So, just how do you follow up one of the most critically acclaimed electro-pop good-time albums of the decade? This is the very question that faced three (well, now four) antipodean fellows collectively known as Cut Copy, in relation to 2008âs superb summery In Ghost Colours.
The âcuttersâ, as theyâre affectionately known as, looked to Occam's razor for advice, in that the simplest solution is normally the best; make another cracking album. And that they did - in the hugely ambitious and enjoyable Zonoscope, of which you can read our favourable review of here.
Two weeks before they embark on their European tour kicking off in the UK, CC take the time to talk to us about the making of Zonoscope, their influences and Jim Henson's Muppets.
Hello Cut Copy... so, how was your New Years Eve playing in Chile then?
It was fantastic. It was an amazing experience to be overseas on NYE and to be playing a show in Chile made it even better. We'll hopefully be back there later in the year.
You are soon to embark on a European and UK tour with Holy Ghost!, I assume you must be itching to play the new material from Zonoscope live, especially post-release?
Yeah, it's always great to get those new songs out of the stereo and on to the stage. We played a few songs from the album before it was released, but it's good to have the record out for people to hear the whole thing and perhaps understand how the songs work within the context of the record.
Whatâs the reaction been like to tracks youâve played so far, pre-release? I was at Lovebox in the summer and the three new tracks you played seemed to go down a treat with the crowd, considering they would not have heard them before.
We've just played a few shows over the weekend at Laneway festival in Australia, and we did quite a few new tracks and some of them went down really, really well. Especially 'Corner of the Sky' which we hadn't played before. There seemed to be some familiarity with some of the new songs straight away, whether that's the tunes themselves or that people were listening to the record before the show, I don't know.
The recording process for Zonoscope sounds like it was quite an experience. I understand you guys found an abandoned warehouse in Melbourne, how did you find that this aided the creative/working process, and what was the thinking behind the location? I hear rumours of extended jams...
We thought somewhere at the beginning of the process, that we might like to produce this record ourselves and find our own space to do that in. After Dan tinkered with some new demoâs at home for a while, we managed to locate this amazing warehouse space in Melbourne (with help from Glen at Modular I must add), and we initially set it up to record live instruments and basically jam and experiment with percussion loops and things like that. We were not certain that we would stay there and finish the album at the stage, it was more about fleshing out demoâs and experimenting. After a while we realised that we were getting some cool results. And with some extra equipment, we could actually record the whole album in that space.
Did you end up using any of the vintage gear floating about the place in the record? And what was the strangest piece of gear you saw that you didnât use?
Yeah we used quite a bit of the gear that was there. The guy that owned the warehouse was really cool. There were a number of bits and pieces that we didn't know what they were. Mostly early sixties oscillators, and pre amps and things... I'm not sure they all worked.
It was really like a museum in a way. But kind of junk yard as well. It was a fascinating room to walk past every morning. It always reminded me of JF Sebastian's old warehouse in Blade Runner.
Thereâs quite a tribal, rhythmic feeling present in much of the album (Blink And You'll Miss A Revolution sums the feeling-up in a microcosm), what inspired this, and the general atmosphere?
That would be a result to some degree of our focus on percussion on this record. Dan has spoken about this a bit, and I think the attitude on this album was to focus on the rhythmic elements of each tune as a starting point for each song. That involved the use of a lot a acoustic percussion that we all had a go at in the studio at times; woodblocks, roto-toms, bongos etc. as well as quite a bit of electronic percussion. The sound of the space is definitely a presence on the record. It was so large that we had all this natural reverb to work with. So much so, that we actually built a room in the middle of it out of blankets and to create a space that had much less natural reverb.
You said in an interview that you listened to different music whilst recording In Ghost Colours comparative to as when you were recording Bright Like Neon Love (krautrock, shoegaze. generally more psychedelic stuff). Has there been a similar shift in your listening habits between IGC and Zonoscope?
Obviously we all listen to new things as we moved through life. Of course I can't help but listen to someone like Neil Young every two months or so, but while we're touring we love to buy records and make new discoveries. I think this album definitely reflects some of the new things we've been influenced by; those kind of African and percussion inspired albums of the late 70's and 80's like Talking Heads' Remain in Light, Fleetwood Mac's Tusk and Malcom Mclaren's Duck Rock record.
