Photo: Olivia Malone
New York duo Cults might call their sophomore album Static, but the dynamic between the band’s two founding members is anything but unchanging.
The indie-pop pair — Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion — have led a fairly charmed existence as a band since its 2010 formation, finding a quick breakout hit in “Go Outside” — the video that starred Dave Franco and Emma Roberts. Cults’ self-titled debut was released on Columbia Records (MGMT, Haim, Foster the People) just a year later, its sprawling, lovely campfire tales catching the favor of listeners and critics alike.
But the romance that bonded Follin and Oblivion together fell apart over the course of a relentlessly grueling tour schedule in support of the debut. What would be the death knell of most boy-girl outfits instead became a brief awkward stretch turned functional platonic relationship.
“In a way, it’s because we are Californians,” Oblivion said. “It annoys people sometimes for us to be so ‘easy come, easy go,’ but I think it’s the best way to go through life.”
Even still, a breakup and sophomore-slump jitters could have proven deadly, but the prospect of following up such a well-regarded record even under somewhat dour circumstances didn’t even phase the two.
“It’s not daunting; it’s exciting,” Oblivion said. “When you lose track of that excitement, that joy in your process, that’s when you become not only a jaded asshole but stale. As long as you have fun and are happy with your records, it’s hard to lose.”
Static — released last October — is a more grounded record, trading Cults’ airy, cloud-wisp optimism for a frank dose of reality and more concrete set pieces. The duo outlined the album with movie genres in mind, taking stabs at sci-fi, Western and horror-bent tunes — and they might have succeeded most on that final terrain, with lead single “I Can Hardly Make You Mine” soundtracking the credits to the 2013 remake of Stephen King’s Carrie.
“We wanted to make this ‘haunted hits’ kind of thing, and it just kind of made its way from there,” Oblivion said. “At the same time, you don’t want to be too calculated when you make a record. It’s nice to impose some boundaries, but there needs to be some freedom in your expression to mess around and have a happy accident.”
Playing Sunday at Diamond Ballroom in support of Vampire Weekend, Cults are winding down their shows in support of Static and hoping to get back to writing mode to release another album.
So maybe everything is the same after all. Cults sure don’t have the look of a band on its way out.
“I find it so melodramatic when bands break up. It seems so ridiculous,” Oblivion said. “In the modern day, there’s no reason to. Fifteen years from now, if we are both full-time accountants, I know I’ll still want to make the same kind of records we do now ... and we almost certainly will.”