Cults gained nearly instant attention after the release of their 2010 single “Go Outside,” which was picked up by indie blogs like “Hipster Runoff” (RIP) and “Pitchfork,” and was played in literally every Gap store that year. Their ‘60s Ye-Ye-inspired indie rock combined with dark lyricism and visuals — their first music video superimposed them into the Jonestown Massacre — have proven to be entrancing. Madeline Follin (vocalist and instrumentalist) and Brian Oblivion (guitarist and drummer) prepare to play a sold out show at The Chapel and a free show at Amoeba Music tomorrow to promote “Offering,” their third album. Follin and Oblivion spoke with the Foghorn about their favorite places in San Francisco, why they recorded their album in the city and how they came up with their band’s name.
How did you come up with “Cults?”
Brian Oblivion: That’s a common question and there’s still not a definitive answer. We grew up in San Diego, where Heaven’s Gate [a religious cult that committed mass suicide in 1997 in order to reach a higher plane of existence] happened. We’ve actually been listening to [Stitcher’s] Heaven’s Gate podcast [which chronicled the history of the cult and interviewed their surviving family members] a lot recently. San Diego’s just this place that encourages a weird alternative lifestyle, which we were definitely fascinated with. That’s why our first single [“Go Outside”] started with a Heaven’s Gate quote.
How did your process and music change from recording your debut album to this third album?
BO: When we started we had no idea. We didn’t have a lot of experience. I had taken a few electronic music classes and Madeline could play guitar and drums and sing. As we’ve gotten more experience, we’ve gotten better and the music sounds more seamless.
Madeline Follin: I think our lyrics have changed, too. They’ve become more literary through the years, so it’s a little more private, in a way. Both of us growing has changed our music as a whole. We had no idea how to make music early on. Being in studios has just made us progressively better and changed the way we focus on making songs.
BO: “Most Wanted,” one of the first songs we wrote, happened when Madeline bought me a $100 keyboard for my birthday. I came up with the riff and the song was finished in 30 minutes. We push ourselves a lot more now to find something unique and interesting, whether it’s a line or a riff.
There’s a pretty big gap between “Offering” and “Static.” Was it hard to record this album?
BO: Not really, we just toured for a really long time. We were basically touring nonstop for four years straight. We started work on it immediately, but we tried not to rush anything. We just tried to work on the music organically.
MF: We went straight from college to touring as a band, so we’ve never had the opportunity to live regular adult lives. We treated recording this album as a job almost. We started in the morning and left in time for dinner every day until it was finished.
Why did you choose to record the bulk of this record in the Bay Area?
MF: Our producer moved to San Francisco and we followed him. We started recording in New York, then flew to San Francisco back and forth every two weeks to record. Randomly, my stepdad had a friend who lived in Berkeley, so we stayed with him. I love Berkeley. I lived there for two years and went to elementary school in San Francisco, so it feels like home.
You’ve both lived in San Francisco. What are some of your favorite places in the city?
MF: I lived in the Sunset, and that’s my absolute favorite part of the city.
BO: I lived on 18th and Guerrero. I really love Tartine — they have the best sandwiches. I try to go there every time we’re here. I don’t really know any of the cool places to go partying because I lived there before I was 21, but I loved hanging out in Dolores Park with my friends.
What do you want to tell the people going to your show on Nov. 3?
BO: We want to thank you very much. Our San Francisco show was one of the first to sell out, which is great because we consider this our third home. I’m really excited to play The Chapel because I’ve passed by it so many times and I know it’s a great venue. We’re also really excited to be playing with [Curls’] Christopher Owens, who’s basically San Francisco’s Elvis.
Featured Photo: Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin of Cults. SONY MUSIC.