CUT COPY with BLACK KIDS and MOBIUS BAND at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), Friday (May 9), 9 pm. $17. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Austin, Texas – Cymbal stands are toppled and a Fender guitar lies face down on the stage. Leaving a trail of assaulted gear in their wake, Cut Copy are attempting to find the backstage after their encore, but the dance club hosting their packed SXSW showcase offers none, and the Melbourne trio are getting swarmed by sweaty fans wanting high-fives or just to touch singer Dan Whitford’s sweat-soaked army-green T-shirt. Cut Copy, looking both terrified and euphoric, know their time is now.
Across town the next day at the official Australian BBQ party, a bruising rock group aurally abuses a half-interested lot of red-faced, early-hour boozers. That group would be Aussie garage revival also-rans the Vines, and their flame-out singer, Craig Nicholls, is forcing his best mental-hospital facial expressions. It’s a grimace-inducing performance, but it serves to reaffirm the positive climate change for Australian music with Cut Copy at the forefront of its movement.
Two weeks later, Cut Copy guitarist Tim Hoey is back in Melbourne driving to rehearsal on the morning his band’s new record, In Ghost Colours (Modular), scores an exceedingly high approval rating from a noted music website, assuring the already surging album a momentum boost. He’s in high spirits and a bit introspective about how far Cut Copy have come since Whitford, who initially started CC solo, formed the group five years ago.
“We never really had any major goals when we started out,” muses Hoey. “We made that record [Bright Like Neon Love, their debut, also on Modular] so quickly and put it out. Then things started to happen overseas, and we went with it.
“Certainly, the climate in Australia at the time... there wasn’t much of a dance or indie scene or whatever they’re calling it. It was all very much the Vines and Jet. It was tough to kind of get an in. And it wasn’t until we went overseas and started doing shows that it caught on here.”
Cut Copy’s increasing allure within that difficult-to-name indie dance “white Ray-Ban” crowd has much to do with their geographical remove from it. Coming up in Melbourne, remote from the cyclical “who’s cooler” one-upmanship race that chokes music scenes in major cities on our shores, Cut Copy are totally without self-consciousness or any hint of irony. Even when a Yacht Rock-style saxophone solo blares midway through the disco/new-wave gem Hearts On Fire, it feels earnest and free of contrivance.
It’s just one of the reasons In Ghost Colours is such a thoroughly listenable spin and why CC are a lock as major breakout artists this year. The record took almost four years to make, partly due to the staggered release of Bright Like, but also because they needed to find the right producer. They needed someone who could help bridge a gap between French house, early 90s shoegaze, ELO-smooth and a growing interest in psychedelia. Enter shadowy DFA in-house producer Tim Goldsworthy.
“We’ve been huge fans of DFA since the beginning, in particular his Loving Hand mixes and how he was taking it into a more psychedelic realm,” says Hoey. “That was something we wanted to explore more on Ghost Colours.
“We sent him the demos and found out he was a huge My Bloody Valentine fan and was looking forward to working on the gritty guitars on the record. They [DFA] are famous for their disco sound, but Tim is a walking encyclopedia of music. Straight away we knew he’d be the perfect person to collaborate with.”
While Cut Copy, which also includes drummer Mitchell Scott, are clear leaders of this beat-thumping new wave from Australia, a full crop of followers are hot on their heels, most of whom are friends. Other Melbourne electro-based groups like Midnight Juggernauts, the Presets, Muscles and Miami Horror are helping tear down the diluted rock regime that Jet, Vines and the more palatable Wolfmother rule over. Cut Copy’s label, Modular Records, which pioneered the scene by discovering Aussie sample mavericks the Avalanches, are to Melbourne what Sub Pop was to Seattle.
Still, as Hoey says, the incremental changes to the mainstream at home are a work in progress.
“Here in Australia, when you reference dance music, they still don’t take it that seriously,” he says. “Like, ‘It’s a great record – it’s a bit of fun,’ but not too much past that.
“But it’s pretty amazing how big Modular is now. When we started, it was literally a backyard operation in Australia, and now it’s a worldwide brand.”
Discusses the influences that brought the group together:
On wether the group is more comfortable in dance tents or traditional live venues:
Explains the elongated life span of their last record - Bright Like Neon Love:
Who are some of CUT COPY's peers? Find out here.