INTERVIEW: Cut Copy
Melbourne four-piece CUT COPY have been incredibly productive of late, as they’ve ensured a strong lead up to the release of their forthcoming LP Free Your Mind.
Now only a couple of weeks before its official release, the fourth studio record from the band has enabled the Cut Copy boys the stamina to jet off around the world for a huge international tour. Before they do though, frontman Dan Whitford of the group was kind enough to meet with us for an interview to discuss the inevitable success of Free Your Mind.
How did you decide on the name Cut Copy?
Umm, wow that’s going to test my memory. I think we more or less sort of randomly picked a bunch of names and started playing shows. Each time we would play, we would change the name. I guess we probably went through ten different names or something like that; and I guess maybe Cut Copy was the show that was actually a good one. So, we thought, well [laughs] the people that saw the show might come back so we’ll keep the name and yeah, that’s the one that stuck.
The new record Free Your Mind comes out next month. How much time was spent on songwriting?
It’s kinda weird, I guess we sort of record as we go, so it’s a bit hard to kind of separate songwriting and then recording and producing cause it all sort of happens at once. The very start of writing the record was the start of last year. And then writing kind of continued until probably a third of the way through this year – maybe April or something like that. But all the way through we’d be recording as well, so it’s sort of like periods of writing, periods of recording, and then finally mixing it in May this year and then it was sort of more or less done.
What was it like working with Dave Fridmann [Free Your Mind’s mixer]?
Initially we thought he was going to come on board to maybe do some production stuff as well, but there was like crazy floods and kind of like hurricanes going on in New York State and his studio actually, a tree fell on his studio and kind of set him back a few weeks with his schedule. So we ended up going across just for a short period of mixing. But even in that period, he was really creatively involved I guess, more so than anyone we’ve ever worked with in the past. He had some really good creative suggestions at the mixing stage where we all went, “well we never would have thought of that, but that’s awesome let’s do it.” He just had a good attitude, he didn’t come in with a sort of rulebook of how he does things, he’d just suggest ideas. You know, often we’d say things that we knew were technically maybe not quite right, but just sounded good, and he’d be like, “that’s cool,” you know, “if it sounds good, do it.” So I think essentially that probably comes down to being similar to our own attitude to music, you know, if something sounds good, don’t worry about what the rules are just go with it. So yeah I mean it was kind of amazing working with him.
And also, he’s got like this studio – it’s sort of near Buffalo, but it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere really. Like this sort of forest surrounded by deer and just you know, kind of nothing really. You stay in the cabin, and then there’s a studio downstairs, so you sort of, you know, eat, sleep and work all in the same place which was pretty interesting.
I know it wasn’t intended to be a concept album, and I know it’s self-explanatory by the title, but could you explain a deeper meaning to Free Your Mind?
Yeah well I guess the concept emerged, rather than us starting with a concept and then making a record, so I guess it’s almost like divining out the essence of what the music was. Cause initially when we were working on it, we tried to just at every stage not question what we were doing. If we had an idea we’d just do it, and then we could always come back later and go scrap that, or that’s awesome or whatever.
So we’d never evaluate while we were doing something, we’d come back later and go, “is this good?” So there was very little thought about what the end product was until a lot later in the process when we had been doing much recording and we’d had like a bunch of tracks together. And I think it was at that point where we were sort of like, a lot of these songs are kinda different, but there is sort of a commonality to it where you know, the dance songs have sort of got a psychedelic edge to them and then the more you know, the more band songs sort of have that uplifting feeling that maybe dance music has as well; even if they’re not dance tracks. So they seemed to fit together pretty well.
But as far as the concept itself, I think you know, we want it to be open to interpretation a little bit, and I guess the name “Free Your Mind” probably could be interpreted in a number of ways. And I think perhaps the record is the same thing, but essentially it’s hopefully a unifying, uplifting record that people can kind of take what they like from it.
The way the record was promoted through the billboards, and the way I interpret it, it seems as though the entire look of the album was very cleverly marketed, because of what it means to whoever’s going to listen to it. Would you say it’s your proudest endeavour?
I mean at the moment it is. I think you’d always hope that your latest thing is the best thing that you’ve done, and I guess we’re obviously a bit biased but we probably feel like that way at the moment, so definitely. And I think as far as, like what you’re saying about the billboards and also the first single that came, you know this idea of pressing records, almost like bootleg records on site at Pitchfork, people would turn up to this stall and they would make a record in front of you, just cut the record. It was something we’d never heard of before, but we thought was kind of cool cause I guess people are so used to getting stuff directly from the Internet or whatever, actually physically going there and that’s the only place you can get it, we thought that was kind of cool. And I guess the same thing went for the billboards, where it’s a real world experience where you’ve got to go to this obscure location to be able to hear the new song and have this experience with this weird sort of object in front of you.
