Q&A: Cut Copy
We query the Aussie dance-pop luminaries about their rave-inspired new album and the Alexander Skarsgård–starring video for the lead single. They play the Roseland Nov 1.
I keep waiting for the day Americans will wake up, smell the coffee, and make Cut Copy international megastars, because the Australian four-piece just keeps coming out with dance-pop albums that blow the pap on the radio out of the water. Seriously, if the group's November 1 Roseland show doesn’t end in a glorious, sweaty, blissed-out dance riot, I’m going to be very disappointed in Portland.
Those already familiar with Cut Copy know what a dance explosion the group's 2008 breakthrough, In Ghost Colours, was, and what a sweetly groovy electronic gem the follow-up, 2011's Zonoscope, proved to be. Cut Copy's newest, Free Your Mind, drops November 5. The four tracks already out suggest a natural progression from Cut Copy's previous sound, and the hard-edged banger “Let Me Show You Love” immediately stands out as one of the best electropop songs of the season.
Frontman Dan Whitford explains in a press release that Free Your Mind is heavily influenced by the Summers of Love of 1967 and 1988-89, and this influence comes through in music that swirls and ripples like an acid trip. It's also apparent in the video for the title track, which features a shirtless Alexander Skarsgård (of True Blood, and a friend of the band) as a cult leader wandering his compound.
I talked by phone with bassist Ben Browning, who has been with the band since 2008, about raves and cults, the good and bad of touring, and Stumptown Coffee.
What’s the bad stuff about going on tour?
The bad stuff is just not being able to see your family or your partner, sleeping out of a suitcase—you know, things like that. It’s a great experience, but after a while you just sort of crave your own house, or being able to cook for yourself. It’s nothing to complain about, though, because its such a great experience that so many people would kill to have, and you have to remind yourself that you’re really lucky to be doing it.
Is there anything in particular you like about Portland?
Yeah. I’ve been to Portland a few times; there’s good coffee there—Stumptown Coffee, I think.
Yeah, you got it.
Yeah, I’m down with Stumptown Coffee. Portland’s a great little town.
How do you think the new album is different and/or better than the previous stuff?
We wanted to make something that was immediate and bombastic, a record that jumped out more than Zonoscope, which was more of a painterly, fantasy world you could transcend into—it’s more of a soft record, in a way. As much as a dance band can make a soft record, I guess, we made one. We wanted things to be edgier on this record. It’s a slightly more abrasive experience.
Speaking of edgy, the video for “Free Your Mind” is super interesting. Alexander Skarsgård as the cult leader—who came up with that?
We were interested in a lot of different cultural things when we made this record, and one of them was early rave culture. People in England in the ’90s would have these pop-up raves in the countryside. It kind of alludes to cults and people coming together in these weird ceremonial ways. Cults and leaders, bands and festival crowds—there’s kind of a similarity there, the idea of people coming together and experiencing something. We took these ideas and came up with the video, which was directed by Chris Hill, who we’d worked with before. We knew Alexander Skarsgård and just asked him to be in it on the off chance he was interested, and he jumped right in.
Do you guys watch True Blood?
I’ve seen, like, one episode. A couple of the other guys have seen it. And certainly our girlfriends have seen many episodes. My sister’s a huge fan.
You released a solo EP, Lover Motion, in 2012. Is it tough to work on a side project while you’re in a huge band?
It’s hard, and it’s good. It takes [Cut Copy] a year or so to write and record an album, but a lot of that time we’re not in the studio, we’re waiting for various things, so there’s plenty of time for me to work away. Tim, our guitarist, is working on something that will come out soon. And Dan, even, as busy as he is with writing the Cut Copy material, has worked with other artists, producing, putting out records on the Cutters Records label. But yeah, it isn’t easy to be on tour and try to carry on an outside project.
Nov 1 at 8
Roseland Theater Any hints about the future of Cut Copy?
We’re going to raise the stakes with our live show, really take it to another level. And hopefully we can put something else out soon—we certainly have a lot of material, so we might try and release another EP or something this year.
Stream the new album: