Cults co-founders Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin arrived at an uncomfortably apt title for their latest sophomore disc: “Static.”
Not only did they have in-studio televisions broadcasting white noise during a lengthy experimental session with producer Shane Stoneback (later reined in by Ben H. Allen III), they experienced very real static in their personal lives.
As the popularity of their 2011 self-titled debut CD demanded concerts, the couple watched their four-year romance crumble, then break, on tour. When they returned home to New York last year, they took separate apartments.
“Then we took some time off and just figured out our lives for awhile,” says Oblivion, who initially wasn’t sure if Cults would continue.
But they rebounded nicely with “Static” — featuring Follin’s vocals on Phil-Spector-shimmery songs like “So Far,” High Road” and “Always Forever — which they’re promoting on a tour that stops in The City this week.
“It felt like we were re-introducing ourselves to our best friends, because we hadn’t seen them in two years. So when it came time to get back in the studio and work on our record? We just did it. And it wasn’t weird. And I am very thankful for that,” says Oblivion.
In hindsight, Oblivion (nicknamed for a character in David Cronenberg’s creepy film “Videodrome”) sees everything clearly: how he and fellow film student Follin started posting early home demos like “Go Outside” online, until the buzz grew so deafening they had to assemble a backing group and start professionally playing their instruments to perform live.
“Learning how to play the piano, guitar and samplers turned into a real adventure,” he says. “But we were just really excited and really young, so it was a tough situation — to have so much pressure on you to perform, in a field that was so new.”
Although he didn’t sense it at the time, Oblivion now understands how he and his galpal were gradually growing apart, while Cults was growing more coherent — so the decision to carry on musically felt almost instinctive.
Work with Stoneback spiraled into minutiae obsession, he says, “because towards the end, we were making changes that nobody else could hear — that’s when we noticed that we were maybe in too deep.”
Editing the results, Allen demanded a stricter schedule, tracking all vocals in three days, then mixing a song a day for two weeks.
Now Cults is happily static-free. Follin is dating a musician who is accompanying Cults on tour, and Oblivion is going stag for awhile.
“So maybe it is true that the business broke us up,” he says. “But I can’t think of more than one or two musical couples that ever really made it.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday