A lot can happen in four years. Four years ago this spring, Britney was just a tad crazy, Hurricane Katrina hadn’t yet hit the Gulf Coast, and no one had ever heard of a little website called YouTube. Similarly, a lot has happened in the indie-electro scene since Modular Records’ Cut Copy released their first album, Bright Like Neon Love, in 2004 — primarily an explosion that spawned dance-floor deities like Justice, Simian Mobile Disco, Digitalism, and Klaxons. On that album’s much-anticipated follow-up, In Ghost Colours, the Aussies create their own dreamy, swirly world where shoegazy indie tracks coexist with electro-pop anthems. Here, Tim Hoey and Mitchell Scott (Dan Whitford is the absent third) talk about the last four years, making that “difficult” second album, and My Bloody Valentine.
In the last few years, you’ve done a bunch of stellar remixes, put out the well-received Fabric Live 29 mix, and established and operated the Cutters record label, plus Dan’s been running his own graphic design company, Alter. Anything I’m leaving out?
Tim Hoey: We’ve been doing a lot of touring in Australia in the last year. We did a headline tour there, we did the Daft Punk tour, then some festivals. Really busy times. And we put out a [new] record.
Mitchell Scott: We got our album done really quickly — a year and a half ago — and then have sort of been waiting for a release from our label, so that’s sort of been a frustrating delay for us.
The electro landscape has changed quite a bit since your debut. Was it easier or more difficult to write this album knowing there are so many new bands to compete with?
Hoey: In Australia, there wasn’t a scene when we started out — certainly there wasn’t the audience for it in Australia that there is now.
Scott: It does make more people pay attention even though we haven’t had a record out. It just feels like our audience has been growing, particularly in Australia, but also when we were touring in the U.K. more people were just switching on because the scene over there has been getting more attention. But in terms of writing, we try not to worry too much about trends or who’s doing what — we just make music that we’re into, and hopefully other people will be into too.
Was there any particular type of theme or cohesive idea behind In Ghost Colours?
Hoey: Certainly it’s an extension of the first record as far as pop music goes — pop music is always an underlying sensibility of Cut Copy. We wanted to take this record to a more psychedelic kind of realm, more of a cosmic take on pop music, something like ELO or Animal Collective or Steve Miller Band. Also, we listened to a lot of Krautrock at the time, so we got the idea for joining tracks together with musical segues and interludes. I guess it’s not as immediate as the first record, but we wanted an album that you could put on from start to finish and then find new things each time you listen to it. I think that’s what we set out to achieve with this record.
The new album seems to have a more complex, multilayered sound than last one. Was that a result of having DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy produce?
Scott: It’s probably a few things — spending a lot more time in the studio to add a lot of layers, sounds, and textures, having access to a whole bunch of stuff, whereas with the first record we had one day in a proper studio. Also, Tim [Goldsworthy] had suggestions on things we might try out and sort of pushed us in a slightly different direction — trying a different key, layering feedback over feedback.
Speaking of feedback, there seems to be a decidedly My Bloody Valentine-esque quality to some of the album tracks.
Hoey: Tim [Goldsworthy] is a huge My Bloody Valentine fan — he dropped out of high school to follow them around. We didn’t even really know that when we first approached him, and it was kind of funny that the songs he was getting really excited about were the guitar ones.
Scott: It was an unexpected surprise.
Are you guys My Bloody Valentine fans too?
Scott: Oh, yeah.
So it was a happy surprise?
Scott: We expected him to sort of pick up more on the psychedelic disco sort of stuff, but he was really into My Bloody Valentine. He even knew what sort of guitars they’d used through which pedals. [laughs]
Maybe now that My Bloody Valentine have reunited you’ll get a chance to play with them.
Hoey: Exactly! We were hoping they were going to be at Coachella …
Yeah, me too, but at least Aphex Twin’s going to be there now.
Hoey: And Kraftwerk.
You’ll also be joining fellow Aussies Midnight Juggernauts at Coachella this year, and the Presets are touring the U.S. this spring. Is it fun to meet up with your friends on another continent?
Scott: Yeah, we were just in London and caught up with the Juggernauts over there. They came to our show and we got to hang out — they’re great friends of ours. It’s good to see a friendly face when you’re overseas. And the Presets, we’ll be catching up with them in the States this year — definitely our paths will cross.
There are some really diverse things going on on this record — you’ve got some really guitar-heavy indie tracks, but also some really serious synthy four-on-the-floor disco. Is not being pigeonholed something that is really important to you?
Hoey: For us, it’s always been about a celebration of music. We come from such diverse musical backgrounds, it’s always been like picking bits from everything. The challenge for us is to tie it together to make it the crazy Cut Copy sound. It’s not like we’re trying to freak people out, it’s more a celebration of some of the stuff we love and how we can put our own kind of touch on it.
Scott: We’re very happy not to be pigeonholed. I think every band wants to just be judged on their own merits and viewed independently and objectively, rather than just be called “a Sub Pop band” or “a Modular band.” But people use those sorts of things to help describe music, and it’s useful to a point. We hope to find an audience that just likes music generally and doesn’t see a definition between rock music and dance music.
A lot of Cut Copy songs seem to be about love and relationships. Is that something that just happens organically, or is it a Cut Copy trademark?
Hoey: I think it’s a Dan Whitford thing. [laughs] We leave him to his own devices with that. We don’t even really try to talk about it too much. He just brings it in and we talk in private about what we reckon it’s all about. I guess one thing it comes back to is classic pop songs — the “love lost, love found” kind of thing.
Scott: It’s like with the Beach Boys, all the good songs are about heartbreak and love, and then there are songs about cars and surfing. [laughs] I know which songs I prefer.
“Lights & Music” is the first single to be released off the album. Do you know what the follow up will be?
Hoey: “Hearts on Fire” never got a commercial release. It was released in Australia, but it’s getting a proper release worldwide. There’s a whole bunch of new remixes — they’re sounding really, really good.
What’s up next for the group?
Hoey: We’ll keep the label going — we’ve got a few more releases, like the next Knightlife twelve-inch. We’re doing a tour in Australia, then we’re back here for Coachella, then on tour with the Black Kids pretty much straight after that — it’s going to be great. Once the summer gets here, we’re doing the festivals in Europe, then will be back in the U.S. in the fall. We find touring America to be really rewarding for us, so we want to concentrate on it more this year. You’ll be sick of seeing us.