On their first tour of Europe and the UK for several years, indie synth pop outfit Cults were given a traditional welcome to London; their bags which included passports and clothes were stolen from their dressing room at The Garage at Highbury. Hence why on this night it was only Brian Oblivion, one of half of the band available to talk as singer Madeline Follin was out buying make up and supplies for their performance in just under an hours’ time.
“It’s a bit of manic start” Brian claims, which is an understatement to say the least. With long, dark loose hair, a permanent five o’clock shadow and a toothy grin, he looks a lot like the beloved Young Ones character Neil and takes this upheaval in a mellow style befitting of the mild anarchist. He’s softly spoken, a laid-back West coast beach vibe that still remains from his youth in San Diego despite now working and living out of New York City.
This mix mingles itself into Cults’ sound, a dreamy pop sound with a soft-focus lens that has earned them devoted fans who are dedicated to caring about everything from the relationship and break up of Oblivion and Follin to the secrets of his now infamous Bolognese recipe, “The secret is too take your time with it, to cook it long and slow. I’m talking like two to three hours with it. I mean it all started out as kind of a joke, there was this meeting I didn’t want to go to, so I just told the guys I couldn’t be there because I was cooking a Bolognese.”
This all spiralled into a great in joke between the band and their fans. “It all started out simply, you know, throw in some ground beef, canned tomatoes, salt, pepper, but then you start thinking, I should experiment more with it, throw some cream in there, maybe some wine.” He’s talking about his Bolognese, but it could easily be about the music on their most recent album, Offering.
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It’s their most expansive sounding album yet, building on the base of their recent works, incorporating more sounds, more live instrumentation than ever before. From having every instrument and sound played through their keyboard on their first album, Cults and Oblivion are now taking more chances. “When we came to the second album, we thought, why not get a real drummer this time? What about strings? I think I’m grasping nuance now for the first time in my adult life. We’re starting to reach for a feeling that people might understand, to try to connect with it.”
This extends to their live performances as well. In the early days of touring the band would project the movie Night of the Hunter to play behind them as they performed, they cut out plastic sheets by hand to look like television screens, however this is no longer the case. Instead, they now project videos stylised akin to those of the early days of animation, each one selected carefully and paired with a specific song like a wine and cheese board. “It’s almost like the early idea for stereo; visual music. We spent a long weekend in my apartment with a projector hooked up in my living room, just me and Madeline listening to the record, watching all these old videos and being like ‘That one! At that time!’ It plays better that just showing the first half of Night of the Hunter somewhere behind you!”
But this all seems to mirror the greater, more tailored change we’re seeing in Cults in the four years since their last album came out, both aesthetically, personally and musically. This change has been a while in coming, but as Brian said of his Bolognese sauce, ‘to get these things right, you have to be willing to take your time with it.”