click here for more
Cut Copy

Cut Copy

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Wednesday 18th May, 2011 9:01AM

Melbourne purveyors of progressive electronica, Cut Copy, are heading to New Zealand next week as part of the international tour in support of their new album, Zonoscope. UTR caught up with Tim Hoey to discuss the making of the album, how they view their band, and why a waterfall destroying the New York city skyline is a positive image.

Where are you guys at the moment?

I’m at home in Melbourne, it’s a nice place to be. We got back last Wednesday for two weeks and it’s been great to have some time at home around familiar surroundings.

And you've spent the last couple of months touring Zonoscope, the new album?

Yeah we started in the UK and Europe, went to Russia and then went over to the US and spent another four weeks there. We're back home for an Australian headline tour and then over to New Zealand of course.

How has the new album been going live? Has the response been good? Have you been enjoying playing it?

Yeah it’s been good, all the shows have been going really well which is great to see. It’s our first proper tour since the album’s been out. You spend so much time cooped up in the studio listening to the record over and over again that you really want to share the record with the rest of the world and I guess playing live is the most immediate connection you can have with your audience; getting out and seeing how people react to the songs is a really fulfilling exercise. So far it’s been going really well. It’s been awesome to see people singing along to the new songs, and seeing old fans and new fans. No complaints at this stage.

Has there been a particularly amazing show or experience over the last couple of months?

I think we've generally found the whole tour to be amazing. The American tour was sold out entirely and most of the European shows were as well so it's amazing to see so many people coming out. I guess Coachella at the end of the month ended up being quite a highlight for us. It was quite a surreal experience playing that show. It’s always tough when you’re playing shows every night to take stock of what’s going on and it’s usually when you stop that you can kind of reflect on what you’ve been doing. The whole thing feels quite surreal at the moment.

Tell me a bit about the making of the new record, Zonoscope:

Yeah sure. To record the record we found this old abandoned warehouse space on the outskirts of Melbourne where we set up this make-shift studio. It was a very liberating experience on many levels. For a start, we weren’t in an expensive recording studio so we weren’t worried about how much money we were spending or how much time we were taking, so we had the freedom to experiment with ideas and with songs and just creating this world to record the record in that was separate to everything else – cut off from the world. That's the idea behind the record record, creating this new world to revolve in, and we had this idea of wanting to create a rhythmic record that took people to another place that we imagined, returning to an organic, tribal way of living. That came through the percussion and that element of the record, which I guess became quite a focus on Zonoscope. So I guess that was the idea: creating this new world.

It seems like an apt and timely topic or theme. There’s a lot of discussion in popular culture about removing ourselves from the onslaught of technology. Did these ideas have anything to do this Zonoscope?

I’m not actually sure where the idea even really came from. I think it came about when we set up this studio really and the idea of music being this escape. When the first Walkman came out it was revolutionary in the fact that people could create a soundtrack to their own world and could walk around the city or environment and were completely locked into this new world by having your headphones in. We were really interested in that idea, being able to transport people away.

Musically, what were you being inspired by leading up to Zonoscope?

There were a few different things. We were very interested in that early nineties acid house thing like Primal Scream – and that Screamadelica record. We really liked this idea of a very hedonistic state of being and I guess capturing that feeling. We also wanted to create tension release; long songs that build and build before releasing at the end and it’s very joyous and uplifting. So we explored textures and building with layers and layers of sound. We were also interested in Bowie’s Berlin era of records from a production perspective, and also his Young Americans phase where he had that R & B phase with his soul singers and his gospel choirs. So we utilized a vocal ensemble when we were in Atlanta and got them in to record on a few tracks. So there’s a reference to Young Americans and Screamadelica for a start.

How do you see Zonoscope as a progression from earlier Cut Copy albums?

We always want to do something different and it’s always about stripping away what you’ve done before and starting again. I think with each record you want to try and get more and more ambitious with what you’re doing. When we started out none of us really knew how to play our instruments so with each record it’s becoming more of a honing of our craft and learning things with each record that we carry on to the next. I guess we just like the idea of creating a catalogue of interesting music where we go through all different styles and changes so that when you look back on everything in years to come it’s like 'Oh wow this band had this interesting career where they did this strange record or this weird ambient record or this straight pop record'. I guess those kind of ideas really attract us.

Tell us about the cover artwork to Zonoscope:

Dan (Whitford) found it while we were writing this record and it goes with what I was saying before about creating new worlds. When we looked at that image we saw it as a creation of a new world – a lot of people comment on it being an apocalyptic end-of-the-world kind of image, the New York skyline being overtaken by a waterfall – but the actual title of the image is 'The City Awakens to a New Dawn’ or something like that. We thought that was a very calming image and I think the artists intension was it to be calming and rather than it being the destruction of an old world. We saw it as a creation of a new one anyway. We contacted the artist but he had passed away some years before so we got in contact with his wife and she was more than happy for us to use this image - she actually went digging around in their attic and found the original print, scanned it and sent it to us. It’s a really unique image in that it’s timeless. It’s quite modern but then also quite old looking at the same time and it has that timeless quality. The idea of our music is about taking ideas from the past and ideas from now and combining them together so we thought it kind of worked on that level as well.

