Cults: The Message is in the Music

Written by Noah Wunsch on . Posted in Arts & Film, Music.


They live together. They tour together. They write music together. Cults’ Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion have the makings of soul mates, and the following of cult leaders. The band began with the onset of adult life approaching. With unemployment at a staggering rate, and no interest in a bar tending/barista job, Oblivion and Follin started writing music and posting it online. Dreamy songs with dark titles. The Ronettes meet the Manson Family.


The reaction was immediate. Their songs were blasted out into the inter-stratosphere, garnering attention from SPINPitchfork and MTV, who used their track “Go Outside,” for a super-video starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco. Since the release of their debut album, the eponymous Cults, they’ve taken to the road, but this Thursday they come back home for a night to play Webster Hall, before heading back on the road to recruit more followers. We caught up with Oblivion for a preview.

You guys have said that the songs on your record, Cults, “are about teen angst, are about growing up,” especially in the wake of graduating and dealing with employment. Are these topics you continue to explore in the songs you’re piecing together now or have you become more interested in other topics as your adult life solidifies with the success of the band?
Brian Oblivion: 
I think a lot of what the record is about is more than just growing up. It’s about an obsession with independence and drama, and that’s going to be important for us for the rest of our lives. If we give up on those topics we’ll get really boring, and we’re definitely fighting that as well. It’s been a crazy year though.

When did you guys realize this was a project to focus on?
We were lucky enough that things started happening for us really quickly. Within a week of posting the songs, people started paying attention to them. When we realized we had an audience it was like, “Oh man this is every artist’s dream.” We took it very seriously from the beginning.

Your songs and videos deal with some pretty heavy topics: kidnap [“Abducted”], cults [“Go Outside”], bad things happening to the ones you love [“Bad Things”] wrapped in dreamy lyrics. Are these based on fiction, or do they come from life experience?
It’s more of a glamorization of reality than it is a fiction or a truth. Everybody’s had experiences that we talk about in our songs, but the songs represent something bigger than life. It’s not really our experiences, it’s about how we experienced things that weren’t as dramatic, but might have represented something bigger for us.

You were recently on Yo Gabba Gabba, the Nick Jr. TV show. Was that a weird trip?
That was probably the coolest thing we’ve ever done. It was really bizarre being there. They asked us to do it two days before the shoot. We were like, “Yes. We’ll be there.” We flew out to L.A., recorded the song in one day, did the shoot in one day, left and watched the show. It was amazing. Madeline has two younger brothers who love that show, so it was pretty much the coolest thing we could’ve done in their eyes.

You’ve talked about how the Internet has killed the mystery of a musician. There’s no wondering what someone does day-to-day, because it’s all there. What would you want your fans thinking about you doing on a regular day?
We actually thought about this recently because we got approached by… an unnamed network, about doing a reality show and we told them the only way we would do it is if it were scripted. Madeline was going to be the glamorous star that hangs out with celebrities and is told by the record label to drop the band and go solo. I was going to be addicted to gambling and prostitution, but the only thing I would do with prostitutes is pay them to sit around and tell us how good the band is. The other members were gonna be gang members and motorcycle riders. I want people thinking about me in a dark strip club paying someone to reassure my confidence.

What can you say about living, working and touring with your girlfriend?
It’s great. It makes the work flow a lot more streamlined, but the thing that’s weird about our relationship is that it’s always been that way for us. We moved in together after the week me met, and since the day we met we’ve been on tour together and spent 24 hours together every day of the week. It’s always been like that, so there was no real transition.

Do you write your music with a specific outlet in mind? It feels like your music is best played on vinyl, is that something you’re aware of when it’s being produced?
I’ve never actually listened to our vinyl. I have a little box of them sitting in my house. But no, I don’t think we care. The music-making process for us is that as soon as we’re done with something, we’re done with it. We had to listen to our album recently at an in-store signing, and it was the first time we heard it in six or seven months and we were like, “We sound pretty good actually.” You can listen to it however you want to: Blu-ray, cassette, whatever.

Compared to playing venues around the country, what’s it like coming home and playing? Are you excited about your show Thursday?
It’s kind of terrifying, to be honest. We haven’t played New York that much. We’ve played other cities a lot more. This concert at Webster Hall is going to be the last time we play New York until next year, so we’re kind of going for it big time and we’re really excited.

Cults play tomorrow night to a SOLD OUT audience at Webster Hall (125 E. 11th St.).

 


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