Q&A with Cut Copy

t Copy, the synth-pop outfit from Melbourne, Australia, made a name
for themselves touring with the likes of Daft Punk, Franz Ferdinand and
Bloc Party. Their infectious dance grooves have made them an Aussie
hit, and now they’re catching buzz in the States as well. RELEVANT
caught up with founder Dan Whitford to talk about how the band have
made it from his in-home tinkering to an up-and-coming dance rock
powerhouse.


 

It seems like your sound has somewhat of an ’80s synth
inspiration to it. With certain bands, some say there is a trend back
to the ’80s right now. Would you agree with that?

I guess
when we started there was a real interest in zeroing in on an ’80s
sound as far as the keyboards that we use and that sort of thing, and
I guess also the fact that a lot of the songs are love songs. People
often give us that and describe our music that way. But I think
certainly on the second record, our influences and even the sound of
the record is a lot different. I wouldn’t describe it as quite such an
’80s sound. That’s more of maybe a timeless sound, or if anything it’s
probably more ’70s and ’90s inspired than it is by the ’80s. So it’s
like the ’80s are the thing we’re not inspired by. But certainly
there’s a lot of acts around at the moment that are writing kind of
dance music and music with synthesizers, and that has sort of come back
into vogue I think. So I can see how people could definitely make that
comparison, cause obviously the ’80s is an era where that same sort of
trend was happening.

If you had to choose some bands that you are inspired by, who would that be?

I
think we’ve sort of always been inspired by great pop songwriting, and
certainly one band that’s been a big influence on both our records was
ELO, and also on the production of our records as well. We’re also
great fans of dance music. I couldn’t deny Daft Punk. They really
changed the way that I thought about dance music and also turned a lot
of people that weren’t into dance music onto that sound. So I think
they’re responsible for creating that sound. Also I think when we first
started playing live, Sonic Youth was a big inspiration. Them and maybe
Guided by Voices are good examples of bands that played without having
an emphasis on technical skill or that sort of thing, that were much
more about the way that they created music despite some shortcomings,
not even trying to show off and more just make music that was cool
without necessarily doing something amazing with a guitar. And I think
that sort of gave us some confidence that we could create a band that
could still be entertaining live and still do interesting things
without necessarily doing some crazy guitar solos or something. So I
think that was definitely inspiration for us as well.

It seems that your music fits into the electronic pop genre. What do you rely on most to achieve that sound?

I
think that’s the thing. Our music doesn’t really rely on a particular
type of instrument or a particular set formula to make it work. I think
there’s probably some sort of commonality between the songs that we
write, but obviously vocally and maybe in terms of having some sort of
visceral, dense element to them, but on the whole I think what I feel
makes our sound is that it can change even mid-song. It could start out
as a guitar song and end up in some kind of disco synth
instrumentation. And really it’s maybe slightly more complex or
evolving different sounds through our records that makes it sound like
us.

Your songs seem like they were meant for the dance floor. Would you agree with that?

Yeah,
I think certainly it’s a large element of what we’re inspired by
musically, dance music, club music. I started out before we had a band.
I used to DJ quite a bit on a radio show and DJ at clubs. So I think
it’s something I’ve had for a long time, and it’s inspiration for
probably most of our music. Certainly when we play live that’s
something we try to encourage people to dance. Also for us that’s a
real sign that things are working at our show if people are dancing. If
they’re just standing there awkwardly, it doesn’t quite feel right. It’s
a give and take between us and the crowd.

Would you say there’s any kind of theme to your newer record, In Ghost Colours?

I
guess for me the thing that binds it together, because a lot of the
songs are fairly different from each other, I remember when we were in
the studio we had finished all the songs, I remember our co-producer
saying how it would be a real challenge to actually put all these
tracks together into a record, and we actually spent a lot of time once
we finished. We took the tracks home and tried to put them together
with the textures and sounds to give the record some continuity, and I
think to me that’s almost what the underlying theme of the record are
all those textures and layers that run through it, both during the
songs and in between the songs. I think it’s a very dense sounding
record, and there’s a lot going on. But that’s almost what unifies it
in a strange way.

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A lot of artists have songs that have something to say, while a
lot of them are just conveying a feeling through the music. For you
what’s the relationship between saying something to the listener or
just putting a feeling out there?

I don’t think we’re a political band with a message in that sense,
but I think obviously there’s messages in the songs. And some of the
songs are sort of about conveying energy or a feeling, but others ones
are more personal, ones that talk about personal experiences. So I
think it kind of varies through the record. It can also depend on the
particular song. I think some of the more dance tracks are based around
the energy or just creating a feeling that you can relate to when
you’re in that environment of wanting to dance or whatever. And there’s
other ones that are perhaps more thoughtful.

I’ve heard that a lot of your songs develop as kind of
in-bedroom projects and they evolve from there. How do they develop
usually?

Cut Copy as a project or as a band started as
something where I was just at home. I had never really played music
before, but I bought a keyboard and a sampler and microphone and
started just recording stuff. I guess that was the real beginning of it
before Tim and Mitchell, and I started playing together and trying to
figure out some sort of live incarnation of what the songs were. But I
think even today, that’s probably still true to some degree. Things
often start in that way, just something that maybe I’ll think of at
home. Then we’ll all get together and take that down in a totally
different direction, and then all take it back home again, and then we
all go another direction again, and the end result if a product of that
process of combined studio recording and studio writing and with an
actual live jams element to it as well. It’s sort of equal parts studio
recording and live recording.

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