A lot has been mentioned of your 80âs influences, which is of course true, but as the 80âs sound is so prevalent in modern music and has come full-circle that almost goes without saying I guess. Great pop music from the 70âs Iâd say comes through more on Zonoscope more than ever â Fleetwood Mac, Station to Station and so on. Can you expand on any of these influences of this era, and how they may relate to specific tracks from the album?
I think we were certainly looking back to the 70's more than the 80's as far as what everyone was listening to before we started the record. But also late 80's and early 90's Chicago house, and British post acid house stuff. I think Bowie was a real inspiration for us, as a model for the way he reinvented himself so many times and also the way he experimented with the form of a pop song. His Eno/Berlin records have such amazing atmospheres, and unique production, but also a strong experimental focus.
Whilst recording, is there any concern of how you are going to replicate your work in a live setting? Or do you treat them as almost two different processes?
They are two different processes. Recording is really isolated and almost about making music for yourself, for your own pleasure. We may occasionally get a sense of how a song will work in a live context whilst recording, but our focus is certainly on the album. The task of replicating or re-inventing the record live is something we think about when we finish recording.
Whatâs all this about a more âtheatricalâ slant in terms of your live show? Can you reveal anything?
We challenged ourselves to make a new sounding album, and from that we also challenged ourselves to create a new show for the year. That involved adding a lot more instruments to the stage, new synths and and lot more live percussion. We also wanted to create a world on the stage, a set almost, something that was conceptual and something that was iconic. We've been lucky enough to come up with some new ideas and make them work, as well as collaborate with amazing stage designers and video artists. I'll basically say there is a door on stage, but I won't give it all away at this stage.
The final track, Son God, is a beast of a track. A brilliant beast that is. Itâs unlike anything youâve released before â though perhaps fans will not be surprised to hear that this is what youâre capable of. Itâs almost like a Cut Copy remix of a Cut Copy song. How did this track evolve?
I think that song was always really strong from the beginning and we worked on a number of other things for a long time before coming back to it. I think we knew it would come late on the album, and we jammed a bit with that one to create the middle section. I think as we were coming towards the end of the process, we were listening to a rough mix of Sun God, and as it was finishing everybody had the thought that we should extend the ending. It just naturally wanted to go that way, into a new journey; another realm of possibilities. So it became this epic thing, and we're quite proud of it.
Tell us about the most surreal moment in your Cut Copy career.
Probably playing at Lollapalooza last year. There were like 20,000 people in the crowd, the sun was setting behind the Chicago skyline in front of us. It was the most beautiful, cinematic kind of thing you could imagine and I kept having to remind myself I was playing a gig, because the scene was so much to take in.
What contemporary music have you been listening to - and enjoying - thatâs been released in the past year?
Deerhunter, Washed Out, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti... I really love the song 'when we're dancing' by Twin Shadow as well.
What is it about Australia that seems to produce a whole host of good, good-time electro-pop, to use such a broad brushstroke term?
I'm not sure what it is, but it probably started with the Avalanches ten years ago.
Whatâs your fantasy festival line-up? Living or dead. Iâll let you choose 6 acts â 3 per day - and tell me who youâd want to headline each day.
Jim Henson's Muppets - David Bowie - Prince
The Byrds - Pavement - Talking HeadsDo you have a favourite record store, either back home or a place youâve discovered on your travels?
Yes. A 1 records in Manhattan.
The South London Goldsmiths alumni wowed us with Dust, an EP released at the end of last year with it's beguiling 2-step, jazz and techno inspired superbly-crafted sound. Imaginative, playful and edgy - with a broad-range of sounds crammed into four tracks, it stokes intrigue in what turn would be taken with Gravity.
Over the years every successful artist goes through that period of quite dramatic transformation, from humble beginnings, applying ones craft to a personal level, oft creating purely for oneself; only to eventually come out the other side and discover that a legion of people actually enjoy your music. Imagine that? The speed that this transformation occurred to Washed Out however is quite something even in this rapidly-paced existence.
Having recently released EP 33 (405 review here), ethereal Brighton outfit Esben and the Witch have started popping up across musical radars of recent. To explain how The 405 stumbled across them, itâs time to be naughty and break through the 3rd person barrier.
And here I am. I posted a message on a music board asking for âDark, bleak, misanthropic musicâ recommendations. Anything that fitted the words âDark, misanthropic, apocalyptic, moody, gloomy, nihilistic, bleak... (continued)