Interview: Cut Copy blends indie rock, EDM, and skinny jeans

Cut Copy (L to R: Mitchell Scott, Tim Hoey, Ben Browning, Dan Whitford) breaks off from its major cities tour route to play a buttshaker at the Jefferson. Publicity Photo. Cut Copy (L to R: Mitchell Scott, Tim Hoey, Ben Browning, Dan Whitford) breaks off from its major cities tour route to play a buttshaker at the Jefferson. Publicity Photo.

Have a quick look at Cut Copy’s upcoming tour schedule, and the first song that is likely to come to mind is “One of These Things (Is Not Like the Others).” After kicking off in C-Ville on June 6, the Australia-based electronic pop quartet will head to D.C. and New York.

So why Charlottesville, a small town that fairly reeks of Americana?

“It seemed like as good a place as any,” drummer Mitchell Scott said in a telephone interview from his Brooklyn hotel.

Attendance at the band’s Jefferson Theater show will tell if Scott is right. But Cut Copy has developed a strong legion of fans that appreciate its effortless intermingling of electronic house beats and indie rock, a combination many didn’t think could work when frontman Dan Whitford and company pioneered it in 2004. Whose butts exactly were these skinny jeans-wearing blokes trying to move here—skinny jeans-wearing hipsters or skinny jeans-wearing club kids?

Scott said that as it turns out, the movement hasn’t been as divided as it set up to be.

“We make music that interests us and the sort of thing we can honestly put out,” he said. “That happens to be dance music and rock music and everything kind of in between. It’s our job to find an audience that is not particularly fixed in one tradition or another.”

Cut Copy is by no means the only band that has tried to blur the rock-electronica lines in the last decade. Deerhunter, Ariel Pink, and some of Cut Copy’s Australian contemporaries are just a few bands Scott admires for the ability to drop synth beats and digital melodies right alongside lead guitar riffs, bass lines, and percussion. Heck, would Radiohead be as celebrated if it were just a rock and roll outfit?

“I would say most rock music now in production uses electronic elements at least to give it a bit of a kick,” Scott said.

Still, Cut Copy stands out as a dance-music machine first and rock band second. Lead vocalist Whitford molded the band out of his successful DJ career in the early 2000s, pulling together a group of friends with similar musical inclination but few defined roles—or in some cases skills. Scott said he was studying software design when he was tapped to play drums for the band. It was a trial period that went so well it became permanent. Bennett Foddy was initially the band’s bassist but left almost immediately. Whitford, Scott, and guitar player/sampler Tim Hoey didn’t see the need to replace Foddy’s bass-playing talents until years later when they picked up Ben Browning for the recording of their third album, Zonoscope.

Cut Copy’s sound has gone through changes over the years as well. Where its second full-length LP In Ghost Colours has a raw indie rock overlay on its soaring electronic base, Zonoscope comes off as cleaner and poppier. On the first single from that album, “Where I’m Going,” the Aussies sound as if they’re doing their best Beach Boys impression. (As an aside, Scott said Australians often sing with an American accent because their own speech doesn’t lend itself to being drawn out.)

“You can try to please everybody, and you’re not going to please anybody,” Scott said. “You have to pick a direction you want to embrace and just go for it. If you make records that sound exactly like your previous records, you’re still not going to please people that are interested in seeing how a band’s sound can progress and change over time.”

Cut Copy’s decidedly club-focused style of putting together songs hasn’t changed over the years. According to Scott, the band typically starts with a Whitford-produced concept and builds it out in tracks, layering guitar, samples, synthesizer, and percussion together in the studio. And Whitford’s strained, post-disco singing voice keeps the band firmly grounded in its dance music roots. That’s not to mention his lyrics, which often beg the listener to boogie. “This is why we won’t delay for your birthday,” he croons at the beginning of “Lights and Music,” before coming back with the enigmatic, “all your friends have gone away, so let’s celebrate.”

Lyrics aren’t where the enigma ends for Cut Copy. Take the timing of the current tour. Scott said the band is out to promote its new record but insists he isn’t ready to answer any questions about it. The band would rather leave the details and specifics of the album to “another stage,” he said, before immediately admitting it’s completely finished and “it won’t be long now” until it’s released. He’s closed mouthed on whether anything from the new record might show up during Cut Copy’s current mini-tour but has a simple reason why Charlottesville music fans might want to experience the band.

“Come down and get into some dance music with us,” Scott said.

Charlottesville might be an odd place for a keyboard-thumping group of Aussies to stop during a D.C. to NYC road show. But it’s a pretty good bet that by the time the audience leaves the Jeff on June 6, “One of These Things” will be replaced by the likes of “Hearts on Fire” and “Take Me Over.”

Thursday 6/6 8pm, $25-28. The Jefferson Theater, Downtown Mall. 245-4980.

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