Johnny Brenda's Presents
Cullen Omori, Hideout
1201 N. Frankford Ave
Philadelphia, PA, 19125
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:15 PM
This event is 21 and over
Cults made their name in black and white. A pair of film school dropouts who burst onto the New York scene with a perfect single and a darkly retro sound, the band’s first two albums play like noirish documentaries on a lost girl group. Four years after Static, Cults returns with Offering, an exciting collection of songs bursting with heart, confidence, shimmering melody and buzzing life. The time off has given the band new energy and new ideas–Cults are working in Technicolor now.
The core duo remains the same. Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion, both 28, still live in New York. They still finish each other’s thoughts and still share a love of catchy music and black humor (this is a band that sampled cult leader Jim Jones on their first hit). But the pair have put some blood on the tracks since their breakout debut: they’ve toured the world, built a devoted audience, survived a breakup, grown up in green rooms, parted ways with their old label and made a home of their new one. After the whirlwind of Static died down, Follin and Oblivion made a conscious decision to shift gears:
“I feel like we stepped into a tour van when we were 21, and basically didn’t get out of it for the next few years,” Oblivion says. “We wanted to give ourselves some space to have normal lives, and wait until there was something new to say.”
“It was exciting, because writing stopped feeling like a homework assignment. I was able to sit down and do it only when I wanted to,” says Follin. “These songs are less art projects, less thinking ‘this is a heartbreak song, what would Lesley Gore do?’ and more reflective of things that have happened in our own lives.”
Cults took their time, going through a few dozen discarded demos before arriving on a pair of songs that felt special– the rollicking, sweet-but-dark “Right Words” and the buzzy earworm “Recovery.” Once they had a direction, Follin and Oblivion enlisted longtime engineer Shane Stoneback to help guide the sessions, working bit by bit, never rushing, letting the material develop naturally.
Offering will thrill ride-or-die Cults fans. Songs like “Natural State” and “Good Religion” balance on the same after-hours wall of sound that brought the band its early audience. The title track, a rolling goth-ed out anthem for the kids in the back of class is surely, somewhere in an alternate universe, soundtracking an 80s prom movie directed by Jim Jarmusch.
But Offering goes places Cults haven’t gone before. Pink Floyd was a big inspiration, freeing up the band to try new song structures and play with vintage synths, notably on the gorgeous, aching “With My Eyes Closed.” “I had the classic high school discovery of Pink Floyd, only I was 24,” laughs Oblivion. “I was in the back of the tour van, listening to Dark Side of The Moon on headphones for the first time, and I turned to the band and said ‘guys. GUYS.”
New Wave was also a touchstone, you can hear The Motels and Gary Numan’s influence on chugging pop gems “Clear From Far Away” and “I Took Your Picture.” None of these gestures are accidental, the band has developed a confidence in the studio and a strong, full sound. Gone are the days of chancing upon Garageband alchemy; Offering is the work of two artists who know what they want and how to make it happen.
Offering also marks the beginning of a more collaborative phase for Cults. The pair have always traded ideas, but for the first time they sat down to jam out ideas together in a room. Follin, who has always written her own parts, came into her own as instrumentalist during the Offering sessions, playing drums and keyboards throughout. Her equal partnership with Oblivion flies in the face of a far-too-common industry assumption that women are passive participants in their own art.
After three years of work in New York, LA, San Francisco, in studios and sweaty living rooms, the band finished the bulk of recording. But it was a classic “last day in the studio” demob-happy session that gave the album its opener and title track, a hope-in-darkness song that Oblivion calls “one of the most outward-looking things we’ve done, it’s a lifeline.” Follin adds: “we both decided independently of each other that it had to be the title.”
“These songs have both instability and solutions for how to deal with instability,” Oblivion says. “I think my favorite lyric is from “Took Your Picture”: Tinge of blue/To the end/left our hearts/With regrets/I’m learning. That’s as close as you get to a thesis statement for the album.”
“We’re in a happier place,” Follin adds.
“I mean, the last track on our last album was called ‘No Hope,’” Oblivion says, and they both laugh. “The first track on this record is called ‘Offering.’ That pretty much says it.”
