Softcult, led by sisters Mercedes and Phoenix Arn-Horn, are a shoegaze/grunge/dreampop band based out of Kitchener, Ontario. They released their first tracks in early 2021, and their first EP Year Of The Rat in April. You can watch Softcult live, performing their two latest singles in the studio for Indie88’s Live Sessions series.
This isn’t their first time recording together, the pair played in another band, Courage My Love, since 2009. They signed as Softcult to Easy Life Records in 2020 with the vision of creating a new project that focuses on social commentary.
“In our previous project, we were signed to a label that butted heads with us creatively and wasn’t allowing us to express ourselves authentically,” Mercedes Arn-Horn explains. “They weren’t interested in the music we were creating at the time. We became unhealthily obsessed with trying to please them to release anything at all.”
Softcult takes inspiration from the riot grrrl movement of the 1990s. They cite legendary punk band Bikini Kill as a major influence. Drawing from their experience working in a male dominated industry, their songwriting focuses on social commentary from a feminist perspective. Their lyrics bring attention to issues like abuse, misogyny and mental health.
“If young women listen to our music, or see us on stage, and they learn that Phoenix is our producer – recording and producing everything we do, or that I’m in charge of the visuals – directing and editing all our music videos.
Seeing that women can take these things that are male-dominated aspects of the industry, and you can do it yourself. Seeing it in someone else means that you can see it in yourself.”
On their new single “Gaslight,” the band raises awareness of the psychological manipulation technique known as gaslighting. Abusers use it in relationships to control someone by making them question their own perceptions, memories, motives, and sanity.
“Anyone who hears the song will be able to recognize those red flags if they encounter that kind of behaviour,” says Phoenix. “It’s a tactic that many abusers and groomers will use to tear down the defences of their victims to make them easier to manipulate.”
“We chose Softcult because this band is all about social commentary”, remarked Mercedes in an interview. “A soft cult could be anything from a church, a government, a family, a band even. It’s anything that you don’t really question where you follow your group of people.
We’re all in soft cults in society that we don’t realize we’re a part of. We’re just willing participants because it’s a normalized thing at this point. It can sound a little harsh but it’s also meant to make you question which soft cults are you a part of.”
Softcult will be releasing their next EP, Year of The Snake, on February 4, 2022 on Easy Life Records.