Atmospheric and deep NYC electronic rock act with stunning 2017 LP, 'Offering'
SOLD OUT: Cults
3939 N. Mississippi Ave.
Portland, OR, 97227
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 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.”
“I don’t really understand how I make music,” says Josie Boivin, who records and performs as Munya. “I feel like it’s coming from another world.” Otherworldly is an apt descriptor for Munya’s music. The songs are at turns playful and melancholy, as catchy as they are strange, light and airy but full of powerful emotion.
Born in the small town of Saguenay in Quebec, Josie Boivin is the youngest of nine children. Classically trained as a pianist, Boivin discovered she could sing opera in high school, when she was overheard by a music teacher while jokingly imitating an opera singer. After spending her teens in the highly competitive opera world, she studied jazz at the University of Montreal before dropping out. Boivin took a year to travel and explore, experiencing life and working odd jobs, trying to find the best outlet for her musical vision. She played keyboards and did backing vocals for local artists in Montreal, honing her skills as a producer, performer, and musician.
It wasn’t until September of 2017 that Boivin found her calling, when a friend invited her to play the legendary Pop Montreal festival. At that point, she only had one finished song. “I realized that this was my chance,” she says. “If I was ever going to make my own music, it was now. I quit my job and moved in with my sister, just so I could write all day.”
After her sister would leave for work every day, Boivin set up her gear, transforming the kitchen into a recording studio, where she wrote and recorded, cleaning everything up before her sister got home at five. These recordings, coupled with a few in-studio days with Miles Dupire-Gagnon and Gabriel Lambert from Anemone, would eventually become a series of three EPs – a “trilogy”, if you will – each named for a significant place in Boivin’s life: 2018’s North Hatley (one of her favorite villages in Quebec), Delmano (named for the Hotel Delmano in Williamsburg) to be released in October 2018, with the 3rd EP coming in early 2019.
Boivin’s musical process is as fascinating and intuitive as her music. “My music is a collage of first takes, the rawest and best moments, that I transform into something new,” says Boivin. “I’ll take the drums from one song and a guitar part from another and melody I wrote for something else entirely, and I’ll put them together and see how they work.” Munya’s songs are upbeat but ethereal, built around tight, repetitive drum loops and Boivin’s luminous voice. There’s a lightness to this music, a glimmering simplicity, but with a sense of sadness lurking underneath that gives these songs their true power.
The first single “Hotel Delmano” is a tale of melancholy surrealism, sung in Boivin’s native French. An icy, synth-led tune with a wordless chorus, it’s Munya at its most approachable, a dancy song inspired by a dream. “If I’m Gone Tomorrow (It’s Because of Aliens)” is a pop gem whose title comes from Boivin’s lifelong fear of aliens. “Independence Day really messed me up as a child,” she says. The song tells the story of a woman who wants to leave her relationship but is too afraid to go through with it. Boivin sings, “We change our mind/We disappear/We fade away.” Ostensibly a tribute to ghosting by way of alien abduction, it becomes a meditation on
impermanence, the impossibility of holding on to anything we love.
All of Boivin’s talents are on display on “Some More,” a quietly defiant song about discovering one’s own purpose. It also sprung from a real-life conflict. When Boivin was living with her sister at home, her sister’s then-boyfriend walked into the house one night and began berating her. “He told me I was a loser,” she says, “because I had no apartment, no money, no husband, no children. It devasted me. I cried all night, and then I wrote this song.”
“Some More” is elegiac and hazy, boasting one of Boivin’s best melodies. She sings, “I don’t have a goal. Everything comes and goes. I’m losing my way, on a busy day. But I’m trying to get some more.” The lyrics read like a slacker’s lament, but Boivin delivers them like an anthem, a full-hearted rejection of false societal expectations and an embrace of the desire to fight for what one wants, to create something real that is one’s own.
“Every time I listen to that song, I remember where it came from,” says Boivin. “And it’s like, sweet, I made something. This is my song, and I’m proud of it. And no one can ever take that away from me.”
Maybe that’s the distinguishing characteristic of Munya’s music—the simple joy and power of creating something from the heart, a way of hitting back against the anger and meanness of the world, of making something beautiful and unique out of everything that hurts you.
$18 ADV / $20 DOS
Mostly Standing / Limited Balcony Seating