We catch up with Cut Copy ahead of their appearances at the touring Wine Machine festival to chat nostalgia, new music, live shows and what Cut Copy’s “wine machine” would be
Image Credit: Jimmy Fontaine
It’s kind of hard to believe that Australian “indie-synth-dance” four-piece Cut Copy have been delighting fans and audiences on records and with live performances for over twenty years, forming in Melbourne way back in 2001. Beginning life as a home recording project for founding member and frontman Dan Whitford, Cut Copy soon became a band and went on to release their iconic debut album Bright Like Neon Love in 2004, that saw them pop up on indie radars across the country and world.
Their breakthrough moment came on album number two in 2008, releasing the now iconic In Ghost Colours that pushed the group into superstardom, featuring fan favourite singles Lights and Music and Hearts on Fire. With a consistent, steady release schedule of an album every 3-4 years around hectic touring schedules, the group went on to release Zonoscope (2011), Free Your Mind (2013) and Haiku From Zero (2017), before COVID gripped the world and brought the group’s touring to a grinding halt.
Releasing Freeze, Melt mid-2020 amidst various lockdowns, it’s only really been this year that the band have been able to take to stages and bring their new album and fan favourites to live audiences.
With live music and tours very much back on the cards these days, Cut Copy are among a myriad of Aussie faves joining the 2022/2023 Wine Machine tour, alongside the likes of Flight Facilities, Lime Cordiale, San Cisco, Client Liaison, Art Vs Science and many more (see below for the full line-up).
Ahead of the tour kicking off, we caught up with Dan Whitford to chat all things Cut Copy and Wine Machine.
Seeing as you guys put out your Collected Works 2001/2011 compilation earlier this year I thought we’d start off a bit nostalgic - what was it like revisiting your old stuff and putting the boxset together?
I mean, it just was very nostalgic to be honest, we've always had this mindset where we don't really ever kind of look back or think about stuff we've done in the past, like very much just looking to the next thing. And it's always sort of been part of our whole attitude that the next thing, what we're searching for always kind of, you know, looking to the future, so it was just like a weird thing, to finally get that chance, or an actual good reason to kind of look back and reflect a bit on that period of time. I guess that period of time encompasses, like, really me starting out making music as a solo artist, and then the sort of transformation into a band. And then from that, you know, kind of very humble beginnings as a band to sort of becoming a well known name and sort of an internationally known name. So that's kind of a cool period of time for us to kind of think back on it. And also, I just got to go through all the old folders of photos.I've got like, shoe boxes of weird all access passes, and little hand scribbled kind of set lists, and all this sort of stuff, and so to dig through that was was kind of cool, just like all this stuff I'd forgotten about and all these things that still have like a lot of special meaning for me.
That’s so dope, and yeah all that stuff that you’re probably like “oh I should dig that stuff out and have a look” that you’re never gonna do without a reason, right?
I think my wife sort of thinks I’m just an idiot for holding on to a lot of this stuff. I've got all this crap. She's like, “what are you doing with this stuff”? But finally, I'm like, “this is why I've held on to this stuff so long!”. So yeah, it definitely gave it a bit more of a justification for my hoarding tendencies.
What about when it comes to revisiting the music and hearing the older stuff - did you have moments of like “I can’t believe we did that or used that synth” or anything else that highlighted changes in the way you make music?
For sure, I mean, I think it's this weird thing of when you start out, you have just no knowledge or understanding of what you're doing, especially for us because none of us had ever played in bands before, we kind of started making music and I'd never been trained as a musician, I just kind of like, listened to records and taught myself kind of on the fly. So listening back to a lot of this stuff, it's like where we kind of just fell over the line, sort of making some of these records - we had no idea what we were doing, no real master plan, no kind of crazy skills to fall back on, but we just love music and we're super excited about what we're doing, so it's almost like that enthusiasm kind of drove things forward. And it's almost like the opposite to now where like, I feel like our understanding of music and the world and how to make a record is so much greater, but now you're sort of almost the opposite, where you chasing for that innocence and that kind of naive “give a fuck” attitude that we used to have. So it’s sort of a funny thing - I guess the grass is sort of always greener in a way but yeah, I guess it's crazy to sort of think that it's the same brains that made those records in the beginning and still making music.
And what about development of musicianship - I might be off the mark here, but have you found since your first singles and EPs that you’ve developed from more of a producer type into more a musician at all?
I mean, I think in the band at least, I'm always the guy that is sort of the producer. I've always assumed that role, like, if we're in the studio recording, I'm kind of the guy sort of like just fiddling around with effects pedals or you know, sitting behind the mixing desk and kind of saying, “hey, let's try this”. So I think that's sort of always been my angle. Yeah, I've never been like an amazing musician in terms of being a virtuoso or something, but I think ideas and kind of like that experimentation side has sort of always been my strong suit. So it's, I think it's still kind of that way, but probably just all of us collectively become more competent at what we do. I don’t want to let go of that sort of producer angle so much, I think it's sort of hardwired in me, but yeah, it obviously helps that we can play our instruments now, that’s definitely a plus.
*laughs* For sure. Speaking of letting go and production and whatnot, when it comes to other people remixing your work, like the Freeze, Melt Remixes EP that dropped with some cutting edge producers like Fantastic Man, Octo Octa, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and many more - how does it feel giving your music for other people to remix, and how did you lineup all those peeps for the Freeze, Melt remixes?
I mean, it’s sort of difficult, but it’s exciting. Remixes are one of those chances to sort of almost collaborate without getting too deep into the weeds of making a record together, but it’s an opportunity to kind of run your ideas through the filter of someone else’s brain and what they do. So it’s always been something that I’ve really liked, you know, you kind of open yourself up to someone else whose music you love and might be sort of completely different from what we do. I think sometimes they’re the best remixes, when it’s someone totally unexpected or someone that doesn’t usually do remixes, like we had Spiritualized dor a remix for us on Free Your Mind and that is just still one of my favourite remixes that anyone’s done of our music. So yeah, similar with this, I guess we’ve had so many remixes over the years that we’re searching for even weirder ways to approach our music. So like the Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith remix, she almost didn’t have time to do it, it was gonna be really difficult. We just kept hassling her and saying “please, please, please” and eventually kind of got it over the line, so we’re super stoked with that. I think it’s almost like now about finding people that can do something even more sort of unexpected, although there's some great dance remixes on that record as well.
All about balance, right? Well enough looking back and getting nostalgic, let’s look forward - what about new music, are you writing or in the studio at the moment?
Yeah I’m actually in the studio right now so you caught me at a good time. Yeah, I guess just sort of writing, generating new ideas. Like a lot of artists, we’ve had a weird couple of years with various COVID lockdowns and travel restrictions, and we were probably sabotaged by that more than a lot of artists, because we’re not all in the same place. I guess if we were all still in Melbourne we could have at least done local gigs in between a lot of those things, but we’ve got one guy in New York, one guy in San Francisco and then two of us here in Melbourne, so to actually do anything, we’ve got to flay at least some people around the world. So yeah, we kind of put out Freeze, Melt in the middle of all that just because we were like “let’s just get it out there”, we’d rather people enjoy the music while it’s relatively fresh, but we didn’t get to tour it and we’re very keen to do that this year, like we can finally get out there and play again. So we sort of spent a lot of this year doing that - usually we’d make a record and then jump more or less straight into writing a new one, but because it’s weirdly staggered because of the record coming out during the lockdowns, it’s been a bit disjointed. But yeah, we’re back into studio writing mode at the moment, and obviously the guys are over for summer, so hopefully we can do a bit of recording then as well.
Sick, exciting! So the full bend is in Australia, and you guys are part of the massive national Wine Machine touring festival - how do you guys approach playing a festival compared to your own headline shows with such a vast back catalogue?
Yeah, it’s always tricky. I think there’s a lot of songs that, I guess from the “classic years” of Cut Copy, you know, some of our bigger records, certainly here in Australia, that people would love to hear. I guess one of the benefits of having a large back catalogue now is that we can kind of pick and choose things from all different eras of our music, even playing some songs that are from records going back sort of five, ten years that we’ve never played live. So it’s almost like dusting off a few little diamonds in the rough, and giving them to people in amongst a lot of sort of classics and hits that people want to hear. I guess it’s a bit more challenging putting your set together because there’s just so many options, but I think we try and make it a compromise between giving people what they want but also a few curveballs as well. So that’s what we’ll be doing for Wine Machine.
I feel like we’ve talked about “balance” a bit in this interview, love it! So finally, ahead of Wine Machine… If you could have your own “wine machine”, what would Dan from Cut Copy’s wine machine be? *laughs*
*laughs* Yeah that’s a pretty crazy concept I guess. Maybe, because it’s going all these places around Australia, it could be like a tour bus kind of thing that runs on Pet Nat, you sort of top it up at each stop at each of the wineries, and it’s enough to get it to the next gig, that’s sort of how I’m seeing it.
Perfect answer! Awesome, thanks for chatting Dan!
Much appreciated, thanks man.
For all Wine Machine information including tickets, head to wine-machine.com