Ethan Miller, Getty | Mark Davis, Getty Although they've yet to lure the…
- Posted on May 25th 2011 4:00PM by Joe Tacopino
Now, Cults have blossomed into a five-piece, Oblivion and Follin have left film school and the band has a self-titled full-length due out June 7 from Columbia. Spinner caught up with Brian Oblivion to discuss the band's new album, their thoughts on actual cults and their haunting video for 'Abducted.'
Who came up with the idea for the video? Is it something you were involved in as a film student?
The only real vision that we had that we kind of kept in mind when writing the song was the scene from 'Lost Highway' by David Lynch, just the car driving at night and the road kind of bending bizarrely in front of it. We had that image in mind for the song before we even wrote it. Then we went talked to a bunch of directors and we were like, "This is really the only idea that we have. Anything else is fair game." We got a bunch of different takes on that, and we also said that we wanted people that had interesting faces to be in the video. We didn't want to perform. We didn't want to be in it much. And then the director that ended up doing it came back with the coolest, most exciting idea.
Where was it filmed?
Out near Los Angles. They never planned for it to be snowing. It had snowed really heavily the night before, but I think it makes the whole thing look a lot cooler, like Fargo, N.D., instead an hour north of L.A.
What's the deal with the way it runs backwards? Is that because you wanted to leave it ambiguous to the viewer as to who was being abducted or if, in fact, they were trapped or in danger at all?
Yeah, in a sense, that's what a lot of our songs are about, and that song too. It's like being in a bad situation, or having a f---ed-up life or a f---ed-up experience but then having that be preferable to just boredom and nothingness.
A lot of the video is about the push-and-pull of the relationship where things could be going really horribly on one side for a while, then really horribly on the other side for a while but that's the way that life is. And if things are even keel and normal the whole time, then you're probably in more trouble than if you're arguing.
If seems like this theme ties into the idea of a cult. I know you use some samples of cult leaders in your songs, like the one at the YFZ Ranch in Texas. Have they inspired you with the way they convince people that life is better with them?
Yeah, it's really bizarre. They're trying to justify to these people, like "Oh, we have mail and telephones and everything. It's great here."
I love that ambiguity where on the one side it's like, "It's horrible. You need to leave." On the other side, you're saying, "Who am I to tell you that the way that you're living your life is not correct?"
There's just really a different way of living. It's only when things get violent and hurtful that it's something we actively look down upon.
Were you toying with this concept when you came up with the name Cults?
When the band started, my friends and I were planning on going on a road trip to go and make a documentary and record a lot of old blues musicians, because we figured that that tradition and that music and the people that made it in the beginning were going to die soon. So, when that didn't work, when we couldn't get it all together, we came up with this idea like "Why don't we go around to weird religious centers and make an album of secular music that's non-Christian?"
We were trying to find all these cults that we could go to, hoping they have their own folk songs and their own mythology that we could document. But that didn't work out very well either because those people do not really want you around. But we were really impressed with the idea of cults and the way that people lived on them. It has parallels to adolescent life, I guess. Everybody always dreams about running away and joining some group of crazies
It's been a while since those first few songs were posted online. Why did you wait so long to put out a full-length?
It was a deliberate move on our part to try and slow things down. We had almost an album's worth of material in a couple months after those songs came out. We really wanted to make sure, especially since the first song was so successful, that we were really going to be enduringly proud of everything that we did.
So, we took more time than we needed and just to make the record sit, listen to it, go back, make changes. Sit. Listen to it. Go back make changes. Just to be absolutely certain about every one of the songs and how they sound.
We tried to work in different directions and make different kinds of songs. [I] think that was the smartest things we could have done. Now I feel really happy about the whole thing.
Are you still going to NYU?
Well, I'm joining the illustrious alumni of NYU dropouts. We both called it quits at the beginning of this year. It was time to register for next year's classes and we both were so busy with this, we figured that we owed it to ourselves to give it a full shot. All of my teachers are really, really excited. They were like, "Yeah, drop out man. I wished I could have dropped out when I was your age."
I might go back. I figure there's no way I could go back without my tail between my legs, so I'll try to stay away for as long as I can. But I think one day I'll probably do it.
Are you still living in New York?
Yeah, we still in the same place in the East Village where we lived when we were going to school.
So you're a New York band?
Well, yeah. Manhattan band. It's an important distinction these days. Everybody wants to lump you into Brooklyn. That scene is over, man. It's going back to the city. The city's cheaper than Brooklyn now, so why would the artists live there?
There seemed to be some mystery surrounding the band when you started, in part due to the name and also because there really just really wasn't much information about you guys. Was that by design?
It was a two-part thing. At first, it was just by accident because we put the songs up to send it to our friends. I had no perception that anything was gonna happen with the music. We didn't have a MySpace or anything. We just put the songs up so people could share them.
But as time went on, we've tried as much as the industry will allow us to put the music first and not be like a cult-of-personality band -- just let the music speak for itself and not be celebrities or whatever.
A lot of indie bands succeed based on their personality, but I don't think we have those personalities, for one. And then two, I wouldn't want them to interfere with how people hear the music.
You'd rather people focus on the music rather than the minutiae of your everyday lives.
I always had these really romantic notions of, you know, growing up as a kid and really liking At the Drive In and staying up late thinking, "I wonder what they're doing right now. They're probably doing something so cool."
Now, the reality with Twitter is like, "Wait, they're just eating at a fancy restaurant." It's the veil being lifted. It's always being lifted in the culture we live in right now, but you don't have to lift it yourself.