Softcult make music for mall goths and they’re dead serious about it too. There’s a good chance you might’ve caught their wavy dream-pop tracks on Spotify’s spooky playlist or the streaming site’s ode to alt-rock ‘precious gems’ compilations. And, if you ask us, it’s for good reason.
Twin siblings Phoenix and Mercedes Arn-Horn are no strangers to the music industry. As teens, they kickstarted a three-piece rock band Courage My Love, a name inspired by a sci-fi H.G. Wells movie, which paired Tumblr-core aesthetics and blurred the line between indie and alt-rock tunes.
Now a defunct project, the bandmates have traded in their synth-stacked love songs for spirited grunge tracks calling out misogyny and inequality in society. Pulling in over 230,000 monthly listeners, and hailed a must-listen by Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes, Softcult are on the fast track to becoming underground indie-rock icons.
It’s late afternoon when we catch up with the band and the Arn-Horn duo are laying down demos from their cosy recording cabin in Canada. It’s been a busy year for the band. From globetrotting tours to promoting their latest EP, See You In The Dark, the pair have been living it up big. Now, while they’re back home, Softcult sit down with GAY TIMES to update us on how things have changed for them, their grand music plans, and what it’s like to have Hayley Williams’ approval.
Hey guys, how’s it going? You’ve both been touring all over the place lately. What’s that been like for you?
We’re good and it’s been awesome! We did some shows in the States, our first time headlining over there, and that was exciting. We’ve headlined in the UK, for the second time, and it was like a dream! It was so fun and completed our first headline in Europe – a lot of firsts. The energy’s really different when we’re headlining. It’s cool to see people come out to hear us specifically. We get to play a little longer and have more fun with things.
You’re been on the radar for quite a few notable alternative musicians. How does it feel to get that recognition?
It feels unreal to have someone like Oli Sykes or Hayley Williams know that we exist. It’s mind-blowing. I think back to when we were teenagers listening to both those bands. They inspired us so much. I would’ve lost my mind if I could’ve skipped to the future from then. We started this band during lockdown, when we couldn’t play shows, and, now, looking back our progress just doesn’t feel real. We were in a band before this and that never reached this level. We’re not taking anything for granted. Instead, we’re really enjoying every moment and soaking it in.
How does Softcult differ from your previous band or past music projects?
When we talk to Softcult fans, you can tell how deeply they relate to the lyrics, After shows, it’s really rewarding when people come to us and tell us what our songs mean to them and how we’re using our platform to write about issues that have affected them. We all bond within the ethos and the morals of the band.
It’s funny because we were talking about this yesterday. With our old band, we had a little identity crisis; we weren’t totally sure who we wanted to be or what we wanted to say. But, with this band, from day one, it’s been clear and we had a vision for it. That clarity made all the difference for us.
Do you feel like the fans and the music industry have been receptive to the progressive and political messages in your music?
Definitely! These issues are becoming more talked about and they’ve always been prevalent, but now people are less afraid to acknowledge that misogyny exists. Ever since the #MeToo movement, it’s been at the forefront of people’s minds, with people realising how vastly it impacts everyone.
The industry, surprisingly, has been very receptive to that. We’re getting to do interviews where we have something important to say as opposed to talking about our music or accomplishments. It’s cool that we can use this time and our platform to talk about issues people care about. A lot of bands are coming up with something important to say. We’re all getting our moment now and it’s really important that it’s happening.
Your new EP, See You In The Dark, is out now. How do you think Softcult has grown in between projects?
The new one is definitely more introspective, whether that was intentional or subconscious. We look at issues from a broad perspective and then, with each EP, we hone in closer. The first EP, Year of the Rat, was about misogyny. In the second one, Year of the Snake, we talk about gender violence, gaslighting and the more specific toxic traits of that issue. With this one, the underlying theme is accountability. This ranges from major corporations and the climate crisis to the issue of consent. We also angle it inward by asking ourselves if we perpetuate the things that make us angry.
What have you learned from those introspective moments?
You learn something any time you ask yourself those big questions. If you’re being really honest with yourself, you will learn something new. We wrote an open letter on the topic of consent and abusive relationships. People are so uncomfortable within the conversation, but any time you actually have conversations about those difficult topics, you allow yourself to be more open. Even with climate issues, people get defensive asking why it’s their duty to help resolve issues and that’s not proactive or productive. That’s the biggest thing we learned by writing and processing the songs is to admit that we’ve all made mistakes.
Is there a Softcult song, or message, that you resonate with?
‘Dress’ was an important track on the new EP. The lyrics are straightforward – it tells the story of a night out that goes wrong. The chorus is literally ‘it’s a dress, not a yes‘ and that’s a message we stand by. There is absolutely no excuse for why a victim should be blamed for what happens to them when it comes to sexual assault. That’s the message the song, ‘Dress’, is trying to get across and it’s one we have talked about before. Everyone has some sort of run-in like that and, unfortunately, our friend had a situation like that. We didn’t want to pull punches when we were writing about it.
The alternative scene has, for some time, been quite precarious when it comes to artist accountability. How have things changed since you got into the industry?
We’ve been in the music industry for a long time and we would say there has been a difference even compared to five years ago. Things are changing but at a crawling pace. There are still issues that people just want to ignore or don’t want to admit that it is such a big problem. There are still artists that are beloved in the scene that can get away with [things]. There are videos of people acting out in shows being inappropriate on stage with fans and abusing their power and there’s no excuse for that kind of behaviour. Before it was just something we constantly had to remind people of but, now, it’s a baseline that people know about.
What do you want listeners to take away from Softcult’s music?
We can call out issues but we hope that a lot of the people who listen to our music, hopefully, already know about them. The takeaway isn’t to feel frustrated at the world around you. Instead, Softcult is meant to fire you up, empower you and make you feel like you can make a difference by impacting your community. There’s a lot of righteous anger behind the lyrics. We’re trying to leave listeners with an empowering message at the end of the day.
Last of all, you’ve ticked off a lot of major career moments together. What’s the next big thing for Softcult?
After this, we’ll have some time to record the next release and we’re excited about that. It’s so cool to be working on new music.
Softcult’s new EP See You In The Dark is out now via Easy Life.