little more than wood beams, high ceilings and a floor freed of its decades-old linoleum. Sun pours in from the windows. The port is visible on the horizon. It's a loud room — sounds bounce off the walls and reverberate in the corners — which is perfect for the songs the band are working on these days ... not just for their EP, but for an upcoming third full-length.
"On our last record, Loyalty, which was generally a darker, moodier record, and the EP — these four songs — they seem to have a different feel altogether," Willett said. "They're lighter, less introspective. And for our next record, we're working with Jacquire King, who did the last Norah Jones record, did stuff with the Kings of Leon and Modest Mouse — he's a good fit. I think this record will be our transition into having a more lush recording. We're really interested in having a lot more atmosphere."
So while the Kids are embracing their new San Pedro digs, there's still one thing that's keeping them from feeling right at home: They've yet to run into former Minutemen bassist — and local hero — Mike Watt, who still calls the port home. But they're actively looking for him.
"He's around here somewhere," bassist Matt Maust laughed. "We'll find him one of these days."