Cut Copy - Back To The Future
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
Melbourne’s original indie dance revivalists are narrowly missing a Fiddy/Kanye-style face-off with their Modular labelmates The Presets, whose follow-up to Beams, called Apocalypso, drops next month. Cut Copy’s guitarist Tim Hoey, hanging out in Texas at South By Southwest, rather fancies the notion of a sales war with the Sydneysiders.
“I don’t know if it’ll convert into the kind of record sales of a Kanye West and 50 Cent,” he laughs. “We’re pretty wimpy bands, so I don’t know if we’re tough enough to do something like that.
“It’s funny how it has worked out. I actually had no idea that The Presets’ record was coming out around the same time until a couple of weeks ago. It’s crazy. I guess there will be a few big things coming out this year, so why not do it all at once-”
On reflection, Tim reckons that The Presets’ Kim Moyes could pass as an indie gangsta. “He’s a total hard-arse!”
Once the solitary vision of Dan Whitford, Cut Copy is now a bona-fide band with Hoey plus drummer Mitchell Scott. When Whitford circulated the EP I Thought Of Numbers in 2001, it was British hipsters, then obsessed with The Avalanches, who first pounced on it.
Whitford, a sometime graphic designer, shed that “bedroom” collage approach for Cut Copy’s debut album, Bright Like Neon Love, fusing electro, disco and indie. He also transformed himself into a frontman. (It’s rumoured that the producer started the band when his sampler broke.)
Since then, Cut Copy have aired singles, such as last year’s saxified ’90s house track Hearts On Fire, and previewed material on tour, but it’s been ages between albums.
Cut Copy’s competition has multiplied, their pals Midnight Juggernauts unveiling the brilliantly gothic Dystopia. But Cut Copy hold their own. The most impressive aspect of In Ghost Colours is the songwriting. Cut Copy’s evolution is all the more incredible in that its members were novices.
“None of us had really played in a band before, so it’s always been just finding out what it is to be in a band,” Hoey says. “None of us knew how to play our instruments. We just had a love for a lot of the early ’90s bands who had more of an idiosyncratic way of playing and making music, as opposed to some kind of musicianship, so that tied us together.”
Pop references abound on In Ghost Colours – you discern snatches of New Order, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth... In contrast to some groups, Cut Copy aren’t precious about being compared.
“It’s like any kind of good art – what is it you can make your own- It’s ridiculous for us to come out and go, ‘We’re trying to do something completely new and unique.’ No one’s ever gonna buy that – including us. Who are we kidding ourselves- But I just think that we take that and then tie it all together and try to come out with the Cut Copy sound at the end.”
For Bright Like Neon Lights, Cut Copy collaborated with Philippe Zdar of the French house combo Cassius. This time they linked with New York-exiled Brit Tim Goldsworthy of DFA (and, prior to that, James Lavelle’s ally). Why not self-produce-
“That’s an interesting one,” Hoey ponders. “When we handed in the demos to Modular, they thought it’d be a great idea to get some heavyweight producer, like a Nellee Hooper or a Timbaland or someone like that. As amazing as that would be to try something like that, it wasn’t really our direction.
“Tim was certainly someone who popped up. We’re huge DFA fans. So we sent the demos to him. He called us up after he heard them and was straight away picking out the influences on this record. He was just really excited by it.
“Tim can cover everything. He can do the whole disco thing – that’s pretty obvious – but he also has a love of early ’90s indie guitar and shoegaze stuff like Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine. Straight away it just clicked.
“He’s got that pop aesthetic, but then he likes it when pop music gets weird, like we do.”
Cut Copy are anything but detached from the dance scene. They preside over the niche Cutters Records, issuing tracks by KIM, the Juggernauts and Knightlife, and promoting spin-off parties. And, of course, they DJ. A couple of years ago Cut Copy oversaw a Fabric compilation.
Hoey maintains that Cut Copy’s mixtapes serve as “blueprints” for their studio LPs. Indeed, DJing is no professional hobby. Cut Copy consider it to be a different facet of the band, as 2ManyDJs is to Soulwax.
“Before the band, Dan was a DJ. He used to DJ a lot of hip hop in the late ’90s. We love DJing,” he says. “Dan taught me to DJ and I taught him to play guitar. It was like this trade that we did when we put the band together.”
Cut Copy cite The Avalanches, leaders of the Australian explosion, as a key influence. Nevertheless, the post-hip hop collective have virtually disappeared. Did Cut Copy lock them up- Tim laughs.
“They’re really good friends of ours. We hang out with those guys all the time,” he says. “They’re crazy. They’ve locked themselves in that studio for, like, seven years. But I think they’re about to surface, so it’s exciting times ahead.”
Cut Copy should consolidate their international profile with In Ghost Colours. Their initial success abroad was, in fact, no accident. They never wanted to be mere ‘hometown heroes’ as so many Australian outfits were in the past. (Did anyone care for Cold Chisel outside of Oz-) Cut Copy are buoyed by foreign media interest.
That said they have benefited from being based in a country where the music press is less hostile than in the UK. But, regardless of what NME makes of In Ghost Colours, it’s not in Cut Copy to conform.
“You can never really think about other people’s expectations,” Hoey warns. ”You set your own goals with what you wanna achieve with the record – and you’re honest about it.
“As soon as you try to live up to somebody’s expectations of what your band’s supposed to be, then you’re gonna be in trouble.”
WHO: Cut Copy
WHAT: In Ghost Colours through Modular/Universal
WHEN: Out now