Hit The Lip: Cults

We grill NYC retro-pop couple Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion about long hair, love and life on the road.

Hit The Lip // Cristina Black // 01/18/12
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Olivia Malone

We recently talked to Guards, who are friends of yours and fronted by Madeleine’s brother Richie. We asked them a question that pertains to you too: Do you have something against haircuts?
Madeline: I do!
Brian: I don’t know what happened with the long hair thing. We all grew up together in California. Richie was the one who first inspired us to do it. So when we all hang out, we look like a street gang.

You’re like the classic boyfriend-girlfriend band. Tell me about the first time you guys met.
B: Actually, it was at one of Richie’s shows. I didn’t have anything to do for the summer, so I went on tour with his band the Willowz. Madeleine was at the show in San Diego. We met there and she decided to come on the rest of the tour with us, which was kind of a weird premonition of what was to come. At the time, neither of us was playing music. We started making music when we moved to New York and moved in together.

Now you’re on tour all the time together! Did you like each other right away?
B: I would forgive her if she didn’t like me the first time she saw me. I was sleeping on the ground outside the venue.
M: He did not look hot. [laughs]

Is it super intense to be in a band with your sweetheart?
M: Sometimes.
B: It’s nice to be around people you care about, whether it’s your girlfriend or the other guys in the band. I don’t think we could tour as much as we do if we weren’t so close. Otherwise, the shit that we say to each other at times would be unforgivable.

I heard you guys didn’t like the same music when you got together. True?
M: Yeah, we didn’t get along at first, but spending more time with each other, we found that there were certain things we did agree on, like ‘60s pop. But when I would listen to folky type stuff like Neil Young and the Band, Brian would hate it. And then when he would listen to Aphex Twin, it would give me panic attacks.
B: I guess it’s part of the process of getting to know somebody. That’s one of the reasons music is so cool. It’s an extension of who you are. Getting to know somebody as a person, you start to understand their tastes.

Who were the artists you found common ground with?
B: When we first met, Madeleine had The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore, which we were both fans of, but not publicly because it’s kind of cheesy. And Sonic Youth. What album did you have?
M: Dirty.

What’s a typical songwriting session like with you guys?
M: Brian will work on the music and I’ll hear him and get a feel, a vibe. Then when he’s done he’ll give it over to me and I’ll work on the melody and lyrics.
B: It’s like a little factory.

What was the first song you did together that made you realize you had something special?
B: “Go Outside” was the first song we wrote together. I was just sitting down watching TV, fumbling around with that bass line. I was like, oh I’ll record this. I ended up putting some synth chords on it and working on it for like a week. I thought it was done and then Madeleine started jokingly singing this little melody over it. I was like no, that’s good! Do it into the microphone. When we realized we could do it once, it got easier to do it again and again.

But you couldn’t foresee what was going to happen, that you’d get so popular, right?
M: We had absolutely no idea!
B: Our greatest ambition was to play this venue across the street from our house.

What venue?
B: It’s called Lit.

That dungeon on Second Avenue?!
B: Yeah, I thought that would be like really cool.
M: I never wanted to play there!

You guys got some big breaks really early on and blew up fast. Are your lives as easy as they appear to be?
B: Getting the songs done, getting attention and even getting a label wasn’t that hard, but since then, we’ve had to work really hard to get where we are. People have this idea that in one year we just became this massive band. That’s really not true. We were on tour that whole time, playing every single night. We haven’t had a single day off. When we were the most famous on the Internet, we were playing coffee shops and pizza places to like 15 people. It hasn’t been some fairy tale story.

What’s the hardest part for you Madeleine?
M: I recently pulled a nerve in my rib, so it’s been hard singing every night with that, and just getting sick and not having the time to get well sucks. But it’s worth it.
B: In order to live this lifestyle, you have to be, like, crazy. You have to have some kind of defect in your brain to go 60 days without sleeping. Luckily, everyone in our band has it!

Cults are now on tour in Australia, Asia and the U.S.

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Originally published in February/March 2012

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