How would you spend 24 hours on a long haul flight? Drink your weight in complimentary gin and tonic? Attempt some shut-eye while your buttocks become numb? Curse your luck after discovering the ‘quality’ in-flight entertainment you were promised is actually just 10 straight films starring The Rock? If you’re Cut Copy’s Dan Whitford you while away the hours by trying to complete a remix on your laptop, although the actions of your fellow passengers certainly don’t make things easier. ‘Unfortunately, the guy in front of me kept bumping my laptop whenever he pushed his seat back’. Such is the demand for Cut Copy that they’re on stage at the Notting Hill Arts Club just hours after their flight from Australia arrived at Heathrow. In the two days prior to their long-distance flight, they played sell-out shows in both Sydney and Melbourne as a farewell present for their growing legion of fans. It would be fair to say that the chances of Whitford, guitarist Tim Hoey and drummer Mitchell Scott collapsing mid set would be fairly high when you consider their exhausting schedule of gigging, travel, and press engagements, but as DIS catches up with lads before their storming Notting Hill set, the band appear wide awake and raring to go.
‘Things are going really well over here,’ says Scott of the British reception to the group’s debut album, Bright Like Neon Love. ‘We feel good about coming over here and doing these shows while the record is out’. This feeling is shared by the lanky, mop-topped Whitford, the band’s originator and frontman. ‘We always thought the UK would be our home away from home. When the record was finished we always thought there’d be an audience for it, though it wasn’t intentional. We just made the music we wanted to make, and (the UK reaction) worked out that way, so we’re ecstatic about it’. Cut Copy began from Whitford’s initial forays into studio recording (‘I bought a sampler and keyboards, and just started mucking around really’), driven by a love for the electro-driven music of Georgio Moroder, Chic, ELO, and the not so electro-stylings of Fleetwood Mac. Roping in old friend Hoey to help out with the guitar elements, the pair began shaping the twelve tracks that would eventually form the basis for the album, although there was one vital element missing that would ensure Cut Copy would be able to exist outside of the studio environment; a drummer. ‘We thought we’d make a garage band to play all the stuff we’d been writing, and we tried to think of people we knew who played drums. Tim then said, ‘My housemate Mitchell’s just bought this drum kit off E-bay for a hundred bucks (around £40) the other day, so we’ll get him to play’, thinking that we’d get someone who actually knew how to play later on down the track. Whoops, don’t know if we told you that Mitchell!’
This laconic aside from Whitford is the cue for much laughter and jibes between the tight-knit trio, who appear totally at ease with not just the growing media interest in their music, but also their equally expanding fan-base (during their two-week sojourn in the UK, the group cannily used their mailing list and MySpace page to spread word of several secret gigs separate to their support slots with the ‘saviour of dance music*’, Mylo). Such dry, self-depricating remarks are common throughout what becomes one of the most relaxed interviews this writer has experienced. Cut Copy’s enthusiasm for music of all styles and sounds, not just electro-tinged pop, leads to several off-topic diversions, such as N*E*R*D, the glut of musical choice experienced by Londoners on a daily basis in comparison to Australia (Hoey - ‘The line-ups at gigs over here are just ridiculous!’), and the guitarist’s daily aural fix of his musical heroes (‘there’s not a day goes by that I don’t listen to a Sonic Youth related song, even if it’s just some obscure Thurston Moore B-side!’). Such enthusiasm is an essential part of the band’s character, something which Scott is quick to remark upon (‘We’ve got more enthusiasm than talent!’).
The scales did eventually balance in talent’s favour, and with a demo in the bag, Whitford sent the tapes across the globe to French house svengali Philippe Zdar, of Cassius fame, who immediately saw a golden chance to take a break from all things filtered and funky. He promptly invited the band to his studio in Paris to work on the music that backed Whitford’s heartfelt musings on love and life. ‘Philippe didn’t want to change much about the songs because he was really into them as pop songs,’ notes Whitford. ‘The tracks he really wanted to work on were the rock and punk ones, and because he gets to work on house and electro stuff all the time, this was his chance to do something different. You’d think that because he’s the guy from Cassius he’d add massive kick drums, or turn the guitars down (in the mix), but what he did add was an amazing warmth to the record’. With the record in the shops, the band set about a heavy touring schedule to support it. Their energetic live shows cemented them as one of Australia’s most talked about new bands, incorporating the up-for-it, party atmosphere of a club night alongside guitar based sonic spectrums, infused with waves of feedback, and Whitford’s melancholic vocals. All three members agree that this melding of indie and electronic worlds has helped push their music to a wider audience. ‘At the shows we play at home, we’re more likely to play alongside indie bands than electronic acts on stage, so we make sure our shows are similarly dynamic’, remarks Scott. ‘In (Australia) there’s a strong emphasis on bands,’ says Hoey. ‘People don’t want to watch a couple of dudes standing behind a keyboard twiddling knobs – it’s boring. We felt the same way, so we made a conscious decision when putting together the live show that we weren’t going to reproduce the recording just by standing behind machines and pressing buttons. The natural idea was for us to have an indie band setup. However, we’re not going to fly the flag for either the indie or electro scenes – we want to bring them both together, and I think it’s worked for us’. Whitford believes that the diverse nature of the Australian music scene hasn’t harmed their cause. ‘We’ll play alongside a hardcore band one night, and then some kind of dance, punk-funk act the next. It’s cool that we can do that’.
The group’s success in Australia looks set to be replicated in the UK, much in the same manner of fellow countrymen The Avalanches back in 2001. The fact that both bands reside on the über-cool Australian label Modular is worth noting too. Cut Copy’s Whitford and Hoey designed Bright Like Neon Love’s 80’s influenced artwork, and the pair are happy to be on a label that supported their creativity when it came to the album’s packaging. ‘Dan’s a graphic designer, and I’m an artist,’ notes Hoey, ‘and we made a conscious effort when it came to the album’s artwork. You get the complete package of an album of ‘love’ songs and a nice book to flick through too’. ‘It’s another representation of what the album’s about,’ adds Whitford. ‘Modular were happy for us to design it. We’re visual people, and (have the talent) to do it, so why not?’
Having recently created a buzz at two of North America’s largest industry showcases, (South By South West in Texas, and the Miami Winter Music Conference), Cut Copy are ready weave their electro-pop magic on UK audiences. It’s certainly going to be a challenge, but with a heavy festival schedule ahead over the European summer, Hoey says the band are looking forward to showing a new bunch of indie kids how to dance the night away. ‘It’s so good having a fresh audience to play our music too. It’s almost like starting over, and you have these people in front of you that you have to give it to. Give it to the kids!’ I think you might be onto something there guys. ‘That’s our new slogan!’, Whitford quickly shouts. ‘Cut Copy gives it to the kids!’ Whoops – in light of recent legal proceedings involving a certain King of Pop, Hoey might just want to hold off on the bulk t-shirt orders for their summer tour, at least for the time being. ‘Wait, we might get in trouble for that back home!’
*© various lazy music hacks across the land.