Aussie electro-pop band Cut Copy hadn't played a single show before signing with Modular in 2001. And frontman Dan Whitford thinks it's probably best the label didn't see the guys perform early on.
“We were actually signed before we were playing shows, which I guess is a little strange for a lot of bands,” Whitford told Pollstar. “It wasn’t the case where we played around town for a long time and then a talent scout saw us – they probably wouldn’t have signed us if they had seen our band play for them initially.
“But the nature of the music that we write is so dependent on production and extra sounds and texture. So I don’t know if we would have created this sort of music if it was just from playing live or just from sitting in a room jamming.”
Whitford, who handles vocals, keys and guitar in the band, began tinkering around with what would become Cut Copy while studying graphic design in college. Around that time he started researching and writing music, in addition to manning his own college radio show. Whitford also deejayed around Melbourne and began Cut Copy as a home-recording project.
“I was working on some tunes and just writing bits and pieces. I had a little home studio set up [with] … a little sampler and drum machine and a keyboard. Then in the process of that I had this thought that it might be kind of cool to work with friends of mine and just see what happens,” Whitford said.
He recruited guitarist Tim Hoey and drummer Mitchell Scott. Original bassist Bennett Foddy has since been replaced on tour by Ben Browning.
The band’s sound is influenced by the moody rock of My Bloody Valentine, the dance energy of Daft Punk and the raw chaos of Sonic Youth. Whitford also names “new stuff like Animal Collective” and ’70s pop such as ELO and Steve Miller.
The band sent in a demo tape (an actual cassette, not a CD) to Modular and was signed soon after that.
So how has Cut Copy adapted its studio-heavy sound for a live setting?
“In a lot of ways I think [performing live] changed our sound. If you listen to the first record, it’s obviously studio-based but you don’t really get an impression what our live show is like,” Whitford said.
“So we were quite conscious during our second record that that kind of live sound was something that was really important and we tried to bring that into the way we were recording our album.”
Windish Agency’s Amy Davidman told Pollstar an example of an ideal venue for Cut Copy is Chicago’s Metro because “there’s no seats and there’s a really big dance floor. Or even a place like Webster Hall or Terminal 5 in New York. Everyone wants to dance. Nobody really wants to sit in a chair or stand in the back.”
Davidman explained that for Cut Copy, it’s important to book rooms that “can have some sort of a cross appeal between a dance club and a live club. … For a band like this, when it’s starting to grow the way it is, you need to go into these larger rooms, but still have that kind of dance-club feeling.”
Band manager Neil Harris, of PunkDaFunk, told Pollstar that Cut Copy “was really more of a studio creation that went out and played live [but] now they’re really a live band that’s going into the studio to make a record.”
Harris said they’ve spent a lot of time making the shows better, investing in production to “put on a really good show, both sonically and with lights and staging.” For their most recent tour, Cut Copy hired Eric Belanger, who has worked with Kanye West and Daft Punk, to handle the band’s lighting.
Mitchell Scott, Dan Whitford, Tim Hoey
Efforts to improve the live show didn’t go unnoticed. Harris said the media responded favorably on the band’s last run through America, talking “about them in the way that you’d talk about a traditional touring, live-oriented band like Dave Matthews.”
After wrapping up 13 months of touring in March, Cut Copy is taking a break from the road until next year.
“I think it’s been a really good strategy for them to take a break after having such a successful tour and really feeling like they did everything that they wanted to do on this album cycle,” Davidman said.
“The next time they come back there’ll be a lot of interest and energy that’s been put on pause since the last tour. … People are not tired at all. They’re really anxious and excited to see what’s going to happen next.”
In the meantime, Cut Copy will keep busy piecing together its third album, DJing and working on its boutique label, Cutters Records.
“We just seem to know so many people who are really talented so it would almost be criminal not to start a record label and make it happen,” Whitford said.