Cut Copy reveals details of forthcoming album, gives a shout-out to Ariel Pink
It's a mantra for many a band seeking inspiration: back to the stacks, back to the stacks, back to the stacks. The Australian trio Cut Copy, whose free-spirited break-out album, "In Ghost Colours," finely plumbed the depths of '80s electropop, knew they needed some new directions for their upcoming album, due in February.
Still, it's hard to turn away from what launched your band -- and the records made by the floppy-haired wounded souls of the '80s did just that for Cut Copy. "In Ghost Colours" was chosen as one of the best albums of 2008 by the Times in the U.K. and Pitchfork Media, received fairly glowing reviews all around for its roving collagist style, and set the band aloft on global tours. In Cut Copy's home country, the album eventually reached No. 1 on the ARIA charts, bumping aside surfer bro Jack Johnson.
And while cleaning up the charts and lapping the planet is nice, it doesn't provide much time for reflection. When the band members returned to Melbourne, Australia, setting up a studio in an old textile warehouse, they finally got a chance to listen to all the bounty they'd bought in record shops all over the world. A new sound emerged, one born from hours of listening to the tribal, Afro-pop-influenced sounds of the Talking Heads and Brian Eno, Fleetwood Mac's crystalline "Tusk" and the background soul singers on David Bowie's "Young Americans."
Now, it could be said that those same records are currently inspiring countless young bands, but the outcome for Cut Copy sounds promisingly fresh so far. The first track from its as-of-yet untitled work is fittingly titled "Where I'm Going." The vocal harmonies recall a touch of the Beach Boys, but it's driven by a firm rhythmic backbone, which vocalist Dan Whitford says is a constant throughout the new work. So expect more percussion, but overlaid with melodic psychedelic washes and bleached-out harmonies.
We talked with Whitford about these latest directions, a missed opportunity with Ariel Pink and turning down Lady Gaga, which they've talked about plenty before, but we just had to get the explanation for ourselves because we're selfish like that. The video above, a Pop & Hiss exclusive, is one of a series of "behind the scenes" segments on the recording of the new album. This one takes place in Whitford’s recording studio and music room in Australia.
-- Margaret Wappler
So you've been heavily inspired by Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” album, as well as the Talking Heads and David Bowie for this new record. How did those influences make their way onto your new record?
It’s really just a matter of developing as a songwriter. I guess the idea of that percussive stuff and the soul stuff, particularly on "Young Americans," felt new and exciting. We were thinking about songwriting in a way that’s different from "In Ghost Colours." For one thing, this is probably the most time that we’ve spent just out in the world making a record. In the past, we've always had other things going on. I've worked as a graphic designer; Tim [Hoey] is a DJ; Mitchell [Scott] works in Web development. This time we focused on the art of making a record before anything else. We went off on more tangents, had the opportunity to take ideas to completion more. Inevitably, being a band isn’t the best way to pay the bills, but we don’t have to be concerned with other ways of making money as much anymore. We can be a bit more concerned with making music.
You’re working in Melbourne, Australia. Do you have much of a music community there?
There’s definitely a community in Melbourne. It’s strange for us, but we’ve felt like we’re outside of it in some ways. We probably spend the majority of our time overseas when we’re touring. Melbourne’s always been the most vibrant and happening music city in Australia. I enjoy hanging out there and seeing gigs, but there's not a big scene for our music. The biggest thing there is rock music, and we're not exactly that. We’re not straight dance music either -- we’re floating between those things.
I know you guys keep current on a lot of new music like Panda Bear and Ariel Pink but it sounds like you listen to more old records when it comes to getting new ideas.
It’s more interesting to dig into the past and find what inspiration it might hold. When I'm listening to old records, I’m less aware of the scene or the context that it was created in. There are bizarre ideas in older records, lost ideas. You listen to it now and you think it’s crazy that they did that, that they got that particular sound from that instrument. But records from now, you are all privy to the same influences. I’m always curious about new music, but I’m much more surprised by old records.
But yes, we're big Ariel Pink fans. We've actually never met him, but on our last record we tried to get him to do a cover of one of our songs. He was keen to do it, but it never quite eventuated. We’d love to meet him and work with him sometime.
So, I know you've talked about this, but you’ve turned down opening slots with Lady Gaga, Nine Inch Nails and Coldplay. Those are some big acts to turn down. Why not take those opportunities?
Let me just say that I’m not surprised that I would turn these down, but I'm surprised that everyone else would be so surprised by it. For a band at our level, we can travel anywhere in the world and get our own audience. There's a potential for more of a mainstream audience with those acts, but if we have our own choice between our fans or someone else’s fans, we’d choose our own context.
Is there anyone out there that you'd make an exception for?
Well, we opened for Daft Punk and that was great. Besides that, definitely Brian Eno. He'd be a fascinating guy to hang out with.