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A Stereoboard Interview with Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin of Cults

Wednesday, 25 May 2011 Written by Rob Sleigh
A Stereoboard Interview with Brian Oblivion and Madeleine Follin of Cults

Well, Lily Allen may have given up making music for a while, but that hasn’t stopped her from helping other people out with theirs. In the two years since the release of her second album ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’, the singer has opened a boutique and launched a fashion collection with her sister. Now, for her latest project, she has opted to try her hand at being a record company exec. The first act signed to her newly-founded In The Name Of label, if you haven’t already heard, is the New York-based duo Cults. Cults, comprising Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin, are a musical couple – and, incidentally, an actual couple – from San Diego in California, who first caught people’s attention when some of their songs started getting noticed on Bandcamp, the online music store for independent artists.

Ahead of the release of their debut album at the end of the month and their upcoming shows in the UK, Stereoboard catch up with both members of Cults to find out more about their music, their name and their “musical powers”.

Where did you first meet and how long have you known each other?

Brian: Madeline’s brother is in a band that I was tour managing. We met at one of their gigs in San Diego. The next day we road tripped from San Diego to San Francisco to pick up Madeline’s stuff. We were playing each other music on our iPods the whole way and discovered that we loved all of the same stuff.

When did you start writing music together?

Brian: We moved to New York together to go to film school and started working on songs together in between classes.

Whose idea was it to start making music and how did you both feel about it at first?

Madeline: There wasn’t really a point where we said “let’s form a band”. The whole thing came about naturally.

What were you hoping to achieve at that early stage?

Madeline: We just wanted to write good music and enjoy the process.

What genres and artists have influenced the music of Cults?

Madeline: Lesley Gore, Jay-Z, My Bloody Valentine. Brian loves Squarepusher and Aphex Twin as well.

Do you share the same influences or do you each bring different tastes to the group?

Brian: We like a lot of the same stuff, but our sphere of musical influence is pretty diverse. We’re not bound to one particular era or genre. We’re easily as influenced by The Wu Tang Clan and hip-hop as we are pop and rock’n’roll.

You began gaining some recognition last year. How did that come about and how did you feel about the attention?

Madeline: It all came about after we posted a demo on Bandcamp. Blogs and online magazines picked up on our music and really liked it and word spread from there.

ImageBrian: The great thing about Bandcamp is that it provided us with a way of getting our music out there without giving away too much of ourselves. This has always been really important to us. We’re conscious of the fact that, nowadays, bands often focus more of their time and effort on self-promotion and as a result the music suffers.

You recently signed to Lily Allen’s label In The Name Of for your first album. How did that collaboration come about?

Brian: We respect Lily Allen as an artist and when her label approached us, it was clear that they really understood our music and looked out for their artists.

What was it like making your first record and how did it compare to what you’ve done in the past?

Madeline: It was always loads of fun because we never put too much pressure on ourselves. You can suck the life out of a song by making it perfect and we didn’t want to do that.

Brian: I have been in bands since I was 13, including a Slayer covers band and Madeline sung on an Adolescents record and did a [song] with Dee Dee Ramone in her dad’s music studio once. Even though we both have musical backgrounds, our first Cults record is something completely new as it’s all self-written and self-produced.

How would you describe the music on the album?

Madeline: It’s upbeat pop on the surface but laced with darker subtext. The inspirational, moving speeches that appear, ghost-like, behind our music are taken from speeches made by notorious cult leaders like Charlie Manson.

Please can you give us an idea of what some of the songs are about and where you find inspiration for your lyrics?

Brian: A lot of our songs are about what we’re going through right now – the fear of growing up and facing adult responsibility. These kinds of fears are inspiring. Fear is what makes people join cults in the first place – wanting to escape competition and success and be a part of something bigger, communal. We also want to live our own lives with our own schedules and expectations, so in a way this band has become our own cult.

How are you feeling about the album now that it is all finished and is soon to be released?

Brian: We are definitely proud of it and looking forward to seeing how it will be received.

You’re just about to play a few dates here in the UK. How are you feeling about those shows?

Madeline: We love the UK. We love playing live shows. Playing live shows in the UK is a winning combination. We’re looking forward to it.

What do you like most of all about playing in the UK and how does it compare to performing back in the US?

Madeline: UK audiences have an enthusiasm for music that is unparalleled. As musicians, we feed off this, so playing here is always such as pleasure.

Do you enjoy playing live and how important is it to you as a group?

Brian: It’s always great to experience the way that fans receive your music first hand. Fans are fundamental to our existence as a band, so in that sense, playing live shows are really important.

What can people expect when they go to watch you play live?

Madeline: To be captivated by our musical powers.

Will you be playing more shows here later in the year or any festival appearances?

Madeline: We’re definitely hoping to play some more shows in the autumn and we’re also playing Glastonbury, which is really exciting.

What else have Cults got planned for 2011 and what are you hoping to achieve in the near future?

Brian: It’s been a really busy year for us. As well as touring and releasing our album, we’re constantly messing around with new ideas for new songs. So, you know, we’ll see how this album goes, but there is definitely more where that came from.

Cults’ debut album is due for release on 30th May.

Cults UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue May 24th 2011 - Scala, London
Sat May 28th 2011 - Various Bristol Venues, Bristol
Sun May 29th 2011 - Various Nottingham Venues, Nottingham
Mon May 30th 2011 - Various Manchester Venues, Manchester
Wed June 1st 2011 - The Cockpit, Leeds
Thu June 2nd 2011 - NICE N SLEAZY, GLASGOW
Fri June 3rd 2011 - The Tunnels, Aberdeen
Tue August 23rd 2011 - The Haymakers, Cambridge
Wed August 24th 2011 - Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
Wed August 31st 2011 - Nice 'N' Sleazy, Glasgow
Tue August 30th 2011 - Tunnels, Aberdeen, Aberdeen

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