In an effort to dig deeper into the creative and personal influences behind new music, we recruit artists to tell us about five records that they consider “Essential” by any definition they like. This week, every member of Cults gives us his or her formative album.
When Cults started, they weren’t quite a band so much as they were a couple of kids (and also a couple of kids) releasing songs on Bandcamp. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their sophomore album, Static, is such a fuller statement than their first – they’re a full five-piece band now. That doesn’t stop most of the press from dwelling on the core duo of Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin (no longer a couple, but still the focus), but the other three members of the San Diego-bred, New York-based band have nearly as much to do with the new album’s technicolor vision of the debut’s sweet and sinister indie pop.
Proof is in this Essential Albums. We asked each member of Cults to name an album that influenced them, on Static or in general, and their picks are much more diverse than anyone could have expected. They also touch on their recent love affair with hip hop (or vice versa).
The Sapphires, Best Of The Sapphires (2005)
Madeline Follin (lead singer): This is what I was listening to mostly leading up to recording. I love her voice and her lyrics are amazing, so there’s probably a hint of that on the record.
Drive Like Jehu, Yank Crime (2002)
Nathan Aguilar (bassist): This is my favourite album of all time. I had a high school teacher who was into a lot of interesting music, and he burned me that CD when I was in 10th or 11th grade. The opening song, “Here Come the Rome Plows,” was the most terrifying song I had ever heard up until that point. It sounded like fucking 28 Days Later-style zombies breaking into your house slaughtering everyone. Just the scariest, most abrasive music that I had heard until then. That definitely influenced me a lot, and I still listen to it to this day.
Brian Oblivion (guitarist/singer): That’s a San Diego local band. We all grew up listening to that.
Pedro The Lion, Control (2002)
Cory Stier (drummer): If anyone’s into Pedro The Lion or David Bazan, it’s a must have. It’s the best record he made. There’s a lot of downs, only a couple ups. Those drums on that record actually reflect a lot of parts of the new Cults record. Not all the way through, but there are little hints at that record whether you know it or not.
Brian: That’s news to me. Cory did all the drums, wrote a bunch of the drum fills and everything for this record. So if he’s taken drum influences, I don’t know where they’re coming from. I’m learning as much from this as you are.
Women, Public Strain (2010)
Gabe Rodriguez (keyboards): I think that the soundscape of this record is something that is lost in the way that a lot of bands record. Like, you listen to the whole record and there’s a feeling all the way through. And I feel like most records now are just song by song, where there’s nothing connecting them. I feel like that applies in Cults, because this record we tried to make one piece.
Various Artists (Numero Group), Home Schooled: ABCs Of Kids Soul (2007)
Brian: Around the time of the Jackson 5, a bunch of dads who were musicians got smart and said “I have kids, I’m going to make them into a band.” It’s trying to approximate that kind of success, but doing it in budget studios and with weird songwriting. They’re not children’s songs, but they’re sung by children. And so it’s all that Jackson 5 vibe of like a 6 year old singing about how he’s in love with a girl and he wants to take her back to his apartment and do horrible things to her. But it’s sung by a literal child.
That’s always something that we’ve been able to go back to, when we’re DJing or when we’re writing songs or anything, just to be able to say “look at this bizarre artifact.” Something that’s of its time but out of its time. And it’s always kind of mesmerizing to listen to. Everyone on the Numero Group, those guys are my heroes. But this record especially has this bizarre power to resonate with people. Nathan DJs a lot, and whenever he plays songs from that record people feel like they’ve heard them before and almost start singing along, but they don’t know the words and there’s no way they could have ever heard them before.
Nathan: What he’s trying to say is it gets the butts moving.
Brian: And Madeline sounds like a small child sometimes, so it works for our songwriting, too.
Primal Scream, Screamadelica (1991)
Brian: Primal Scream was the botched mission statement. We went into this record thinking that we were going to make an early house kind of record, and then it didn’t fit. Every song that we wrote like that got scrapped. The songs that are on the record are the ones that we found ourselves wanting to work on. We do have a B-side of like acid house, crazy stuff, but it didn’t feel like this band and it didn’t feel like the music that we thought the world should hear at this moment. There’s enough stuff like that going around right now. Who knows, maybe it’ll be a side project. We’ll be The Reflektors 2, or Reflektors NYC.
Cults Rap Collaborations & Samples
Madeline: We were going to do a rap mixtape thing, and then people just ended up doing it for us. We said something and then people just came to us and did it without asking us. Like we were just sampled on the Cam’ron mixtape, and then we had the J. Cole thing.
Madeline: MF DOOM was all set up and he dropped the ball.
Brian: Yeah, I dropped the ball. Rappers are expensive. Whether or not you can finagle a way to do it, it’s just too much pressure and responsibility to work like that under those terms. You always hope that you could work with somebody just on the terms of mutual respect, like you just want to do something together. Like, Madeline has sung on like six records in the past two years, and it’s just because like, yeah, this is awesome. So whenever I have to enter into some contract agreement I get scared of doing things, you know.
Listen to a playlist of Cults’ Essential Albums below: