Advertisement

‘It was always about building it, destroying it, rebuilding, destroying’: The Cult’s new musical era brings them through Des Moines

The Cult

Hoyt Sherman Place, Des Moines -- Saturday, Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m., $70-4320


Dana Telsrow/Little Village

On a magical summer evening in 1986, after a fiery performance by the Cult, the sun refused to set. The band’s shows radiated a mystical quality that could realign heavenly bodies, though this anomaly of nature occurred because Finland’s Provinssirock Festival took place north of the Arctic Circle.

“You have this strange situation where it still feels like daytime during high summer,” frontman Ian Astbury said, “even at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. I remember walking around the grounds and just observing everybody at the festival. The whole town had been taken over by mostly young people who were attending Provinssirock, and everybody was dressed in a way that expressed a real sense of individualism, connectedness and intimacy.”

Astbury was also struck by the fresh flowers covering the edge of the stage. It’s a visual impression that remains with him four decades later.

“It’s one of those lived experiences that you carry with you that helps shape your character and form your worldview,” Astbury told me. “Because it’s such a rich moment, and I could still access that feeling through that memory, it still rings in the essence of my core.”

That touchstone moment directly influenced the title track of the Cult’s new record, Under the Midnight Sun, which is anchored by a quiet acoustic guitar and a lush cinematic string arrangement that swirls around Astbury as he croons, “Under the midnight sun / with creatures of the wild.”

“The festival was a really beautiful experience coming from where we had been, because we came out of punk rock, which was definitely much more volatile, violent, frenetic, urban and gritty — and this experience was far more transcendent and liberating.”

The Cult got its start after Astbury, who had formed the Southern Death Cult in 1981, began collaborating with Billy Duffy a couple years later. After a brief stint as the Death Cult, which released an EP in 1983, Duffy and Astbury shortened their name to the Cult by the time the band released its gothic post-punk debut, Dreamtime, the following year.

Their follow-up, Love, earned them more visibility after the international success of “She Sells Sanctuary,” a majestic single that the Cult performed at Provinssirock, where the black-clad band stood out in the summer sun. Astbury cut a particularly dramatic figure with his long black hair and French Revolution-era aristocratic clothes that consisted of a long black dress coat with tails and a ruffled white lace Jabot collar, like something a rock-and-roll Napoleon would wear.

Musically, the past four decades have found the band shifting stylistic gears in ways that made it hard to sustain mainstream success (though they continue to cultivate a large, devoted audience).

“I’ve never arrived at a moment where I think, ‘Eureka, we have a formula!’ It was always about building it, destroying it, rebuilding, destroying,” Astbury said. “I’m talking about scorched earth. Burn it to the ground, forget everything and look at what’s coming. Let’s immerse ourselves in this moment, our environment and its frequencies. I don’t carry the coffin of my youth around with me. I don’t weep for those earlier periods in my life, though sometimes you can look back to those touchstones and respond to its echoes.”

In 2022, Astbury exudes the vibe of a hippie-goth-punk elder who speaks of frequencies that can open the doors of perception and liberate humankind — an invisible cultural web that permeates everything and links us all together.

“One of the wonderful things about live music is that you’re right there in that moment, and then it’s gone,” he said. “But that experience at the Provinssirock Festival is something I can access through memory. It was a really beautiful era — that period in the mid-’80s—in terms of self-expression and the cultivation of consciousness. We were living through the Cold War, and we were very much in harmony with environmentalist organizations like Greenpeace. … You can draw so many correlative and connective lines that run through those frequencies.”

With Under the Midnight Sun, the Cult tap into that cosmic form of networked communication by simultaneously peering in the rearview mirror and steadily marching forward to the beat of their own drum.

“I try to be the best version of myself right now, and as a group we are so connected and the performances have been particularly intense,” Astbury said. “We don’t do a ‘concert.’ We don’t do a ‘performance’ — we create an environment. We’re creating cathedrals, creating spaces for expression and connection to a community. Unfortunately, the essence of that Provinssirock Festival experience is sadly lacking in today’s hyper-commercial, hyper-commodified world.”

Kembrew McLeod navigates the psychic frequencies and comes in contact with outer entities, to paraphrase Blondie’s “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear.” This article was originally published in Little Village’s September 2022 issues.


[gravityform id="17" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper your-village-form_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_17' ><a id='gf_17' class='gform_anchor' ></a><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_17' id='gform_17' class='your-village-form' action='/praire-pop-the-cult-under-the-midnight-sun/#gf_17'> <div class='gform_body'><ul id='gform_fields_17' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id='field_17_7' class='gfield gfield_html gfield_html_formatted gfield_no_follows_desc field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><h3 style="font-weight:800; font-size:34px;">Let's get started</h3> <p style="font-size:18px;">Fill out this form and we'll contact you with information about marketing with Little Village!</p></li><li id='field_17_4' class='gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label gfield_label_before_complex' for='input_17_4_3' ></label><div class='ginput_complex ginput_container no_prefix has_first_name no_middle_name has_last_name no_suffix gf_name_has_2 ginput_container_name gfield_trigger_change' id='input_17_4'> <span id='input_17_4_3_container' class='name_first' > <input type='text' name='input_4.3' id='input_17_4_3' value='' aria-label='First name' tabindex='2' aria-invalid="false" placeholder='First name'/> <label for='input_17_4_3' >First</label> </span> <span id='input_17_4_6_container' class='name_last' > <input type='text' name='input_4.6' id='input_17_4_6' value='' aria-label='Last name' tabindex='4' aria-invalid="false" placeholder='Last name'/> <label for='input_17_4_6' >Last</label> </span> </div></li><li id='field_17_5' class='gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_5' ><span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_17_5' type='text' value='' class='large' tabindex='6' placeholder='Company name' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /></div></li><li id='field_17_3' class='gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_3' ><span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_3' id='input_17_3' type='text' value='' class='large' tabindex='7' placeholder='Your email address' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false"/> </div></li><li id='field_17_8' class='gfield gform_validation_container field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_8' >Name</label><div class='ginput_container'><input name='input_8' id='input_17_8' type='text' value='' /></div><div class='gfield_description'>This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.</div></li> </ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_17' class='gform_button button' value='SUBMIT' tabindex='8' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_17"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_17"]=true; ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_17"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_17"]=true; jQuery("#gform_17").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_ajax' value='form_id=17&amp;title=&amp;description=&amp;tabindex=1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_17' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='17' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_17' value='WyJbXSIsIjlmNzc1YTEyZmZjNmYyODk5Mzk0NDM3ZjRlOGYyZDNmIl0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_17' id='gform_target_page_number_17' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_17' id='gform_source_page_number_17' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_1" name="ak_js" value="169"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_1" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div> <iframe style='display:none;width:0px;height:0px;' src='about:blank' name='gform_ajax_frame_17' id='gform_ajax_frame_17'>This iframe contains the logic required to handle Ajax powered Gravity Forms.</iframe> <script type='text/javascript'>jQuery(document).ready(function($){gformInitSpinner( 17, 'https://littlevillagemag.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope/images/spinner.gif' );jQuery('#gform_ajax_frame_17').load( function(){var contents = jQuery(this).contents().find('*').html();var is_postback = contents.indexOf('GF_AJAX_POSTBACK') >= 0;if(!is_postback){return;}var form_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_wrapper_17');var is_confirmation = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_confirmation_wrapper_17').length > 0;var is_redirect = contents.indexOf('gformRedirect(){') >= 0;var is_form = form_content.length > 0 && ! is_redirect && ! is_confirmation;if(is_form){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').html(form_content.html());if(form_content.hasClass('gform_validation_error')){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').addClass('gform_validation_error');} else {jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').removeClass('gform_validation_error');}setTimeout( function() { /* delay the scroll by 50 milliseconds to fix a bug in chrome */ jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').offset().top); }, 50 );if(window['gformInitDatepicker']) {gformInitDatepicker();}if(window['gformInitPriceFields']) {gformInitPriceFields();}var current_page = jQuery('#gform_source_page_number_17').val();gformInitSpinner( 17, 'https://littlevillagemag.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope/images/spinner.gif' );jQuery(document).trigger('gform_page_loaded', [17, current_page]);window['gf_submitting_17'] = false;}else if(!is_redirect){var confirmation_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('.GF_AJAX_POSTBACK').html();if(!confirmation_content){confirmation_content = contents;}setTimeout(function(){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').replaceWith(confirmation_content);jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gf_17').offset().top);jQuery(document).trigger('gform_confirmation_loaded', [17]);window['gf_submitting_17'] = false;}, 50);}else{jQuery('#gform_17').append(contents);if(window['gformRedirect']) {gformRedirect();}}jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [17, current_page]);} );} );</script><script type='text/javascript'> if(typeof gf_global == 'undefined') var gf_global = {"gf_currency_config":{"name":"U.S. Dollar","symbol_left":"$","symbol_right":"","symbol_padding":"","thousand_separator":",","decimal_separator":".","decimals":2},"base_url":"https:\/\/littlevillagemag.com\/wp-content\/plugins\/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope","number_formats":[],"spinnerUrl":"https:\/\/littlevillagemag.com\/wp-content\/plugins\/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope\/images\/spinner.gif"};jQuery(document).bind('gform_post_render', function(event, formId, currentPage){if(formId == 17) {if(typeof Placeholders != 'undefined'){ Placeholders.enable(); }} } );jQuery(document).bind('gform_post_conditional_logic', function(event, formId, fields, isInit){} );</script><script type='text/javascript'> jQuery(document).ready(function(){jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [17, 1]) } ); </script>