Thanks to their eclectic musical influences, Grammy-nominated Aussie dance alchemists Cut Copy weave a lush, groove-laden sonic tapestry. They are an organic band that likes to mix the myriad layers of sound from their studio recordings with fluid live energy in concert. Of their last album Zonoscope, Pitchfork’s Tom Briehan said, “Cut Copy have the architecture of dance music down perfectly and the confidence to execute the genre’s moves with absolute precision.” Their legion of fans seem to agree. Just prior to the release of the new CD Free Your Mind a couple of weeks ago, guitarist Tim Hoey chatted with A.D.D. about their new album, their global journey and the challenge of reproducing their music live.
I was just listening to your last album Zonoscope recently, and “Blink And You’ll Miss A Revolution” reminds me of the Talking Heads meets the New Romantic movement from the ’80s.
It certainly has a definite influence on that record, definitely in the more rhythmic areas.
Cut Copy has an upbeat sound with a varied mixture of influences. I’m curious how your career built up in Australia, and what made you decide to take your music to other countries?
We’ve always had the intention of taking the music outside of Australia, which is certainly quite small. You can pretty much tour there in a week. You can do the East Coast and maybe the West Coast. We knew that the kind of music that we were making that would have more of an audience in the UK and Europe and also in the States. At the time we were starting out, the kind of music we were making wasn’t really on the radar in Australia. The new rock movement was happening then with bands like Jet and The Vines and the Strokes era of guitar music being popular at the time. We knew that we wanted to take it overseas and had a chance over there.
How would you describe the new Cut Copy album Free Your Mind?
It’s taking cues from early ’90s house music but also a lot of late ’60s psychedelic music. We’re referencing these two Summers of Love, ’89 and ’69. Even though they were quite different movements in music, they represented a similar idea of coming together. It’s something that we picked up on and wanted to make more of a contemporary thing. Zonoscope is a bit more of an imagined place, but this record is more of a spiritual thing, more of a feeling that we were interested in capturing. It’s a very euphoric state of mind and idea of people coming together.
“We try to strike a balance of making it as live as we possibly can without sounding like a high school rock band version of ourselves.”
When did you first are seeing the Internet make an impact on your business?
I think when we started touring internationally and going to places that I never thought we’d be able to go, like Mexico and even South America, where I think music is 98% piracy, so you have no real indication of where you have an audience. We were turning up to these places and doing really big shows and being blown away by it. The Internet is a double-edged sword, but we certainly felt it was making an impact, especially around our second record, just getting into places where we didn’t really have a foot in the door. It seemed to come from people who discovered us on MySpace or something. It was kind of interesting.
How has touring helped you grow your audience here?
We found that our audience grew especially here in America through a lot of touring, which is a very old-school method of building an audience. At the start we were just touring every couple of months. We would be flying back every couple of months and touring here and also the UK and Europe, so for us it felt more like an organic kind of growth in audience size. More people would turn up the next time. We never had this thing like a big Internet media burst of press, it just came from doing shows. We felt that really helped us in the early days. We also brought bands back to Australia that we’ve toured with here [in America]. It didn’t make sense financially to do that, but we were interested in making great bills together and exposing people to bands that we really like. Even when we tour here and in the UK, we always try to bring bands to help them promote their stuff.
There is certainly a history of Australian bands coming to the States over the years, but it feels like lately there is a larger number of them reaching our shores.
I know a lot of bands that are doing really well outside of Australia and that’s great. I think with the way the Internet is now, it doesn’t really matter where you come from. You can get your music out there and get heard all in different places around the world. Ten or twenty years ago, you had the Seattle scene or the Chicago house scene, but now it’s more of a global thing. A lot of people think we’re from England actually. I don’t know if it really matters where you’re from right now.
Cut Copy have an organic sound because you’re a live band, which allows you to let the music breathe more and, I imagine, elongate some songs in concert?
We definitely try to do that. We record like a band in the studio. Because of the nature of electronic music, there is an element of backing tracks and things that we’re triggering [live], like samples and loops, so we can make it and play it and also have a live band playing on top of it. We try to strike a balance of making it as live as we possibly can without sounding like a high school rock band version of ourselves. [laughs] There are ways to do it. Sometimes people see us and say that we are pushing buttons, but it’s the nature of electronic music, that’s what it is, and we’re trying to find ways to play live. Unless we can have a 40-piece band that can play every keyboard line and sequenced bass line, we try to find a nice balance.
“I think with the way the Internet is now…you can get your music out there and get heard all in different places around the world. A lot of people think we’re from England actually. I don’t know if it really matters where you’re from right now.”
What is the dance music scene like in Australia right now?
It’s an interesting time in Australia. Back in the mid-2000s, there was a period where indie dance/rock crossed over into the public consciousness a bit more. There was definitely a crossover of club kids and more commercial club kids, and also rock kids and club kids coming together in the same place to listen to the same music. I feel like it’s broken off a little bit. There’s a very interesting underground dance music scene happening, especially in Melbourne, and it feels like you have more commercial clubs and then the more niche boutique clubs on the other side. It feels like people have broken off a little bit. We don’t spend much time there, so it’s always interesting going back and seeing how things have changed.
It sounds like you’re getting a great global perspective from all of your traveling. Has that been coming back and influencing your music?
Absolutely. When we’re away, we try to see as many bands as possible and find out what’s happening in each city. It is more of a global scene now and not necessarily broken off into regions or cities anymore. Sometimes you have no idea where a band is from. You love a band and find out they’re from Ohio or somewhere in the south of France, but you had no idea. It’s more of a global movement.