Glass talks to indie-pop duo Cults

ENTERING the indie charts in 2010, the New York-based band Cults blew us away with their catchy single Go Outside. Now celebrating their third album, the duo are back with newest release Offering telling the tale of heartbreak, recovery and self care. Having just finished a European tour, I spoke to Cults about their new record and what it means to them.

Cults, Madeline Follin (left) Brian Oblivion (right)

Your album is called Offering. Why?
Hello. This was our first album where we didn’t really have a name or really any kind of a game plan going into it, so when it was time to put a name on the album we just sat around outside and thought about it for a few minutes. We had already written the song, and when our co- producer Shane said “Offering?” we all laughed and said that was what was in our heads as well. In a lot of ways that song is the emotional anchor of the record, and we always get excited when we find a name that seems so obvious but hasn’t really been used before.

Turns out the most prominent album called Offering was the first Carpenters record, which was renamed Ticket to Ride after that cover caught some radio play. We thought that was a kind of fate as well.

How was the European tour? Do you have any stories from it?
It was our favorite Europe tour yet. We drove many long hours, had our bags and passports stolen in London, stupidly left our other bags in Copenhagen and ate a lot of gas station food but the crowds were amazing and we felt more at home there than ever before. Copenhagen specifically, we played in a kind of anarchist community called Christiania that was a truly amazing place. It would be amazing if a similar space existed here in New York.

What’s the response been to the new songs live?

It’s been great! You work on something for so long in isolation, and to hear it being sang back to you on another continent is a very strong reminder of why it is worth all the work. The new songs are also a little jammier than the old stuff, so we’ve been having fun stretching things out and getting a little weird.

Do you have a favorite you like to play live?

It really changes all the time. It’s an unfortunate but not coincidental reality that our singles have always been the hardest songs for me to sing. I love singing “Go Outside” and “Always Forever” but damn are they high up there. Always Forever is a band favorite because it gets a lot of sing alongs and has such a deep groove. As far as new songs, Talk in Circles and Good Religion are a blast to play because they’re so technical we get to feel like a prog band for a minute and that feels awesome.

You recently collaboration with J. Cole. How did that come about?

It came about as a total surprise. I guess he was into our music and sampled our song Bad Things for a song on his record called She Knows. We were recording Static at the time and we got an email asking us if we were okay with the sample. We were really stoked and pulled it up on the speakers right away and loved the track but we couldn’t stop laughing when listening to it because every 15-20 seconds there would be this really loud robotic voice over the track saying, “THIS IS FOR SAMPLE CLEARANCE ONLY”. It’s kind of become an ongoing joke in our band since then.

Your last record was in 2013 and you’ve mentioned that you took some time off to live normal lives. At what point did you think “ok let’s get back into this?”
We were always writing and poking around at stuff, we just toured for two years after the second record and at that point it had been five straight years of constant touring or living at the studio. We got really serious when we made an iTunes playlist of all the music we had written for “Offering” and realized it was four hours and forty five minutes long…That’s when we called Shane and said “dude we gotta finish this…”

The video for Right Words is so cosmic. Elliott Sellers is a great director. Did you have any creative input with it?
Elliot has become one of our best friends. I’m currently trying to help him sublet his Brooklyn apartment. We’ve always kind of worked with one director per album, it just makes sense to keep the ideas flowing and keep things in the family. We lucked out big time finding Elliott, he’s so approachable and we vibe so hard we end up improving stuff all the time.

Recovery is my favorite song on the album. It’s so dreamy and I feel like it could be on the soundtrack for a ‘90s film. What’s it about?
LOL. if you asked Brian he would say its about the show Intervention. We were watching that a lot in the studio. For some reason its one of the few shows we could put on and everyone would be appeased without having to pay too much attention to it. Really its just about recovery. Whether thats emotionally, or from drugs or from over work or whatever. The importance of self care I guess you could say.

The album builds up a lot especially with closing track Gilded Lily which has this epic finale. Did you write the songs chronologically to be like this?
Not necessarily. The chorus to Gilded Lily was actually the chorus to Right Words for a while. Everything got kind of jumbled and shifted around like it always does. That said, every one of our albums so far has ended with a kind of power ballad, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

There’s so much going on with the sound on this record. It gets pretty heavy at some points. How do you translate this sound live?
I think part of us maturing as musicians was realizing that translating the album perfectly live is just impossible. At least if you’re not just gonna do karaoke or whatever. So when we practice with our band, we always encourage them to take the parts and interpret them however they see fit, and try to make a little leaner and tighter versions for the stage. Trying to squeeze that 11th keyboard track into a live context is just a losing game…

Who were you listening to around the time you wrote the album?
Pink Floyd, Cocteau Twins, The Motels, The Cars, M83, Stevie Wonder, Gary Numan, Frank Ocean on and on and on …

Who are you listening to now?
Ourselves. I honestly haven’t listened to much music lately since we’ve been on the road so much. We listen to a lot of podcasts when we’re driving. Or classical music, something relaxing. We all really love the new MGMT record and Brian had apparently never heard The Cardigans until he road in a San Diego Uber so we’ve had a lot of that going on.

by Katrina Mirpuri

Watch the video for Right Words, Natural State below.

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Glass Online music writer

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