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Cults' affecting pop is the blogosphere's latest darling 

Wednesday, Jul 14 2010
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One day in late February, Cults' vocalist, Madeline Follin, was on her way to school when she got an e-mail from a friend. "Hey, you're on Gorilla vs. Bear!" Follin read it in astonishment. Two hours later, her mom called. "Oh my God, you're on Pitchfork." More mouth gaping.

"We literally put up the songs three weeks before, never played a show, didn't even have a band together," Follin explains. "It was really shocking."

In case you haven't heard, Cults are the indie blogosphere's latest pop sensation. A few songs uploaded to the Internet and a couple of nods from the hottest tastemakers, and the New York duo is in the spotlight.

"It's been so great to have people connect to the music and have them interpret it and think about it in their own ways," says guitarist and songwriter Brian Oblivion (not his real name, but one taken from the 1983 David Cronenberg film Videodrome).

It didn't hurt that the band was cloaked in mystery. At first, Cults were nothing but an anonymous Bandcamp page tagged with just two things: "soul" and "New York." Now we know they're two twentysomething film students and a more-than-friends couple who initially called their music a "pet project." The band's 7-inch — a three-song treat available as a free download — was intended for friends.

"We weren't thinking of marketing ourselves as a band," Oblivion admits. "We just put the music up, and ever since then it's been one of those things. It's been really organic and cool."

The single that got all the hype — and for good reason — is "Go Outside," a lo-fi blend of soda-fountain pop and Motown soul. Infectious and uplifting, the tune is all good vibes and sunshine. Its meandering melody, daintily laced with childlike glockenspiel, moves hearts and souls easily into the "la la la"s. Follin's echoey voice — sweet, seductive, lazy — sounds like a lullaby dipped in the daze of young love.

It's so good that indie blog giant Gorilla vs. Bear partnered with Weekly Tape Deck to create a record label and make "Go Outside" (with "Most Wanted" on the B-side) its first release. Forest Family Records pressed 400 yellow-vinyl copies, which sold out at $11 a pop before the single's official release in late April.

Cults are working on a full-length record for an as-yet-unpublicized label ("That's a secret," Follin says) due out soon. But if you believe the U.K. Guardian, it might be a British hottie with her own record label and a penchant for using the f-word in lyrics (psst: Lily Allen). In the meantime, cable cartoon network Adult Swim has produced a video for new single "Oh My God" and is making it available for free download on its website. In the spirit of sharing the music as much as possible, the band promises a few more singles leading up to a full-length album.

"The way that we think about pop music is that pop music should make your life better," Oblivion says. "People have been e-mailing us, saying maybe they were in a rut or having a bad day, and then they listened to our music and it made them feel better. What more could you want out of your artistic goals than just to make people happy?"

Cults are hitting the road for the first time this summer, touring in support of Chicago's Maps and Atlases, an experimental folk-rock quartet (think Animal Collective around a campfire) with some serious facial hair. The tour, like everything else, happened so fast that Cults had to scramble to put a band together. Fortunately, a bunch of friends from other acts rushed to the rescue, including Madeline's brother, Richie James Follin, from the garage-punk band Willowz. "They just put their stuff on hold to help us out," Oblivion says. "They're all amazing musicians."

The tour kicks off in San Francisco, where Follin and Oblivion (both San Diego natives) resided before relocating to New York. "When we play S.F., it will be our 10th show or something," Oblivion says. "So we're still really free and figuring out the live thing. It's really exciting."

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Katie Buono

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