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Little Fires & Big Soul

The world is full of Christian bands you didn’t know were Christian: U2, Kings of Leon, Belle & Sebastian and now … drumroll … Cold War Kids!

Not that you couldn’t have guessed it — there’s something about that stomp-clap indie-soul-folk thing (think Mumford & Sons) that could easily give the band away, despite its lack of lyrical Jesus references.

The original five-piece met while attending the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. They began playing in then-guitarist Jonnie Russell’s apartment above a little Italian restaurant. Things progressed slowly, and as lead vocalist Nathan Willett tells EW: “It was our whole life, it was the only thing we were doing, but at the same time, we didn’t take ourselves so seriously.”

None of the band’s members came from a lineage of career musicianship, and although this created complications during the band’s early career, Willett says it also inspired them to work hard and be authentic.

“We had a lot of success from our first record that was just, like, shocking to us,” Russell says, “but I think truly the hardest thing is what you do after that.”

Willett, who at the time was also in the process of earning a teaching certificate, was driven by the thought of inspiring young people and encouraging them intellectually, which he found translated over to the band, too.

“You realize at a certain point that it goes on and on and on,” he says, “and keeping that little fire of inspiration burning is really the hardest thing.” 

For many popular contemporary bands, maybe two or three albums go over well or maybe you’re lucky enough to write a hit single (“Hang Me Out to Dry” takes the cake here), but are these the reasons you make music?

“You don’t get to have that much of an affect on how you’re perceived,” Willett says. “I think you kind of just have to do the best you can with what you’ve got.”

Here’s what Cold War Kids have: solid pop songwriting, soulful vocals and, above all, courtesy and tact — hard to come by in the indie-rock scene. 

And, for the record, they’re Christian — but they’re not an uncool band (if you’re into the stomp-clap thing).

Cold War Kids play with guests The Weather Machine 8 pm Wednesday, Dec. 2, at Hi-Fi Music Hall; $20.