Tell me about the video clip for 'Need You Now':

Yeah that was directed by a guy by the name of Keith Schofield. We’ve been fans of his work for quite some time. When we finished touring In Ghost Colours we heard through the grapevine that he was a fan of our music, so we got in contact with him and said we were fans of his work and he got back in contact and said he’d love to work together. I guess we kept him in the loop and once the record was finished we had the intention of giving him one of the songs to do something with and it was completely his vision for the video. We just had so much trust in his work and so we were like 'Do whatever you like' and it was really amazing. The song is a very polarizing kind of song and it would have been really easy for a director to make something just as emotionally charged and it could have come off as being quite cheesy if it had been done badly or over the top. He had this idea of a very surreal fantasy; these sportspeople interacting with us with these fantasy weapons but underneath it there’s this world story - although it’s admittedly a very Keith Schofield world story. So we found it a really nice contrast to the song and it was really fun to make, great to work with Keith.

The visual element of Cut Copy is a important part of the band as a whole. How important do you see the 'whole package' of a band?

Yeah, the artists and visionaries we’re interested in take all the artwork and videos into consideration. One thing informs the other. We always take control of our artwork – Dan's a graphic designer and he always makes all the covers for Cut Copy and you know it’s really interesting that traditional idea of the record. You go down and buy an album and you take it home and listen to it from start to finish and the artwork informs the music and the music informs the artwork and it’s all inclusive. That’s something that we’ve always been interested in.

You mentioned before that it was nice to be back in Melbourne. Do you feel part of a special music community in Melbourne?

People say it’s the cultural capital of Australia and there’s always been a very healthy music scene here – so many great bands come out of this city and also there’s a lot of galleries and a great art school here. It’s a very inspiring city to be in. It’s also cold and wet so people are always indoors doing stuff so the environment lends itself to a creative lifestyle rather than being out at the beach. I remember the first time I came to Melbourne – I’m originally from Byron Bay – I went straight back home and packed up all my stuff and moved, it just felt like the place to be. It really helped to define what I wanted to do with my life as well as my art so it’s always a lovely city to come back to.

You made a 'Making Of' documentary for Zonoscope. Tell me a bit about that:

I think as artists you’re always interested in the process and I’m always really interested in making of albums – those classic albums like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours or Metallica’s Black Album – it's interesting to watch the process of what goes into making a record. I also like buying art books and artist's journals to see what the ideas were behind the work. We just thought it would be interesting to give people a behind-the-scenes look at what making this record was all about and the guys that made it are good friends of ours. So it wasn’t like having the film crew in the studio it was like having friends around hanging out with us and it’s a really lovely document to look back on in years to come and remember that experience. It’s also a very accurate portrayal of the kind of people we are, like geeks pretty much. It goes a long way to capturing what it was like making the record but also the kind of people we are.

In the next few weeks you head out on the Australian tour. How do you feel about the rigmarole of touring, what do you take from it?

Um, it’s always quite funny. I think it’s a lot harder I thought it would be before I was in a band, touring felt like the most luxurious job in the world but it’s a lot of hard work and very draining. It’s very tough on your relationships because you’re away from the people you care about for months on end. At the same time it’s a very unique position to be in to be able to tour the world and it’s something we don’t take for granted. We use touring as a way of absorbing music and culture of the places we go to so it’s almost like a research trip for the records. And we always take all of that back home and that’s always the impetus for writing the next record. It’s that classic thing of the grass is always greener; when you’re on tour you wish you were at home and as soon as you get home you can’t wait to get back out on the road again. It’s important for a band to balance the touring and recording aspects. If you do two much of it it can send you insane.

Ultimately, what would you like people to take away from the new album, Zonoscope?

I guess it’s different for everyone. We just hope that people like it first and foremost. People always like really different songs on the record – it’s never the same song that people are talking about. I guess we deal with a lot of different genres and musical styles but there’s always something in it for everybody, it’s not just dance music, it’s not just pop music, it’s a bit of everything. I guess we hope people can put it on and enjoy the experience and listen to it from start to finish. We enjoy the idea of an album that you listen to like that, that’s why we spend a lot of time on the track order and the interloop and joining all the songs together because it’s an overarching experience not meant to be listened to in parts. We just hope people enjoy it now and in ten or twenty years they come back to it and have the same reaction.

Courtney Sanders