Words by Isaac Selby
A brief introduction for those uninitiated to Cut Copy: they're probably the best Australian dance act of the past 15 years. This statement hinges on the amount of patience you have for The Avalanches and the fact that Tame Impala still seem an album away from complete and utter dance-floor domination. But since releasing Bright Like Neon Love back in 2004, the band have been sending crowds into frenzy with the irresistible grooves from their sterling back catalogue and airtight live shows.
For their fifth album the band decided to team up with producer Ben Allen (Deerhunter, Animal Collective) to create their latest effort Haiku From Zero released on Friday. We spoke to guitarist Tim Hoey as the band prepare to tour their new material across the globe.
“Usually when we start out making a record we pass around mixtapes of stuff that we’ve been listening to, potential directions for the album, etc, but this didn't happen as much this time around. We were all listening to really different things and it was tough to come together and agree on a direction. However, we did listen to a lot of afro-beat, particularly a really interesting record ‘Music of Many Colours’ which is a Fela Kuti / Roy Ayres split 12" record that became a bit of a sonic guide.”
In a similar vein to electro-contemporaries LCD Soundsystem, part of the fun of listening to a Cut Copy record is keeping an ear out for all of the sonic reference points in their music.
“'Tied To The Weather' [below] is sort of a Laurie Anderson reference. I think what's cool in that song is she takes her own vocals and then samples them, which is how Dan (singer/instrumentalist) initially started the song. We were adding all sorts of instrumentation and it was becoming too busy. Eventually we realised that Dan's vocal already held a lot of weight so we decided to strip away a lot of the music. Trent Reznor sent us a remix he did of 'I Can’t Give Everything Away', the final song from David Bowie’s Blackstar, which became a reference point to that track as we had to strip everything away to make something unique and powerful.”
Haiku From Zero is the band's first release in over 4 years, a time that members of the band spent working on various projects including the January Tape a collection of ambient tracks released online and in an extremely limited run of 400 cassette tapes.
“January Tape become a completely freeing project where we didn't have to labour over everything. We wrote, recorded and mixed it over 4 days, which was really fun as there was no second-guessing and we didn't have to labour over everything. It was a great way of clearing the slate to begin the new record. I was reading a quote recently that was something along the lines of 'if you do the same thing over and over every day and get the same result it can send you kinda crazy.'" The idea of doing something that was less laboured over, but still resonated, made the record feel really fresh.”
Despite members of the band living across three different continents, they have kept a firm ear on Australia’s thriving electronic music scene. In 2014 they released Oceans Apart, a DJ mix and album that put the spotlight on some of Melbourne’s most exciting underground artists.
“We've always really admired artists like Sonic Youth that would create their own label and shine a light on acts on the come up. Whether they were signing them to their label or getting young upcoming producers to do their videos, it’s something that's always stayed with us, so it was important for us to do something like that for Melbourne.”
With their past albums adored by fans and steeped in critical acclaim, the challenge of keeping their loyal fan base satisfied while still progressing in new sonic directions was not felt by the band.
“You never want to repeat yourself even though so many times you'll hear people say 'why don't you make another In Ghost Colours or Zonoscope?” But it's like, if we made that track again or that record again you'd say that we're out of ideas. So we want to be constantly moving forward without resting on our laurels and I think that's 90% of the battle.”
Haiku From Zero is out now via EMI/Astralwerks.