Thursday, June 30, 2011

Interview - Cut Copy - Show Preview - 7/11/11 - Club Zoo - Pittsburgh - Concert Preview

The four members of Cut Copy often find themselves a long way from home. This is what happens when you live in the land down under, but spend much of your time crisscrossing the globe between cities for festivals and shows. I reached singer/keyboard player Dan on the phone one afternoon in Austin after the band had played there the night before. A day earlier, I would have had to reach them in Mexico. Before that they were in Puerto Rico. Later that same day I talked with him, the band was headed to Europe for a string of shows, which included a stop in St. Petersburg—seemingly one of the few places Dan had never been and was very excited to see.

Cut Copy’s unique sound lets them straddle a number of different audiences. They play electronic music, which puts them in front of rambunctious festival crowds of people who want to be carried away by the sound, but they are also a real band; four guys playing guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and all. Their 2008 album In Ghost Colours was a runaway success with fans of both electronic music and indie music, helped along in no small part by the large cross-over between genres popularized by music blogs in recent years. In early 2011 they released their third album, Zonoscope, to critical and fan acclaim. The new album extends their lush pop hooks into more psychedelic territory; a result of the unique approaches and ideas they took into the recording process.

“We used a lot of different techniques when making this record, and for us I think it’s a reflection of our fondness of the process of record making,” Dan said. The band found a warehouse on the outskirts of Melbourne where they deposited all of their equipment and spent months exploring a variety of different sounds and approaches while self-recording the album. One of the overarching themes for the band was the blending of organic and mechanical sounds. “When we were working on this record we got interested in exploring rhythm more than we had in the past. We were inspired by exploring sort of organic rhythms, hearkening back to tribal sounds from Africa and the music that was inspired by that in the 80s, like Talking Heads. But we work with synthesizers as well, so there is kind of a contrast between some of this acoustic organic stuff and the harder synthesized sound.”

Taking up recording techniques from the past, the band brought in a live chorus for backing vocals, arranged instruments for simultaneous recording, and used some unorthodox and even imaginary instruments. Like Christopher Walken, they often found a need for to call for “more zonoscope!” to get the tracks just right. “What exactly is the zonoscope?” I asked Dan. He laughed. “It's a word that we created, basically feeling like we had inhabited this different world while writing this album. Or a different place in mind. The zonoscope was a device, or even like a looking glass into this other world that we created. So the idea of the zonoscope was sort of a way of encouraging ourselves to see into this world that we created while making this album.”

After finishing the album in the studio, the reality of touring the music set in. “There’s a brief moment of panic where we realize there’s no way we can play live all the instruments that we recorded on the tracks!” Dan joked. He said the band wants to do as much live as they possibly can in terms of the way they recorded the songs, but they also want to give fans something new and different than the experience on the album. Not only is this what makes the live show worth it to fans, but it’s what keeps it interesting for the band night after night as well. Cut Copy also incorporates visuals as much as possible into their show—this time around he said there is a giant doorway through which the band enters. Later, the audience ‘looks through the doorway’ to see the sights of Zonoscope.

With all the traveling to exotic and cosmopolitan locales, I asked him what they enjoy about the different places and audiences. “Well, just recently, the Mexico city show was about 4,000 people. And that was a headline show, not a festival. For us, that's a pretty decent crowd; probably even bigger than what we play back home in Australia. It's interesting having that kind of response in a place where the lifestyle sometimes feels really foreign to us, but you can see that there is still some kind of connection to our music.”

Besides good crowds at shows, they also appreciated being able to get fresh tacos. “I guess in Australia we are probably about as far from Mexico as you can get. And…our version of Mexican food isn’t really that great.”

Dan mentioned coffee as one of the things he likes trying in different places. As a fellow coffee-lover, I had to find out if there were any particular parts of the world where he likes coffee. Dan was even more detailed that I expected.

“Well, there is a place in Oslo called Tim Wendelboe. Probably one of the best coffee roasters in the world. It's just incredible. In the state there are some great ones as well. Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle, Blue Bird, the list goes on…”

“You really know your coffee!” I said.

“Yeah. We're well researched.”

Coffee shops and music fans in Pittsburgh, be on notice: Cut Copy will be playing here on July 11th at Club Zoo, and they’re not messing around.

Cut Copy will be performing at Club Zoo on 7/11. You can find tickets here.

--Daniel Hammer