People who know me on even an acquaintance level are well aware of how passionate, critical and even borderline asshole I can be when it comes to opinions on music and giving out my self-proclaimed coveted stamp of approval – so any insinuations of a fluff piece can be checked at the door.
With that being said, my proverbial ink pad has almost run completely dry with how much I’ve been frantically stamping away at everything Australian trio Cut Copy has put out ever since I became aware of them earlier this year. They’ve been around for a minute now, so I had some backtracking to do once I was introduced to their recently released 2nd full-length album In Ghost Colours and its inspirational precursor Dj set So Cosmic.
After digging up some of their previous and equally amazing material, I became even more interested in how these guys put together such a distinctive album this go around and I was able to squeeze in a sit down with them to remedy that curiosity just a few hours prior to their April 29th, 2008 show in Vancouver, B.C.
Click on through for the exclusive interview.
How did the three of you originally meet and how long was it before the group came about?
Tim: We were kind of just all friends. Dan had started Cut Copy as a studio production solo project and we just all knew each other through various people. Originally, I used to live in a small town around South Wales and Dan used to come up there on holidays and stuff. Then, we both separately moved to Melbourne. I went down there to go to art school, and yeah, Dan kinda started writing Bright Like Neon Love. He kind of got us around to add, I guess, the more organic sounds to the record that he’d written the majority of on the computer, and it just became what it is now.
So, were you guys were heavy into music since childhood?
T: Never played ‘till later on…
So no classical training or anything like that?
Mitchell: No, not like playing instruments.
Dan: That’s almost the opposite of our approach. Ya know, the whole point of this is, we kind of just taught ourselves to play instruments. That’s the contrast between the sort of perfect studio stuff and the sort of loose and live aspect of Cut Copy that adds a dynamic to the music.
In Ghost Colours plays through much like a mixtape in terms of cohesiveness and transitions from one song to the next. How much did having a DJ in the group play into the executive production of the album?
D: I think that’s probably not something I would’ve thought of if I wasn’t into DJ’ing and mixtapes. Perhaps the idea or just the way its put together is sort of reminiscent of maybe all the records, like Tangerine Dream or, you know, records where the whole side of a piece of vinyl would be continuous music you could zone out to and get into that way. It’s not so much beat-matched, but it does flow.
This album seems to have more vocals relative to its predecessor Bright Like Neon Love. Did you find a huge difference in the creation process this time around considering you had to write more lyrics?
D: Yeah, I think so. I don’t even know whether it was something I really thought about. It just seemed to naturally turn out that way. A lot of the stuff with this record wasn’t really some sort of master plan for us. It’s just the way things turned out. The fact that the record flows together is just something we ended up doing. It wasn’t a decision from the outset. Same with the extra vocals and probably the more layered guitar stuff and live drums – it just happened really organically and crept up in a way I guess.
You guys give a lot of credit to other artists for inspiring your music. What is some of the music you had in heavy rotation during the period In Ghost Colours came together?
D: I guess with the guitar stuff, My Bloody Valentine and some of that Shoegaze guitar sound. Lots of Krautrock as well, Cluster– a lot of those bands. I guess current dance music in general as well. A lot of the DFA stuff, which we were pretty inspired by and obviously having Tim (Tim Goldsworthy – DFA’s in house producer and LCD Soundsystem member) as a producer on the record as well. I could probably keep going…(Laughs)
It’s endless I suppose… That being said, the album has a very retro/dance feel but still sounds very much ahead of the curve. Did you go out and really hunt for new/vintage gear and synths to capture that particular sound?
M: Going over to the DFA studios, they’ve just got so much gear there that you can’t nearly get through it all really.
T: They did all the hunting for us.
M: Yeah, and there’s always new stuff arriving. They’re always just buying, collecting and hoarding stuff. Yeah, there was just so much for us to experiment with and to get new sounds out of and sort of adapt to what we’re doing. So yeah, a lot of that was done for us, but I mean, also, Dan bought a bunch of new synths.
D: Yeah, I spent all my money on sort of three synthesizers – probably $7,000-$8,000 worth. They ended up all over the record. I think it helps the particular kind of music we make. Buying new gear and that sort of thing almost shapes the way a record can sound. The creative rush you get just finding something new can end up influencing the sound of the record. So I think, yeah, the equipment probably played a big part.
Some of the interludes were recorded and cut from four track tapes. Any particular reason you guys went analog for these sections of the album?
D: Umm, I guess it’s sort of nice to have a contrast of lo-fi and hi-fi stuff to a record -different types of recording on an album. A lot of my favorite music is really poorly recorded. Like Guided by Voices or Ariel Pink – amazing songwriters where the studio polished aspect is left out. I kind of find that side of things interesting, so I think it’s sort of nice to have a bit of contrast of different recording sounds in there.
You guys just played Coachella – How did that go? Any artists that stood out to you guys out there? (Note: Prior to sitting down, the guys had mentioned that they hadn’t had much of an opportunity to watch other acts at Coachella due to the fact that they had shows in San Francisco and Portland the following nights before reaching Vancouver)
D: We had a great show. We didn’t really get to see anyone else (laughs). We can’t really speak for any of the other ones. But yeah, it was obviously quite hot in the middle of the desert, but apparently, the day that we played actually wasn’t that hot compared to usual. It was really good, like the crowd was jumping around and going nuts, and it was sort of everything we would’ve hoped for from a first show like that, so we were really thrilled with it.
Did the crowd seem really familiar with your music? A lot of people singing along and such?
All: Yeah, yeah.
D: We had a full tent, so we couldn’t have asked for more.
As I’m sure you guys know, once you play at SXSW and Coachella, you’ve pretty much “arrived” in North America. Having the new album debut at No. 1 back home in Australia and a fan base rapidly building in North America, is there any particular region you guys plan to target next for touring and exposure?
M: We’re going to come back here in the fall. We’re doing our tour now and our shows have all been really good. A lot of people coming out and enjoying the shows, enjoying the record and I mean, yeah, it’s really great for us. We like being here, and later in the year, we’re going to come back and just see some of the people that came to the shows this time around come back again and add some more songs from the record and keep working on our live show.
Are you guys thinking of maybe hitting Europe a lot more?
T: Well, our record is coming out in Europe really soon, so we’ll spend a lot of time there… In the U.K., obviously, hopefully Asia – kind of everywhere. That was always the idea when we put the band together. We’d take it as far as we possibly could and kind of get to every corner of the world that’ll have us.
Right, right, they call you and you guys are ready to go!
M: Except we want to make sure we get around to making the new record.
Are you guys already working on a new album?
D: Well, we got our touring and then some solo records.
Dan, you designed the album artwork. With Cut Copy’s international profile growing exponentially, do you still find time to work on graphic design?
D: Not so much at the moment to be honest. I mean, I have in the past. It’s been a while since we worked on this record at home. When we’re back in Australia, I work as a designer. I’ve got my own business that does a lot of artwork for MTV and sort of various other people. It’s sort of something I have to step in and out of. Obviously when we’re touring, it’s a bit hard to run things. But yeah, definitely when I’m at home, it’s sort of good having that totally separate creative outlet. It kind of keeps you a bit refreshed. I think doing that and coming back to music and vice versa, you sort of end up hopefully cross-pollinating a little bit.
What about you guys? Do you have other focuses besides music that you’re quite heavily involved with?
M: I’ve got a web development business sort of similar to him (Dan), and yeah, it’s pretty similar in that respect.
T: I’ve studied Fine Arts at university, but yeah, kind of like everyone else, I don’t really have that much time for it. Like, I’ll do stuff at home but never to the point where I could get an exhibition or anything together at the moment. Plus, I’m kind of actually learning stuff about music at the moment. I kind of spend every second I’m not touring trying to learn something new to apply to the next record or whatever. Its kind of a full time thing at the moment, but certainly the visual aspect of Cut Copy is a very important one. We spend a lot of time with artwork and visuals for the show. At times, it’s just as important as what we put on record as well.
And of course, the inevitable… What’s your take on the current state of the music industry?
T: It’s not much of an industry anymore. It seems very open.
D: It’s kind of like the Wild West!
T: Only the strongest survive!
D: I think that the internet has blown it all open. Like blogs, file sharing and all that sort of thing.
M: It’s a tougher thing for producers, but I mean, for bands playing live… there is a really good audience for bands playing live at the moment. There are some upsides for it, but as far as record labels, I guess its tough conditions for them – trying to make money with less people buying records these days.
Personally speaking with regards to you guys, I was exposed to Cut Copy purely via online.
M: Oh yeah, a lot of people are.
D: Well, just commenting on over in Europe, our new record hasn’t come out there and we had people singing the words to all our new songs and that sort of thing. So it’s like, you don’t need a physical record out for people to know about you. For a band, it’s great, but for a record label, it’s not so good. But I mean, hopefully people will still buy our record (laughs).
I think a lot of it is, when fans know a little bit more is going to the artists, I think they’re more inclined to purchase. I guess that kind of keeps you guys on your toes to put on a really good live show.
All: Yeah, yeah!
Cool, I think we’re good, thanks guys.
All: Cool, thank you.
And so there you have it people, an interview with Cut Copy, the band that created In Ghost Colours, a masterpiece musical journey that a lifelong Hip Hop head ranks amongst his top albums of all time – right up there with Nas‘ Illmatic, Biggie’s Ready to Die, Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt and even Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Yup. For Real.
*Edits: Mona Alice Oakenfold aka Michelle.