All these things were stuff that we’d discussed within the band and were ideas that we wanted to do. I guess in the past, we might’ve just sort of sat back and let our label kind of dictate how our record gets marketed, how things came out, but we actually had some pretty strong ideas this time around about what we wanted to do. So I guess in a lot of ways we feel that the way it’s been promoted reflects us a lot more because they’re our ideas. So in that sense it’s a lot more satisfying, the way this record has gone so far. I hope people like it [laughs], that’s probably the main thing.
Did you say the billboards actually played music?
Yeah, I mean the idea was basically putting billboards in fairly obscure locations, so instead of being this thing that’s in your face to sell a product, you’ve got to seek it out and find it. So having one in outback sort of centre Western Australia in the middle of nowhere or like having it wedged in between the mountains in Chile, or something like that.
I guess putting them in really unique, interesting locations. We basically gave out the coordinates for the billboards so people look on Google with the coordinates, they can see where each of these ones are. A lot of people actually trekked out, and when you got to the billboards, just through a smartphone or if you’ve got GPS enabled, you’re able then to unlock and listen to our new track, ‘Free Your Mind’. I guess it was just a way of putting the new song out there, but in a way that we thought was a bit more interesting and engaging than just putting it up on YouTube or something like that.
Lots of people got their photos taken in front of the billboards and just got really excited about it, I guess making it special for the people that put in effort to go there.
I guess it gives it more character that way as well putting it, you know not in a main city
Yeah! And I just think it’s more memorable. We thought it had almost like a reference to old rave culture where each time there was a rave, people would have to get like instructions and a map to go to it, cause it would be in a different, weird spot each time, cause you know the cops would just come and shut it down if they advertised it traditionally. So, it’s kind of a similar thing, making it almost like a little bit of a challenge to find it, but then when you do it’s just kind of this awesome, rewarding experience.
I just want to ask you about that single release at Pitchfork. Who came up with the idea to have that stall there? And was it noticeably yours? Did people know they were going there for Cut Copy?
It’s something that we’d discussed within the band, and someone from our label actually knew people that had these mobile record lathes, so he was able to tee up the people to do it. But yeah, basically I think all we did was just we Tweeted and put on Instagram a photo of the poster, which was behind the booth at Pitchfork, it just saying ‘Let Me Show You’ and the dates.
So people that were at the festival would just go and kind of look for this thing, like whatever it is. And then I don’t know, I guess word spread from that and people just started getting on Facebook and Twitter and stuff and just talking about it, so then it actually became something that people were seeking out.
What’s your favourite song to perform live?
I guess probably one of our new songs, even though we haven’t actually played them live yet but [laughs], in rehearsal it’s fun. Yeah, maybe ‘Free Your Mind’ I guess so far, cause I get to play an organ and usually I just play like synthesizer or other stuff so playing an organ is always a bit more fun.
You’re about to embark on an international tour. Where are you most excited to be visiting?
We’re actually playing three shows in Russia this time. We played in Saint Petersburg once before, and we made the mistake of trying to go there on a bus. I remember at the border crossing, we got stuck for like eight hours getting drilled by these people who spoke no English, kind of telling us that we were going to get thrown in jail and all this sort of thing because we didn’t have the right papers or whatever it was. So we ended up getting to Saint Petersburg just in time for the show and then having to leave straight away afterwards, so we didn’t really see much. But this time we’re actually going to be doing three shows, so I’m just kind of curious to see a bit of Russia.
You’ll be back in Australia to play Future Music. Can we also expect a national tour?
I certainly hope so. We don’t have like a confirmed plan yet but we certainly want to do our own shows, so we’ll definitely be doing it at some point, I’m just not sure exactly when. But yeah, obviously this is where we’re from so we’re desperate to do it at some point.
Do you have any future plans for 2014?
Well we’ll probably be touring for the rest of next year I’d say, more or less, so that’s probably the main thing that’s happening next year. But I’m sure as we get closer, details will be getting filled on so yeah, I’m sure there’ll be plenty of exciting stuff happening.
Cut Copy‘s Free Your Mind is to be released in Australia via Modular Recordings on Friday, 1st November. It is available for pre-order HERE.
The band will play Future Music Festival March 2014. Tickets and info at www.futuremusicfestival.com.au
FUTURE MUSIC FESTIVAL AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES
Saturday, March 1st
RNA Showgrounds, BRISBANE
Sunday, March 2nd
Arena Joondalup, PERTH
Saturday, March 8th
Royal Randwick Racecourse, SYDNEY
Sunday, March 9th
Flemington Racecourse, MELBOURNE
Monday, March 10th
Adelaide Showgrounds, ADELAIDE
Words by Hannah Galvin.