Cultivation

Cults breed followers in anticipation of their upcoming self-titled debut.

Joseph Kleinschmidt

What: Cults with Magic Kids and Superhumanoids

When: 8 p.m., tomorrow

Where: 7th Street Entry, 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis

Cost: $10 in advance; $12 at the door

 

A year ago, Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion were living ordinary lives in New York as film students. After uploading a few songs to the Internet under the name âÄúCults,âÄù blogs like Gorilla vs. Bear took notice, collapsing the anonymity the two first sought. Initially, the singles spread solely among friends.

âÄúMadeline and I began making music not accidentally but kind of naturally,âÄù guitarist Oblivion said. âÄúIt was just a fun thing to do on the weekends.âÄù

Fresh off of playing South by Southwest and currently slated to play Coachella, the band has enjoyed extensive touring, headlining and playing with fuzzed out rockers Small Black.

Before signing to Columbia in November of last year, they self-released a free, three-song EP on bandcamp.com as well as a 7âÄù with Forest Family Records.

And Cults refuse to change much of their process, despite being advised by Sony Music giant Columbia. Although collaborators like engineer Shane Stoneback (Sleigh Bells, Vampire Weekend) tightened up tracks, they remain largely self-produced. The lo-fi quality of early tracks shows the philosophy behind much of their music.

âÄúOur songs on our album are representative of our age,âÄù Oblivion said. âÄúYouâÄôre supposed to start acting like an adult âĦ and you just want to be rebellious.âÄù

These themes like rebellion or loneliness underlay CultsâÄô songs, not surprising for a band in their 20s. However, FollinâÄôs vocals surpass cliché. Their latest single, âÄúYou Know What I Mean,âÄù demonstrates the simultaneity of both jarring and innocent melodies, creating a full-fledged anthem.

CultsâÄô vast dark humor underscores sunny pop songs, much like the dreamy imagery of a David Lynch movie.

âÄúGo Outside,âÄù their breakthrough single, encapsulates the sickly sweet sound. The song features the eerie speech of PeopleâÄôs Temple founder Jim Jones. FollinâÄôs ethereal vocals line up with glockenspiels and bright guitars, undoubtedly owing credit to late 1950s and early âÄô60s pop stars à la Bobby Vinton.

Sugarcoating more sinister themes might not be new to music, but Cults approaches the rapidly increasing trend in âÄúsun-drenchedâÄù pop with sheer audacity compared to contemporaries. Groups like Vivian Girls use detachment, while Nathan WilliamsâÄô Wavves project altogether sarcastic tones.

Cults straddle both extremes, crafting a range of songs evident even in the few that were released. âÄúThe CurseâÄù emanates bluesy reverb that finally ends in a soulful ballad, adding to more accessible singles like âÄúMost WantedâÄù and âÄúGo Outside.âÄù

Taking cues from cinematic influences, Motown-inspired soul and even punk music, Cults craft something uniquely otherworldly. At the same time, the infectious melodies remain confined in twee pop. A 9-year-old Follin even recorded with Dee Dee Ramone. Myriad influences coalesce in creating a nostalgic, airy feel.

âÄúThereâÄôs a lot of âÄô70s western influence, a lot of spaghetti guitars, dramatic strings,âÄù Oblivion said. âÄúItâÄôs almost a magical cheesiness.âÄù

All of the buzz the Internet can supply cannot ensure the success of any group. Supplanting a cult leaderâÄôs ominous words into an optimistic, sunny pop song, Cults extend their influence beyond the hype.

To live up to their moniker, the bandâÄôs self-titled debut, to be released in May, must inevitably amass (plural) cults. If not, they can always abide by JonesâÄô words: âÄúTo me, death is not a fearful thing. ItâÄôs living thatâÄôs treacherous.âÄù