Cults' Brian Oblivion on Changing Expectations and Getting Dark on Static
There's no more sun in Cults' eyes. The Manhattan-based indie-pop act best known for the cloyingly sweet singles "Go Outside" and "Oh My God" have returned with Static, a departure from what set sights on them in the first place. The only familiar part of their aesthetic is the album cover itself, placing vocalist Madeline Follin and vocalist/guitarist Brian Oblivion's silhouettes at the forefront. Most everything else, however, is different.
Courtesy of Cults
"We setting out to make a darker, more aggressive record, but I think a little bit about it also, was like muso stuff," Oblivion says. "I was really into making chord progressions that work but aren't in the same key sound nice and pleasant. A lot of Halloween music is like that -- there's like one chord that's really wrong then with the next chord you're right back. It kind of takes you on a roller coaster ride."
Such turbulence has been the hallmark of Cults' career since their self-titled debut. Oblivion and Follin, once an item and something like the Sonny-and-Cher of the Pitchfork-savvy free world, split up during the making of Static, resulting in a laser focus on their breakup during the press cycle for the record. However, their maturing sound has been well-received, in some part due to their Hiro Murai-directed video for "High Road." As the director at the helm of Earl Sweatshirt's newest Doris singles and St. Vincent's "Cheerleader," Murai's visual direction was indicative of Cults' paradigm shift.
"Most of the people who had ideas for ["High Road"] were carbon copies of our old videos, like a spooky vibe or relationship stuff, but we really didn't want to do that anymore," Oblivion says. "The black and white, it was really graphic, [and] it was playing more to your subconscious than your dramatic self."
Now, more than ever, Cults would rather work for themselves above anything else. Given the blogosphere's adoption of their debut album, Static is bound to push more boundaries with its shaded, dissonant take on independent art pop. It hasn't been an easy ascendance though. In an era that's more absorbent of music than ever, Cults' sophomore presence has been more questioned than lauded. Oblivion, as he should be, seems to be confused by this.