Dan Whitford of Cut Copy Tells Us ‘Haiku From Zero’ Was Made to Be Interpreted Live
It’s been four years since Australian outfit Cut Copy have released an album – 2013’s “Free Your Mind. Not an extraordinary amount of time for a band between projects, but enough to craft one of their best works yet. “Haiku From Zero” represents a progression from a band that’s been around for over a decade. Their current single “Standing in the Middle of the Field” showcases Cut Copy’s unique ability to mesh world rhythms with classic indie instrumentation and dialogue. Lead singer and founder Dan Whitford has helped craft the band’s most cohesiveness, and simply interesting, album yet.
Entertainment Voice sat down with Cut Copy’s Dan Whitford and Ben Browning to get the details on their new album. Whitford explained that they created it with live interpretations in mind, paving the way for their upcoming 22-date U.S. and Canada tour which kicks off Nov. 9 and will find them at L.A.’s Shrine Expo Hall Nov. 10, followed by a set at Terminal 5 in New York Nov. 24.
It’s been four years since you released your last official album (2013’s “Free Your Mind”). What’s been happening with the band since that time that helped inspired “Haiku From Zero?”
I guess we kind of went off and did different things for a while after finishing touring the last album. I worked on a compilation for Melbourne dance music, Ben put out a solo album, (Tim) Hoey was working on a bunch of his own music and we all kind of ended up moving to different places all around the world. I think life kind of dragged us off into doing other stuff for a while. It took a while to get to actually making a new album, but then once we kind of got back into the swing of that, things started to happen reasonably quickly. I guess since we’re all living in different places we ended up deciding to meet up in Atlanta to do the recording and that’s where most of the process happened. We shared a house together, cooked together, hung out 24/7 and kind of really immersed ourselves in making the album.
There’s such a happy, danceable feeling to “Haiku From Zero” by way of a ton of interesting sounds. One can pick out elements of The Talking Heads (“Airborne”) to 90’s techno to 80’s synth lines and disco beats. Was there one specific direction you were aiming for or was it simply to incorporate all of these musical aspects into one melting pot?
I think the idea was to probably to have a bit more emphasis on the live performance. All of our album have been very conceptual. We’ve gone to the studio trying to do things as experimentally as we could. It’s often really hard to translate the music to performing live. (In the past) we hadn’t thought about that the whole way through, as with this album we kind of made it wanting to explore the live aspects. We were sort of jamming together on a lot of the songs as well just because we felt like it felt more interesting to us now in the climate of music not being made in a live way. We were exploring that side of what we do. (It) felt more unique in this particular time we’re living in.
Much of the album houses these very bubbly, vintage dance tracks. That is, until the final song “Tied to the Weather” which feels sonically abstract and doesn’t really incorporate a consistent beat throughout like the rest. What was the thought behind this tune?
The idea behind that song was to build a track around my voice and resampling my voice. Almost like Laurie Anderson’s music, something that was very minimal. We actually started making the song in a much more orchestrated way with a lot of other instrumentation. That kind of thing (usually) goes in a direction that seems a little bit more pedestrian, and we wanted it to be a song that would stand out in a different way. So we scrapped that, went back and kind of just stripped things back to really just the bare elements of that song. That’s probably a different thing we haven’t had throughout our careers, just adding things and adding things until it feels right. It’s very rare for us to just pull things apart, and subtract things from our music. So it was an interesting exercise and maybe something that we’ll take from for future things we do.
The band’s album-website is utterly unique. In fact, you guys have called it an “experiential website.” Where’d this idea come from and why did you choose this interactive design?
The idea came from our label. The web programmer came in to throw some ideas at us. (It’s) basically reinterpreting some of the artwork that I put together. Almost trying to translate that into a more interactive experience. To me it seems like an interesting thing for people to get more insight into what the process of making a song was. There’s parts of us talking about making the music and the ideas that went into (it)… for people that want to know more about the process. I think it’s an interesting thing that people can kind of delve into more and just sort of learn more about the making of the album.
The music video for “Standing in the Middle of the Field” was recently released. It’s sort of this fractal of moving images featuring a couple’s daily goings on. How do you yourself interpret this video?
It seems to be, to me, almost like a montage of memories. Different scenarios and scenes that are edited together. A friend of ours Vincenzi Vandella, who’s also got a filmmaking background, came to us with this idea based on something that he was experimenting with and thought it would suit that particular song, because the song itself is quite rhythmically repetitive. I think having this looping aspect to it was something that kind of had something in common with the song. I guess that was sort of how it came about. It certainly captures the feeling of the song quite well.
As an Australian electronic band, you’ve talked previously about the growth of your genre in your home country. Now, we see elements of electronic music making their way into almost all genres of music. How has Cut Copy managed to stay at the top of this indie-electronic field after all these years?
Ben Browning (bass guitar): I don’t think we’ve ever felt like we’re on top of anything, especially the electronic music scene. It definitely has changed. The electronic landscape in the US has definitely changed since we started. EDM, even popular electronic music wasn’t really a thing when we first started playing in the US. Now, it’s obviously everything. We haven’t ever tried to follow any trends or making an EDM track, really. So we’re more interested in making music, and whatever genre it fits into is a byproduct of our art.
The band’s Instagram is filled with a lot of recent posts of old photos. From your first US tour in 2005 with Franz Ferdinand, to old studio rehearsal spaces and shaggy-haired photos from when you opened for Daft Punk back in 2007. What does it mean to you to look back on these memories of the band’s come up?
For me personally, I’ve really never had much of a moment to savor the stuff that we’ve done. We’re always thinking about the next thing. I guess in the lead up to our album coming out, we just decided to kind of pull out some of our favorite memories of things that have happened over the years. It’s actually amazing to watch all the different, crazy things that have happened to us over the course of our career, some of the amazing tours, people we’ve hung out with and weird stuff that had happened. It’s actually kind of amazing when I think about it. So many people that we’ve been heavily influenced by, we’ve managed to play shows with. It’s pretty phenomenal. It’s pretty incredible. It makes me (feel) surreal to sort of pack all these experiences together. Hopefully there’s still much more to come.