The title of Cults’ sophomore album, Static, can be interpreted a number of different ways.
According to guitarist Brian Oblivion, who co-founded the New York-based group with singer Madeline Follin in 2010, it was intended as a reference to the crackling, black-and-white static present on a disconnected television.
“There was this idea of a little, Wall-E-type broken TV character who was cycling through all these outdated programs from different eras,” said Oblivion, 25, in a late January phone interview. “So musically a lot of the songs have their own kind of theme. We would think about ‘High Road’ as our spy thriller song and ‘We’ve Got It’ as a Western and ‘Shine a Light’ as our Italian romance.”
Fair or not, some outsiders have connected the title to past tensions between Oblivion and Follin, who dated for nearly four years and broke up shortly before recording sessions started for the new album. The lyrics largely reflect this new reality, Follin singing: “Should have took the high road/Now my days have all turned black”; “No more tears to cry for you”; “So close to letting go.”
Musically, at times, the album can be equally heavy-hearted, Oblivion constructing a dense, decaying landscape of reverb-laden guitar and electronic white noise that could pass for the soundtrack to a once-happy relationship coming slowly undone.
According to Oblivion, this is far from what the band intended.
“If you hang out with us for more than 10 minutes it’s easy to see that we’re very friendly and well-adjusted people, and we get along great,” said the guitarist, who first picked up the instrument at the age of 12 after becoming infatuated with his neighbor’s band Slut Magnet. “The whole process of making the record was really painless between us.”
This is due at least in part to Oblivion’s decision to trek “Lost in Translation”-style to Japan immediately after the split, removing himself from the situation both physically and emotionally until he felt recharged and ready to give Cults another go.
“I don’t like the woods, and I’m not a nature person,” he said. “So that’s the closest I could get to the wilderness — a city where no one speaks my language and no one really cares that I exist.”
Even at his lowest point, however, the guitarist never once doubted he and Follin would resume making music upon his return.
“These days it’s so simple to be involved in a band in any capacity you want to be,” he said. “I have no doubt we’ll be making Cults records for the next 10 years, at least.”