Cults inspired by cinema 

Initially, it was a match made in hell. Although they both attended film school in San Francisco, guitarist Brian Oblivion first met Madeline Follin in a crowded San Diego nightclub, watching her brother’s band The Willowz.

“I hadn’t slept for three days, and I was really super-energetic and crazy,” he says. “And when I saw Madeline, I just ran over, started drinking all of her whiskey and screaming at her. But somehow, we ended up getting along.”

So well, in fact, that they began dating, then moved to New York together, where they formed a syrupy fuzz-pop duo called Cults, whose eponymous debut for Lily Allen’s ITNO imprint stands as one of the most retro-hip records of the year.  

The couple’s romantic secret? A maniacal love of strange cinema, apparently.

Cults is currently on a world tour that stops in San Francisco twice this week. “But seeing movies whenever possible is pretty much all we do when we’re home,” says Oblivion, who nicked his name from David Cronenberg’s prescient TV prophet in “Videodrome.”

Their marathon viewing sessions typically begin early one morning and end at dawn the next, and any genre is fair game. His all-time favorite flick: Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona.” Follin’s, conversely, is “Zoolander.”

“Another one of Madeline’s that she’s always making me watch is ‘Welcome to the Dollhouse’ ” says Oblivion. “Her dad even used to call her Dawn
Wiener when she was a kid. And we just watched ‘Bad Boys’ with Sean Penn, and afterwards we were both paralyzed with happiness. We’re both really into old ’70s and ’80s movies, so that’s the best one we’ve seen in a while.”

Both musicians dropped out of film school in their senior year. Once Follin began trilling over Oblivion’s instrumentals, the vintage Phil Spector sound they achieved was so good, they Web-posted chiming charmers like “Go Outside” and “Most Wanted” (both featured on their album).

Cults provided a schoolwork escape, says Oblivion: “We were always writing essays and doing midterms and trying to demystify all of our favorite movies, and it just became soulless after awhile. So we started making music because it was fun, different.”

Allen was so impressed, she flew Cults to England and inked them to her In The Name Of label.

Did they spend their advance upgrading to Blu-Ray? “No!” Follin says. “I watched one once at somebody’s house, and I was really freaked out by it.”

“It scares Madeline, that really high-quality stuff,” Oblivion says, protectively. “So we don’t even watch HDTV — it makes us too uncomfortable.”


The Clift Hotel, 495 Geary St., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. today
Tickets: Free; RSVP required
Contact: (415) 929-2372,
Where: Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Monday
Tickets: $12 to $14
Contact: (415) 621-4455,

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Tom Lanham

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