Worlds Not Yet Imagined

cults-by-shawn-brackbillTalking with Cults.

By Lindsey Lowe Osborne

I hate to be cheesy (okay, I don’t), but the band Cults has earned a sort of…cult following. (Had to do it!) And for good reason: Their synth-pop-rock sound is worth listening to. Edgy and bright, easy and complex—all at the same time—it’s the kind of music that makes you press the “back” button every time the song ends. Singer Madeline Follin, one half of the duo, says it’s hearing about people having those kinds of experiences with the music she and bandmate Brian Oblivion create that makes the hustle worth it. “[What has surprised me most] is probably just talking to people about how our music has affected them,” Follin says. “You get the weirdest and coolest stories at shows. We’ve met a biologist who listens to our tunes while growing bacteria in a pitch-black lab and parents who said singing one of our songs was their kid’s first time speaking!”

Cults was born in 2010 when Follin and Oblivion, both students at the time, started playing around with some sounds and posted a three-song EP to their Bandcamp page. “Some people thought they were cool and wrote about them, even though we didn’t have any pictures or bios or T-shirts or anything. That was pretty bizarre for us, but we just kept writing,” Follin says. “We recorded them with a $50 keyboard and a borrowed microphone. We didn’t really expect anything to happen. We just wanted to be cool and have a band like our friends. When we realized people in Mexico were listening to them we figured we should make some more.”

So that’s exactly what they did. They released a full-length album, Cults, in 2011, followed by 2013’s Static and this year’s Offering, which they’re touring for now, stopping in Birmingham at Saturn on Nov. 15. Follin says they’re excited, as always, to give this latest work to the world and to connect with the people who are listening to it. “I think we like to ride kind of a weird line. We like a lot of different music between us and I think it comes out as kind of a bizarre blend, she says. “I always call us a pop band but Brian says we’re a rock band. I’m not really sure what those words mean anymore. I think we’re very melody-focused but we also try to create unique rhythms for each song.

“I think if you asked me or Brian independently we would both say we prefer writing and recording because that’s where we get to experiment the most. When we wrote the title track, we thought we had written some crazy goth horror thing but everyone in our band was like, ‘Oh, that’s a cool Cults song…’ We get more experienced but always end up back at the beginning,” she says. “We love playing live and as we play the songs more and more, we find ways to evolve them so they feel new again. But that process can be slower, and it’s really more about connecting with the audiences than making something new every day.”

Follin, who grew up in a musical household, says that the connection that music can forge—what causes people to fall in love with songs and albums and bands, the reason we all cried when David Bowie died, because his music means something—is something she’s experienced since she was a kid. If the music she makes can do that for someone else, she says, then Cults has made it. “I remember music making me feel like there were worlds out there I hadn’t yet imagined, and that in my own world I was less alone than I assumed,” she says. “I hope that our music can do both those things for people.”

Bon Iver

Bon Iver

Upcoming Events

11/8: Bon Iver at the BJCC. Listen: “Towers” from Bon Iver, Bon Iver.

11/17: Johnnyswim at Iron City. Listen: “First Try” from Georgica Pond.

12/15: Jake Bugg at the Lyric Theatre. Listen: “Someone Told Me” from Jake Bugg.

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