While some bands go off in different directions with each new record, indietronica stalwarts, Cut Copy remain true to their sound on fourth album, Free Your Mind. But why change tact when you’re onto a good thing? RACHEL DAVISON chats with drummer, Mitchell Scott, on the eve of the album’s release through Modular/Universal and ahead of their appearance at Future Music Festival on Sunday, March 2 at Arena Joondalup.
It’s been almost ten years since Cut Copy’s revered debut, Bright Like Neon Love and with each album, the (now) four-piece seem to garner more success. 2008’s In Ghost Colours debuted at number one on the ARIA Album Chart and 2010’s Zonoscope earned them a Grammy nomination in the US. The likeable and slightly kitsch, Free Your Mind with its ‘80s pop textures, swirling synths and ever-so-catchy dance hits, is the realised sound of Cut Copy coming of age and doing what they do best.
“We’re always just trying to do something that we find appealing and always open to trying different ways of working and different sounds,” he says from Melbourne. “I guess that’s how you find out what you naturally sound like – by trying different things and what the commonalities are that end up existing. I guess that’s the sound that’s inescapably yours. I think that’s probably what we found on this record.”
But not everything stays the same. While Bright Like Neon Love was charmingly simplistic and DIY in terms of its production and with each record since, the sound seems to get bigger and lusher.
“We’re still self-produced, but the sound of that changes over time, partly from learning more about production and just stylistically trying different things with the production,” Scott explains. “The same can probably be said about the way we play our instruments – we started out in a position of not really knowing how to play, learning as we go along always feeds into it and then trying different things in the studio, whether it’s grabbing new percussion gear and acquiring new synthesizers… it’s a never-ending process. As well as that, there’s always different music that you’re listening to and inspired by when a couple more years roll around and you’re working on a new record.”
This time around they enlisted the production talent of Dave Fridmann – founding member of Mercury Rev with a list of notable mixing credits under his belt including MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular, The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots and both Tame Impala records, to name just a few.
“Dave was sort of right up there – he was basically the number one we wanted to work with and his availability was about the worst of anybody we talked to. He was like, ‘I can do it in about six months’ and we just thought, ‘how can we do that? We can’t wait six months!’ Eventually we just bit the bullet and said we’ll wait and make this record with Dave and make it the best it can be. So we went over and worked with him in his studio in Upstate New York – a crazy little cabin in the woods.
“We thought it would be interesting to see how he would work on our music, seen as though it’s a lot more dance-influenced than a lot of the other stuff he’s done before and not everyone gets that. It’s a little bit different to traditional rock music… but right from the word go, he was really comfortable with our music and understood it. He was a dream to work with.”
Fridmann’s psychedelic touch can be heard throughout the whole record, but most noticeably in the warped overtones of Dark Corners & Mountain Tops – one of Scott’s favourite tracks on the album.
“Well I think that (track) lends itself really well to his sound for sure – big reverbs and lots of cool stuff… but he was just really interesting to work with for a number of reasons. One of the things he would say, if there was some messed-up sound, he would want to be turning that way up, rather than squishing things and making them normal and easy on the ear, he was the opposite.
“If there was something grating in the song he would want more of it… that’s what he sort of aims for – a really messed up way of working. While he’s very technically capable, he lectures at university in sound engineering, he also knows when to throw it all out of the window and do the thing that is so technically awful that it makes people think there is something wrong with their stereo – and there’s a place for that as well.”
In addition to Fridmann, another notable coup for Cut Copy is True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgard starring in the video clip for their current single, Free Your Mind.
“He’s a friend of ours actually,” says Scott. “We’d previously met in Rio, Brazil when we were touring the last record. He came and introduced himself backstage at our show and said he was a big fan and we were blown away to hear that. We ended up hanging out all night and having a massive night and became close. We kept in touch and we had this video idea that suited him, but we almost a little hesitant – we didn’t want to stretch the friendship and we knew we couldn’t afford him. But our director, who’s a friend of ours, encouraged us to make a call and see if it was possible and luckily he was super keen and on board to do it and the money wasn’t a problem,” he laughs.
Skarsgard couldn’t have been a better fit for the sort of culty revolution Cut Copy are amusingly championing in the marketing of the record, which included huge billboards displaying the phrase ‘Free Your Mind’ in remote areas of the world, including WA.
“Yeah exactly – we thought it was a crazy fit,” Scott says of Skarsgard. “It was almost scary how funny it was. We showed up at this ranch… ‘cause we went over there and cameoed in the video so we could hang out a bit more and say thanks for coming and doing our video. It was hilarious showing up and seeing what was going on, on this massive ranch. The first scene I walked in on was him playing bongos on people’s heads.” It all seems meant to be, “absolutely”.
Cut Copy play the Future Music Festival on Sunday, March 2 at Arena Joondalup.
Get your tickets here.