Cut Copy - Photo by Michael Muller

Photo by Michael Muller

NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION caught up with Australian electro-pop act CUT COPY‘s frontman Dan Whitford shortly after the release of their fourth studio album Free your MindPrior to their Berlin show at “Prince Charles”, we chatted about creating electronic music with integrity, encountering “influences“ you never knew you had and how the band made a new album which begs to be heard live.


Great to have you back in Berlin. This is only your second show here ever, right?
Yes, well we also did MELT! Festival once but I know that is a few hours away.


Ok, so, I think of CUT COPY I think of ten or twelve years ago: I was living in Seattle, and at that point you wouldn’t necessarily dare put on electronic music at a house party. You guys are one of the groups who made that transition smooth – an actual band who successfully integrated all these electronic elements and did it well. Since then I think you may have spawned some admirers. Now, if I go to a festival and encounter a bunch of new acts I find myself often saying – “Well, they’ve got that sort of… CUT COPY  sound, actually”. Basically using you as a basis to describe what they are doing. What you do may have inspired a number of other groups, especially in the last few years. Where does that put you creatively? Is it an extra challenge for you having younger bands as contemporaries that end up sounding like you?
No, it’s not really a challenge. If we have inspired some people to make music and to make something different over the years – and hopefully we have – I think that is kind of cool. We keep approaching things in the same way where we’re just trying to do something that’s new for us each time we write a song and each time we make a new record. In some ways we’ve been around for awhile now but sometimes it doesn’t seem like that. We’ve been working on our own music and traveling and then doing another record and suddenly interviewers will say “You guys are veterans” or “You’ve been around a long time” and it’s like, “Oh, yea, I guess we have!” So for us it really doesn’t seem any different than when we started, so it doesn’t necessarily feel hard or anything like that – but I guess there different expectations from people now. For example, other people want you to do the same thing that you did on your last record or they want you to something different – we just sort of ignore a lot of that and make the record that we want to make it.


One of the nice things about your records is that they have a continuum –a thread – such that you don’t want to just listen to one song, you want to listen to the whole record. In a post-iTunes culture now where younger people tend towards buying particular songs – my sister, for example, is five years younger than me and she doesn’t buy albums, she buys songs. How do you work within all that?
We try to work in the format of an album – an LP, and make the most of that format and create more of a cohesive flow between songs and build the story around the whole record. With just song you don’t have people’s attention for long enough to really take that next step. Perhaps we have explored the possibilities of making an album more than other people, because when I think of the records that I’ve really liked they tend to have some sort of concept or story beyond just the individual songs. I think that is something that maybe happens a bit less these days. I used to love records from artists like BECK or DJ SHADOW or THE KLF – some of these artists that make records with extra effects and spoken word parts – extra things beyond the individual songs that make a record special and I think we try to do that with our records.


If you had to sum it up in a few sentences, what would you say is the aim or concept of the new record “Free your Mind”?
There wasn’t really an aim but it turned out to be a record that has a yearning to be in the moment and bringing people together: whether that is just out at a party dancing or just sort of life itself or meditating. It feels like there are a lot of threads through the record which hint towards a sense of freedom and the different interpretations of that.

CUT COPY: “The argument that electronic music has no soul is a debunked one”


It has been a long, rough decade, I feel like across the board people just want to get out and dance (not in a hedonistic way necessarily) so it is nice to encounter soulful, joyous music that is at it’s best live. During your writing process or your creative process does do you incorporate a lot of what you know about your own live shows into the creation of new work?
Not consciously, I don’t think. Maybe it just works out that way sometimes – obviously it is the same people there in the studio who perform live and inevitably when we’re making a new record there’s an element of that, but we don’t usually think too much about: how can we play this song live? When we’re making it we are just making the most interesting record we can and when it comes to playing a live version it’s almost like learning the song again from scratch because there are so many elements there. But certainly this record (more than some of the others) feels like it is almost ready-made for an audience at a live show. Some of the other records have been a bit more introverted or are more of an individual journey rather than: Hey, everybody – let’s share this experience!  This one feels like it is trying to draw people in a bit more.

I tried not to read up TOO much on you beforehand but one thing I noticed is that you are a graphic designer and also have a graphic design firm? A lot of groups will rely heavily on an aesthetic as a part of their public persona but you seem to keep that to a minimum and I find that your music itself is enough on its own, so my question is, creatively: do you keep it separate? The visual and the musical elements?
I think visually – the artwork and that sort of thing – gets strongly considered. In terms of things like make up or having a particular look that’s never really been our thing, but I like people who have input into their album artwork or that sort of thing.  If feels like there is an extra element to discover if you like someone – you can look through the sleeve of their record –

Or, gosh, even buy a physical copy!
Yes, IF you have a physical copy.


Cut Copy - iTunesSpeaking of which the most prominent link on your twitter site directs people to your album on iTunes – I went there and grabbed a screenshot of the bands – I brought a printed copy along – it lists as your influences, “Einflüsse”, and then there is also the longer list of your contemporaries below. I couldn’t help but wonder since it is kind of speaking for you – do you have any input on this?
Doesn’t look like it.

Is it accurate? It is the German iTunes so not sure if the list would vary from country to country?  I almost wonder if it is randomly generated? Anyhow, it is interesting because a lot of people would see this and think: oh, ok – this is some input I have into the band’s existence, so I was wondering where they come from.  If you take a look at these lists, especially the three listed as influences – would you identify any of those yourself?
The first two are massive influences. NEW ORDER and DAFT PUNK – definitely. But looking at the contemporaries – some of these are probably fair but some of these, I mean, THE TEENAGERS for instance I’ve never even listened to, so yea- it seems a little random.


Maybe it is geographically oriented? I thought I was hip to this stuff but honestly I’m not even sure what a lot of these bands sounds like… who is MUSCLES?
MUSCLES is an Australian solo electronic guy. Not even sure if he makes music anymore, so that’s a funny one. Yea, they’re all just bizarre. Do you mind if I keep this? Might make a t-shirt out of it…


Go for it! So, thinking about your contemporaries – as I have listened your band I have also come to like groups like YEASAYER and HOT CHIP or maybe even GANG GANG DANCE, so I tend to bundle you with them – in a good way, but that also reminds me of this BJÖRK quote from an interview a while ago where she says something to the extent of “People say if you use a computer to make electronic music that there’s no soul in there!” All you guys – and I mean you and your contemporaries – have done an excellent job of making it arty, listenable, fun and at the same time something of substance.
Yeah, I hope so. I think the argument that electronic music has no soul is a debunked one- even KRAFTWERK has soul in a motorized way.


You’ve been together for almost ten years-ish. Do you find that your reputation precedes you? For example, a lot of fans had been listening to you for years before your first Berlin show in 2011.
Right. In some places, yes. But we were relatively unknown when we first started touring, like when we did CMJ and SXSW and did some early touring in the US supporting some people – and the same in Europe  and the UK and some parts of Europe as well – but it took awhile – we sort of slowly drew people in, it has been a slow burn, but In Ghost Colours was a big breakthrough record for us, but we’ve never really just had something like a number one song or something that has given us a whole legion of fans in one go, we’ve just accumulated people along the way SONIC YOUTH or some of these 90s bands were around a long time and all of the sudden you realize they actually have quite a big following but it wasn’t like a moment where it just happened.  I think we inadvertently followed the same trajectory in our career.


What do hope and passion mean to you?
These are the things that made me want to make music in the first place. The excitement around making music and listening to music – to me that almost equals why we started a band together, that is the exact reason.