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Interview: Cut Copy

| March 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

Get Them To The Park

It’s tough to find transcendent live performances. Great shows abound, no doubt, but contrivance and choreography rob fans of that unique experience. You can throw festivals out almost altogether, no matter how many times Wayne Coyne hops in his bubble and rides his audience’s hands. Forty-five-minute sets, scorching weather, and abysmal sound are exactly why Jimi Hendrix torched his guitar 43-years ago.

Appearing: April 8th at Riviera Theatre in Chicago.

But three summers ago, an official “moment” occurred because it almost didn’t. The Melbourne-based band Cut Copy had been scheduled for a closing set opposite Spoon at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park – not that the airlines cared.

“We were playing in San Francisco the day before at this one festival,” says guitarist Tim Hoey, “and it’s the classic story of flights-not-leaving-on-time and we got delayed at the airport for pretty much the entire day. And when we took off, we thought, ‘We’re not playing tonight; we’re going to have to cancel.’ And we were pretty bummed out about it because we pretty much flew all the way from Australia to play this one show. And when we landed we were told it already started.”

At the festival grounds, fans milled around, wondering if the shuttered beer tents were an omen while “will they or won’t they play” rumors swirled.

Back at O’Hare, the band ran like hell and chartered a car. “And we said, ‘We need to get here and set up and play as much as we can. Just see what you can do.’ So we jumped in and started driving over and we ended up getting a police escortwhen we got closer to the festival site.”

It was all anyone there needed to see. Out of nowhere, a crowd had materialized back to the third stage’s treeline and began jumping. “We made it there and we had 20 minutes until the festival closed, [enough for] two or three songs. I was still pretty out of it, but it ended up being an amazing show. I can’t believe people stuck around and just went nuts for those few songs. It’s certainly one of my most memorable show experiences, although I wouldn’t really want to repeat that.”

Cut Copy have a habit of making something out of nothing. Australia’s reputation for 4X-swilling, Aussie-Rules fans pumping fists to AC/DC and nothing else isn’t far off. Despite the unofficial sovereignty of Kylie Minogue, synth-based dance rock – no matter how prominent the guitars – didn’t have a place until recently. And probably only because of Cut Copy.

“When we started here in Australia,” Hoey recalls, “there wasn’t really an audience for this kind of music. The airwaves were all bands like Jet and The Vines and stuff like that. It takes a long time to get on the radar, and it was like we had to start doing stuff overseas before it started impacting Australia.”

And just as the conservative press start to get a handle on it, Cut Copy go changing. Zonoscope (Modular) tones down the confections that sent Pitchfork into a frenzy for a more deliberate, layered, even proggy journey.

“People who expect another In Ghost Colours will be really disappointed,” he says about Zonoscope. “We made that record and don’t want to repeat it, just like we didn’t want to with Bright Like Neon Love. Zonoscope is very much about stripping away what we’ve done before – and specifically sonically – and reimagining it in a different light. We wanted it to reveal itself over time. Those are my favorite kinds of records: you put it on for the first time and you don’t know what you’ve heard, or if you like what you’ve heard. We like the idea of an album being demanding and weren’t interested in going for hits. It was about creating an album where no one song was more important than another.”

The band tuck Talking Heads into “Take Me Now,” putting a breezy spin on last year’s Foals album. Then there’s a euphoric mash of Beach Boys harmonizing and Slade stomp that puts Zonoscope over the top at just the third track.

“We were using a lot of percussion on each track – synthetic and organic percussion – and so we thought that was a direction to take,” Hoey explains, “and a lot of different instruments on this record, so that was another theme. Once those tracks came together it became a lot easier for us. I guess the ‘eureka’ moment didn’t come until we sent it off for mastering; that’s when we knew we’d said everything we needed to say with this release. We have a lot of material left over – at least nine songs. They could make another record, but we’re afraid that by the time we finish touring this record and move onto the next one, they won’t be significant to what we want to do. But, at the same time, it’d be really great for people to hear those songs. So we’re figuring out a way to release those so it doesn’t have to be ‘the next Cut Copy record.’ Maybe we’ll give them away, or make an EP. I’m not sure. We’d like to release everything. It doesn’t have to be just about this one album.”

— Steve Forstneger

For the full interview, grab the March edition of Illinois Entertainer, available free throughout Chicagoland.

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