Cullen Omori knows it’s a false cliche to say there are no second acts in American lives, but after the 2014 breakup of his acclaimed band the Smith Westerns, living that cliche was his greatest fear. His solo debut New Misery, out March 18 on Sub Pop Records, is a direct challenge to that anxiety: an album that goes beyond the glam punch of the Smith Westerns to new sounds, new sources of inspiration, and greater self-awareness.
“I had this overwhelming feeling that perhaps the apex of my life both as a musician and as an individual would be relegated to five years in my late teens/early 20s,” says Omori, who was launched into the music industry when the Smith Westerns, who started in high school in Chicago, became fast-rising indie stars. “This fear really forced me to work hard as to not see the Smith Westerns as an end but as a point along a bigger trajectory.”
While New Misery grew out of a difficult personal and professional time for Omori, he says the title reflects “not so much the distress that comes with failure, but the troubles and complexities that come with any type of success. No matter what you get you're going to want more, you're going to want something different. That’s the catch.”
The title track is a dreamy, resonant reflection on these feelings, but is also a guidepost for Omori’s musical evolution. “The song starts slow and then builds with two solos,” he says. “There's the guitar solo which is very much a Smith Westerns thing. The next solo is on the keyboard, which is a shift to a lot of what I’m trying to do.” Synths play a much larger role in Omori’s new music than in the Smith Westerns’ guitar-fueled rock, as do a wide range of influences including Roxy Music, INXS, Spiritualized, Wilco, Garbage, Hall & Oates, Kate Bush, U2, and Sparks. There’s also a more deliberate pop streak, inspired by the top-40 radio that would play while Omori worked at a medical supply company cleaning stretchers and wheelchairs.
“There is so much dirt in hospitals and fuzz and lint and dried blood on these things. We’d clean them down, which in a way is kind of therapeutic, and listen to the radio. Then we'd go back to Adam's (Adam Gil, current live band member) house and record demos for what was to become the skeleton of New Misery. I can’t sit down and say I'm going to write a Sam Smith or an Adele song or whatever. The closest I can get to that is making like this weird hybrid of what I think is a pop song.” The strongest example of this is the new wave-tinged single “Cinnamon,” which Omori describes as “dark pop--it's poppy, it's fast, but it also has all the colors and tones that are kind of dark. It’s self-deprecating, which was kind of where I was at emotionally. That, you know, I could have this poppy song or whatever but I don't think I'm a pop star. I'm closer to thinking I'm a piece of shit than I am a pop star.”
Along with Omori, New Misery features additional bass and keyboards from Ryan Mattos, drums from Loren Humphrey, and James Richardson on guitar. But unlike with the more distributed roles within the Smith Westerns, Omori wrote, played, and oversaw nearly every part of the new album, beginning a true new chapter of his long-term creative growth.
HIDEOUT is Manhattan-based songwriter Gabriel Rodriguez, who's also a longtime member of indie-pop band, Cults. His sophomore album 'So Many Hoops/So Little Time' is due out February 3rd 2017 via Small Plates Records.
It’s been two years since the release of Hideout’s debut album 'Rookie' (Thrill Me Records, 2014) and in that time many things have changed for Rodriguez. Most tragically, the passing of his brother. 'So Many Hoops/So Little Time' deals with grief in different spectrums –– the album ranges both sonically & lyrically from whimsical space-pop to crushing acoustic vulnerability. There isn’t a singular concept or message, but the deeper you delve into Hideout’s world the more you feel nostalgia and a sense of loss.
Hideout began as a recording project. The majority of 'Rookie' was recorded while on the road with Cults. Rodriguez took advantage of the downtime by tracking songs in hotel rooms or at friends’ homes. Fast-forward to the forthcoming 'So Many Hoops. . .' –– mixed by Loren Humphrey (Nice As Fuck, Cults, Guards) at Stockholm Syndrome Sound Studio in Bushwick, NY –– the recording process was far more linear than 'Rookie'. The album evolved predominantly at Rodriguez’s apartment while the surrounding turmoil of loss sunk in. Emotionally charged, he turned to the art of songwriting & storytelling to help navigate through the many answerless questions.
Now a fully realized band, Hideout has been performing live with a rotating cast of New York musicians over the past year. It’s just the beginning.
All shows are 21+ Proper I.D. required for admission
Special offer! A digital download of Cult’s forthcoming album, Offering (available October 6, 2017), is included with every ticket you order for this show. You will receive an email with instructions on how to redeem this offer following your ticket purchase.
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