Cults' Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion have never been the kind of musicians to stay on the pure sweet side of the sixties pop they were obviously influenced by. They're much more likely to sing about the rebel motorcyclist plunging over the cliff than teeny boppers sock-hopping. The video for the band's new single, "You Know What I Mean," blends the traditional bubblegum pop style with their darker, more menacing undertones — striking a balance that will make you cringe and smile at the same time.
"You Know What I Mean" starts off sounding like pure saccharine as Follin croons over snaps and romantic piano chords. But diving into the lyrics of the song bring a darker picture into view. Follin is "afraid of the light" and wants her beau to "please come and save me." This is romance with an edge — a love song for shaky codependents with an uncertain future.
Just as Cults' music blends the sweet and the dark, the band's new video for "You Know What I Mean" has a classic sixties storyline and includes the group's skewed vision. Follin is in love with Oblivion but her father doesn't approve. It's a typical she's-from-one-world, he's-from-another trope, except for the fact that their lives revolve around a dilapidated carnival and Follin's father takes extreme measures. Even with the upsetting imagery there's a side of cute sweetness to the piece — Oblivion and Follin slow dancing is especially adorable. Like the end of so many of those love-from-different-world stories, the ones in love are able to find at least a sliver of happiness.
Director Isaiah Seret told us how the band pushed him for the video:
This was second time directing a video for Cults (the first being "Go Outside" in 2011) and I must say we really have an amazing connection and trust, which is so important when it comes to taking risks and making videos outside the standard 'safe zone'. For "You Know What I Mean" I first pitched a 'lighter' version of the concept, which the band came back asking me to make it crazier. I loved hearing that! In fact, that push is how I came up with key aspects of the storyline, specifically the burn victim elements."
Cult's self titled record is out now from Columbia Records. You can hear NPR's 2011 interview with the band here.