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Cut Copy: Restless and Ever-Growing

Sep. 21, 2011
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Cut Copy never seems to stop growing. After releasing the single "1981" and the EP I Thought of Numbers as a solo act, founder Dan Whitford enlisted bassist/guitarist Tim Hoey and drummer Mitchell Scott to round out the lineup for the 2004 debut album Bright Like Neon Love. Spawning several successful singles, the album brought the group international acclaim, setting a bigger stage for the 2008 follow-up In Ghost Colours. As their discography and fan base expanded, so once again did their ranks, with bassist Ben Browning becoming a permanent member in anticipation of the band's latest, Zonoscope.

Not that this swelling in size and scope has been plotted or planned, instead being evidence of a group unafraid to chase its muse and willing to add whatever personnel necessary to take things to the next level. "I played on the tour for In Ghost Colours and then joined officially to record for this one," Browning says. "From day one when I started playing with them, I felt like I was one of the gang, you know."

That mercurial muse is no slave to style, either. Though they made their name with a shiny, utterly danceable concoction of big beats and catchy choruses that appeals to both the club crowd and the indie-rock set (like-minded peers would include Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem), the group feels little allegiance to a particular scene.

"It's something we don't think about that much," Browning says. "We didn't make the record as a dance-rock blend thing, we just wanted to make an album. We had this idea of a world we wanted to create."

Besides, labels always begin to chafe. "Creating dance music with live instruments is kind of an old idea," he says. "We're trying to evolve away from that simple description."

Thankfully, the group had the opportunity to nurture this development, honing what would become Zonoscope through endless jam sessions and experimentation.

"We basically had our own space to do the entire record," Browning says. "We wanted to set it up to play a verse from a song and play it over and over and see what happened. We had been playing a lot on tour and it was something we wanted to continue, just us sitting around playing. We like that microscopic dissection."

It's a method of making records that sparks creativity, but also one that requires a steady hand when it comes to quality control.

"Not a lot of that made it onto the record, but it's a good way to get to know the songs," Browning explains.

The star of these exploratory jams was the Fairlight CMI, an early sampling synthesizer, whose rather retro sound informed the synth-pop feel of the album.

"Personally, I think it's very much like the Eurythmics' first album, and some of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love. It's sort of hard to pick out one or two," Browning says of the 1980s vibe created by the instrument. "It has a fairly unique sound, and we were interested in exploring it."

The device also jived with their zest for fusing analog and digital elements. "It's the original sampler in a way," Browning says. "It blended well with the idea of using a lot of synthesizers and a lot of natural sounds; it kind of sits somewhere in between."

The freedom of these sessions even extended to the producer's chair. After working with Tim Goldsworthy for In Ghost Colours, the group opted to take on production duties for Zonoscope themselves.

"We always had it in mind to produce the record ourselves," Browning says. "We thought the record company would come in and say, 'No, no, no, it sounds like shit; you've got to go work with Timbaland.' But bit by bit, it started sounding good. We became more confident in our ability to pull it off."

In contrast to the protective insulation of the studio, the band's intensive upcoming tour schedule is a shock to the system.

"We've kind of been all over the world this year already," Browning says. And there's still a lot of touring left: The group will visit four continents between now and the end of the year. That could forestall the next phase of material, but the group always has its eye on the future, and, at least as far as Browning is concerned, there are certainly still new creative worlds left to conquer.

"We certainly want to do something that's different from Zonoscope, but yeah, it could be anything," he says. "Making records is what interests us the most. Right now, the scope of a whole 'nother album is a daunting prospect, but I'm sure when we get back from tour, we'll be salivating at the idea of it."

Cut Copy headlines the Turner Hall Ballroom on Thursday, Sept. 22, with Washed Out. Doors open at 8 p.m.


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