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.

"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.

"Two years between your debut record and your next record is a pretty logical amount of time. You tour for a year, you take six months to write and record it, and then it takes another six months before [the label] can put it out, and then there you go," Oblivion says. "I guess that's one thing that bothers me, people acting like we're working on this novelty for 'five years' just because we stopped tweeting for a while."

But Oblivion knows that Static has been more for Cults' growth than anything. Despite what the future has in store past this record, Oblivion would like to see a change in the mentality of musicians as a whole, the result of his personal growth and discontent with musical elitism. Coming from a band that worked hard to make an initial name in the blog and Bandcamp circles, his vision is one to take note of, albeit delivered with a semi-ironic laugh.

"If you're expecting to get rich making music, you are going to be sorely disappointed," he says."I think people need to change their expectations of what being a musician is. I look forward to a world where music is free and everybody makes art and music, because we have so much to do with computers and recording. You don't get a dope ambient electronic record made by someone who's a doctor. Art will be something that's out there that everybody does -- we'll have more interesting music made by a whole bunch of different people rather than just us long-haired kids who want to rock out."

Cults is scheduled to play Crescent Ballroom on Saturday, Nov. 9.

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K.C. Libman
Contact: K.C. Libman