Cults on “Offering”

Keeping the Faith

Nov 30, 2017 Photography by Shawn Brackbill Issue #62 - Julien Baker
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To the naked eye, indie-pop duo Cults may have been off the radar for the past four years. Band members Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin released their sophomore record Static back in 2013, which showed the band going into more experimental territory than 2011's self-titled debut. But since then, the New York-based band have seemingly remained off the grid. While it might have seemed like Cults went radio silent, they were mostly focused on making music the whole time (when they weren't trying to live like "normal human beings," as Follin says).  

"There wasn't a time we really took off or weren't doing anything related to Cults," explains Oblivion. "We were always working on the record, but we really took our time with it." For Oblivion, he worked on a spooky movie (something he can't yet name) and Follin collaborated with Jim Jarmusch and Étienne de Crécy. Together, the duo even filmed a scene for Terrence Malick's Song to Song (but didn't make the final cut) and went to the Rihanna writing camp, where musicians across genres gather to pitch and write songs for the pop star. And the band's own songwriting and recording never really ceased. "When we went into the real studio, I made an iTunes playlist of all the songs we had written, and I realized it was four hours and 48 minutes long," Oblivion says. "I was like, there has to be a record in there somewhere."

The album Oblivion and Follin found is Cults' third effort, Offering, which finds the band leaving their major label behind in favor of indie Sinderlyn Records. The transition ended up being drama-free for the duo. "It was very mellow actually," Oblivion notes. "We just woke up one day, looked around and we didn't know anyone at Columbia." Offering finds Oblivion and Follin in a more content place than they've ever been, which accounts for their time out of the limelight. "That was probably the wait between the records: waiting to feel like a different person and to feel like you had something valuable to say," he says.

They needed to begin anew after finding themselves in a depressed state during their sophomore LP. "I think it's because we didn't give ourselves much time to breathe," explains Follin, referencing the quick turnaround time between their first two albums. "We lived for three or four years traveling, and then you get home and it's depressing. You don't really have that many friends where you live. It's a strange feeling."

On Offering, the band has transitioned from doo-wop lilts about heartbreak to spaced-out melodies on hope. It's something that comes from the duo growing up. "Now we're adults who pay taxes and our view and emotional range has expanded on what we think is cool or important," says Oblivion. In fact, two years ago, he heard Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon for the first timea departure from the Christian rock and Bon Jovi he listened to as a kid. Not only did the record open his eyes to new sounds, but it heavily influenced the loosely-structured sound of Offering. It's safe to say that as the band's third LP surfaces, Cults have continued to embrace their weirdness and their affinity for music discovery. "When I was 15 [I was] sneaking out of my house with my headphones on listening to Joy Division and feeling so weird," says Oblivion. "If [Offering] can replicate that feeling for any person, I'll be so happy."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Fall 2017 Issue (October/November 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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