Tuesday 12 December 2017

Q&A: Brian Oblivion of Cults

Brian on his lovely hair, the fanatics who inspired his music and being mentored by Lily Allen

Ed Power

Ed Power

Greetings Brian Oblivion -- if that is your real name. So you and your girlfriend Madeline have a band called Cults. Judging from your press shots, we're guessing you guys go through a LOT of shampoo and conditioner on the road.

The best thing about long hair is it can't be faked. It isn't something you put together on a whim. We've been growing our hair for about six years. In many ways, we think of our band as an art project. Whether you walk on stage in the T-shirt you've been wearing for two weeks or in a tuxedo, you are making a statement. You may as well have control over the statement and make it a smart one.

Cults -- not an easy name to google. Was that on purpose?

Around the time we were writing the songs, Madeline and I were studying film at art school. I was working on a mixed-media documentary about mass persuasion, cult leaders and stuff. It's something that has always interested us. Not far from where I grew up in northern San Diego is the place where the Heaven's Gate massacre happened, where all these people castrated themselves.


Meanwhile, two blocks away is one of the biggest yogic meditation centres in the United States. A lot of my friends were raised as Scientolgists and stuff. It was a hippy beach community where people have a lot of money and get into new-age religion.

Also, your album samples Jim Jones of Jonestown Massacre infamy.

As part of my art school project, I came across a lot of quotes from these people. They were strangely powerful, either for their tenderness or their evilness. As we were writing the record, some of the quotes made it into the music. When it came time to name the band I thought, 'well I guess it's called Cults'.

Lily Allen signed you to her record label, In The Name Of. Has she mentored you X Factor-style?

About two months after we posted some songs online, we got an email from her new record company asking did we want to fly to London to meet her. I'd never been out of the country before. It was a dream come true. She talked about her experiences in the music industry. She wanted to set things right by starting a label and treating artists the way she wanted to be treated. She said she was going to give us one piece of advice, always do what you want to do. If someone else comes up with an idea and it doesn't feel right then people will see through it. You'll always regret doing it.

You famously posted your first songs anonymously. Was a music career something you undertook reluctantly?

Gosh, we hope we could have a music career in the long term. Now we're just along for the ride. We didn't put the songs up anonymously so much as haphazardly. We sent them to our friends and our parents. Within the span of a week, we were getting all this interest. When it started becoming real, we decided we would go full force. We haven't had a day off since.

The album Cults is out now. The band play Grand Social, Dublin, on Sunday night

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