I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’m fascinated by cults. I’ve even low key discussed starting my own cult (I’ve got charisma, it’s really the only attribute a cult leader requires). I’m not sure what it is exactly that makes cults so intriguing. Maybe it’s the incredible degree of faith required to truly dedicate your entire life to a community or a way of being. And maybe there are successful cults out there, the kinds that takes care of their own and cultivate a community of love and harmony, but we’ll probably never hear about them. We are familiar with many American cults because of their tragic ends.
Elaine Rasnake finds cults just as intriguing as I do. Probably more, considering she just released the first part of a 2 part concept EP exploring the minds of individual members of various American cults. The 5 track EP titled Settle Down (Found Tapes) chronicles specific points in five different cult members’ lives from their own point of view. In 2015, Elaine fell down the rabbit hole of researching cult life after stumbling up the Peoples Temple documentary, Paradise Lost. Elaine tells me, “I was watching documentaries, news reports, reading online articles and doing everything I could to learn about these people and their history. There was something about it that fascinated me. Everyone was just looking for answers and a sense of meaning in their life. They wanted to have a sense of belonging, a group of people to call family.” I personally find that when people are looking for this kind of meaning and belonging, they should simply adopt a cat. It worked for me. Otherwise I’m 95% sure I would have joined a cult myself by now.
What I find most interesting about Elaine’s approach to writing this album is the personal perspective from which each song is written. So much research went into the making of this album that Elaine was able to write these songs with an underlying knowledge of what any given cult member might be grappling with at the time. The songs delve into the minds of cult members from the Branch Davidians, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, Heaven’s Gate and the People’s Temple of the Disciples of Christ. Elaine tells me that the cult the affected her the most was People’s Temple. Many of us are familiar with this cult because of the media coverage surrounding the Jonestown massacre. “Jonestown [is] absolutely terrifying to me. So many lives were lost. During the final hours, while some people and children were upset and crying, others were saying how they were so happy for this opportunity. There were so many emotions all wrapped up in such a short moment in time. It’s a lot.”
While writing the album, Elaine experienced many mixed emotions. She intentionally produced the EP to sound like “an average person making a voice recording,” which allowed her to really put herself in the mindset of each cult member. “All of the stress and focus on every production detail took away from the actual performance and the story of the songs i was writing.” By keeping everything analog, she was able to focus on the story she was creating.
The EP is absolutely beautiful. Elaine has really created a stunning, raw and emotional EP and we look forward to Part 2! Be sure to check out Elaine’s website here.