Ryan Mattos, AKA Brian Oblivion -- who once fronted a Slayer cover band -- and Madeline Follin -- whose stepfather co-founded White Zombie -- are the male-female duo known as Cults. Having met in 2009 at a Willowz concert, when Oblivion was tour manager for the Willowz (featuring Follin’s brother), their first digital three-song 7 inch released via Bandcamp.com earned them a Best New Music rave from the taste-makers at Pitchfork. The lo-fi sixties surf pop girl-group sound of Cults has earned them much acclaim on other music blogs as well.
Follin is said to have landed a recording contract while still a pre-teen, singing with her stepfather’s band Youth Gone Mad (who recorded her with Dee Dee Ramone). In addition, Follin appeared in a video for another of her brother’s bands (Guards) and sang on a track by Dom called “Bowl Cut.”
In summer 2010, the lo-fi girl groupies took filmmaking classes while spending time in NYC. Around the same time, Lily Allen flew the band to England to discuss signing them to her new record label, In The Name Of. In May 2011, they released a full-length on Allen’s label called Go Outside, engineered by Shane Stonebeck (M.I.A., Vampire Weekend, Sleigh Bells).
Their 2011 UK tour wrapped up August 30 in Tunnels, Aberdeen. On January 20, 2012, they played their single “Abducted” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, with Cory Stier sitting in on drums. A 2012 tour of Japan, Australia, and New Zealand included local Cory Stier sitting in on drums. They played the Pitchfork Music Festival on July 14, 2012, at Chicago’s Union Park, and released a new record the following year, Static.
Their album The Offering was released in October 2017, preceded by a single for the title track and a single and video for "I Took Your Picture." The video, directed by Elliott Sellers, was shot in Piermont, NY, where Cults first recorded Go Outside, and their first EP. The ending scene was shot on top of Brian Oblivion's roof in NYC, where the band had relocated.
After the album's release, Follin and Oblivion embarked on a multi-country tour with guitarist Gabriel Rodriguez, bassist Max Kamins, and drummer Marc Deriso.
A new album called Hosts was released in September 2020, preceded that summer by a single celebrating ending toxic relationships, “Spit You Out” -- co-produced by Cults & Shane Stoneback, mixed by John Congleton, and mastered by Heba Kadry. It's the band's first song entirely co-written/performed/sung/co-produced by Madeline Follin (whose stepfather co-founded White Zombie). "In the past, I’d never brought my own music to the table because I was just too shy,” she says. "On this single we tried on some of our more left field influences from the exotica sounds of Esquivel to Nine Inch Nails style heaviness. It focuses on parasitic relationships and breaking away from toxic patterns of interaction. We never imagined it would relate to a worldwide pandemic." The song's video features Follin eating and spitting out food in front of default Zoom backgrounds.
The next single, "Trails," dropped in July. According to the band, "'Trials' focuses on the power that addictions and harmful ideologies have to transform. The chorus walks a tightrope between a metaphor for gaslighting and a despairing worry about the person you still hold out hope for."
A video for "Trials" was shot by Jeff Strikers. "Cults asked me back in April if I had any ideas for a music video we could make while quarantined across the country. Via Zoom, we shot Madeline’s performance against a green tablecloth from a party store. I started experimenting with an old optical illusion called Pepper’s Ghost, projecting Madeline’s image onto a sheet of glass to create a ghostly, hologram effect. They use this technique on the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. It was pretty magical and the whole process was constant discovery and surprise. An ideal creative experience."
A third album single debuted in July 2020, "No Risk," followed in August by "Monolithic." Around the same time, they performed at the 2020 virtual edition of Lollapalooza via YouTube. The band played all new material for the first time live, including “Spit You Out,” “Trials,” and “Like I Do.”
A deluxe 10-year anniversary limited vinyl edition of their self-titled debut dropped in December 2021. In addition to the previously available 11 tracks, the anniversary edition includes three bonus songs from the original recording sessions. Three editions were made available, limited to 1,000 copies total. The first 250 were signed on gold color vinyl, a second run of 250 were signed on black and milky clear color-in-color vinyl, and a third edition of 500 were on standard black vinyl. Cults played the Shaky Knees Music Festival, which took place in Atlanta, Georgia on October 22-24, 2021.