Interview with Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion of Cults

Last week, we interviewed Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion to discuss Offering, the latest offering from their band Cults. The two perform at Johnny Brenda’s this Saturday, October 14 in a show that will demonstrate their musical transition from the 2010 hit single “Go Outside” to the more spiritual sound of Offering. Throughout the interview, both Follin and Oblivion emphasized that Offering differs greatly from their other albums in that it talks about growing up and “being a normal human being.”

After their almost immediate success in the music industry, Follin and Oblivion dropped out of college to pursue their music, and went through a whirlwind of intense touring and promotion for their first two albums. The two shared how the stress of this success stunted the regular pattern of emotional growth that young adults follow, and that Offering is about how they each used these past four years to re-find themselves and make music that dealt with their experiences, “making something big and hopeful out something kind of sad.” Read the interview below to learn more about the process of creating Offering, and don’t forget to buy a ticket for Saturday night’s show.

WQHS: Why is the album called Offering? What’s behind the name?

Brian Oblivion: There’s a few reasons, the first being that we had just written that song called “Offering.” It kind of felt like the crux of the album, that specific track. But also, if you want to  get deep, it’s about the nature of artistic presentation

WQHS: How do you think your sound has evolved since your last album came out?

BO: What we’re doing now is trying to be a lot more expansive than before. We used to put a lot of restrictions on ourselves. We thought of it more as like an art project. We like these retro songs and we like these modern songs, how can we bring them together? But I think this time we just threw out the playbook completely and just tried to make music that we like by letting ourselves be influenced by anything and everything that we enjoy.

WQHS: A lot of people talked about how Static dealt with breakup emotions. What is the emotional focus of Offering?

Madeline Follin: A lot about growing up and being a normal human being because we never experienced that. We graduated high school, then went to college, then dropped out of college to do this. And we were living our lives in a van or on a bus for like five years. So over the past four years, we learned how to be normal human beings.

BO: I think if the second record was more sad, this one’s a little more melancholy. How can we address this problem we’re talking about? How can we insert some hopeful feeling into this? Our favorite bands like The Cure or The Motels, big influences of this record, were always about making something big and hopeful out of something kind of sad.

WQHS: Madeline, you actually play some instruments on this album.

MF: Yeah, I play some drums and keys which is really exciting because, like I said, we spent a lot time living normal lives. So during those four years, I was spending time getting better at playing instruments, and coming into this record I felt more confident and would come out and say “Oh let me play that” or “Oh let me try something.” Our style was always very collaborative, but I probably wasn’t as confident in myself to just get on the drum kit and play the song.

BO: The only way this band works is if we’re in the same room together. Like 99.5% of the music we made is because we were in a room jamming. It’s not like the kind of arrangement where we send each other parts back and forth. If I don’t have someone there to be an audience, I just won’t make anything. So even though previously Madeline didn’t play every part, she certainly had an opinion about every single part that was played on every single track.

WQHS: Brian, I read somewhere that you said the lyrics from “Took Your Picture”: “Tinge of blue/To the end/left our hearts/With regrets/I’m learning” are a kind of thesis statement for the album.

BO: That’s probably my favorite lyric on the album and it does kind of circle back to the whole statement of the record. I feel like a lot of the time we spent off was about trying to find some sense in serenity again, and falling in love with people, and reconnecting with friendships, and trying to find out like “Who am I?” We still don’t have an answer to that question but I think we’re getting closer. And I think that being closed off and holding grudges or bad feelings is not a good way to move forward in your life no matter how difficult things may be in this moment.

WQHS: You guys worked with Shane Stoneback again on this album. Anything in particular you like about his style?

BO: He’s a wizard. He’s just like our personal best friend, I think we both fight for his best friendship. He just reads our mind at this point. He knows exactly what we want before we even tell him. He also knows how to relieve arguments between us, he knows exactly how to diffuse the situation and make everyone happy. Oh, but he also knows how to push our buttons when he needs to. He’ll look at me and be like I really like that guitar part, it really reminded me of Counting Crows. And I’ll be like “Oh man.”

MF: He just knows how to get in our heads and get the best out of us. We’re really self-contained and the way we write, we’re kind of producing along the way, so Shane is like the yogi that gives us the confidence we need to actually say “done,” and that’s the hardest part for the artist.

WQHS: I noticed that the cover art for your first two albums is relatively similar, but the one for Offering is a lot different.

BO: Oh yeah, we always do our own cover art. We shot that picture at Madeline’s mom’s house.

MF: My mom was assisting on the photoshoot, I had my stepdad there doing the lights. There were a lot of hand modeling jokes. It’s just been a while and that kind of imagery from our other albums didn’t feel relevant anymore, so we were like oh let’s do something different.

WQHS: Do you think touring for Offering will be different from touring for your previous albums?

MF: I think we’re both really excited about touring. I love touring, it’s just that we did a lot of it on the first two records, so at the end of that cycle we were all very tired. After spending so much time at home, I’m really excited because I do love doing it and I think we all love doing it. We’re actually at my mom’s house figuring out our lighting and set production now.

WQHS: After a four year hiatus, do you two see yourself continuing to write new music after Offering?

BO: I think we’re already planning and writing the next record. I feel super inspired right now. I feel just stoked to do it. We had so much music for this album, maybe like forty songs, and I don’t even think we’re going to use them for the new album. I think we’re going to do all new stuff. And honestly, I think we’ll make music together in some form forever, because it’s just what we like doing. Whether that means putting out an album every ten years or when we’re in our sixties, maybe that’ll happen. You never know, but with all the technology we have, you can make music anywhere at anytime and there’s so many possibilities to be creative and I can’t picture myself ever stopping. I hope we just keep making records forever and ever.

Photo: Offering Album Cover

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