Indie band Cults plays dreamy pop
One of the surprise breakout indie bands of 2011 is stopping in Salt Lake City as part of its North American tour.
Riding the wave of its self-titled debut album, which made many year-end “Best of” lists, the New York City–based duo Cults is scheduled to perform at Urban Lounge on Wednesday.
A headlining tour is quite the accomplishment for a project that began rather unassumingly. The band began making waves in the music scene in 2010 when it posted some songs on its Bandcamp page. Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion were using the music-hosting site as a way to share their songs with friends.
Follin and Oblivion (born Ryan Mattos) were just a couple of college students from San Diego. They were living together in New York and recorded songs in their spare time.
“We’ve kind of been able to map out how it happened,” Oblivion said. “It started with family and friends sharing our songs and it just spread from there.”
It didn’t take long before music blogs were buzzing about Cults. It seemed that everyone wanted to know more about the pair.
After posting on Bandcamp, Cults started getting offers to play shows and received emails from record labels that wanted to sign it — all this attention from a part-time recording project.
It would have been easy for the two to jump at the first offer, but they didn’t. Oblivion said it took them nearly a year before they found a record label they were comfortable signing with. The band eventually started making music full time and the result was one of the most memorable indie pop albums of last year.
Cults’ debut record is awash with playful melodies and danceable rhythms saturated with dreamy reverb, which makes the music deceptively upbeat. Themes of heartbreak, loneliness and finding one’s way in life are all prevalent in the album’s lyrics.
“Go Outside” starts off innocently enough with a vibraphone playing the song’s main melody, which Oblivion wrote while watching TV, he said. Then Follin’s tender voice chimes in.
“I really want to go outside and make it light all day,” Follin sings.
But what is seemingly an ode to a sunshiny days is actually a lament. Follin goes on to point out the differences between herself and her companion. The song ends with a foreshadowing of the relationship’s doom: “I think I want to live my life and you’re just in my way.”
The song “Bumper” is another great exercise in using lighthearted instrumentals contrasted with lyrics about a weighty subject. The duet has the couple riffing back and forth in a he-said-she-said tale of a relationship gone awry. It’s one the few songs on the album in which Oblivion’s vocals play a prominent role.
Follin is the frontwoman of the band, but Oblivion is billed as the man behind the scenes. He’s credited as a multi-instrumentalist and producer. When recording, it’s just Follin and Oblivion, but a full band accompanies the twosome during Cults’ live performances.
“It’s difficult to translate what’s on the record to a live show,” Oblivion said. “We’re totally different live.”