Guitarist Tim Hoey talks about the cultural influences behind Zonoscope, the desire to create a new world of immersion for listeners and the months of touring to come.
With the anticipated release of their third album creating some not-to-be-messed-with hype amongst national media outlets and their continual war against free downloads, Cut Copy has reason enough to want a break. However this Melbourne synth-pop band will have to pack vegemite and photos of loved ones to prepare for the many months of international touring ahead.
Since the bands forming was there a significant moment in time that made you realise the success that cut copy was going to be?
I guess everybody measures success differently, our goals are always artistic ones, and every time we finish a record we are surprised by what we have come up with. We certainly don’t want to get to a point where we rest on our laurels, where we feel like we’ve made it as a successful band, and then continue to produce. I don’t think I could ever think of music in that way, or art in that way, it’s about constantly evolving and attracting a new audience every time. Certainly, the first time we went overseas as a band was quite an amazing experience, I never thought I would do that.
Do you think that experience (touring internationally), changed the way you approached song writing?
Certainly, travelling has been a big part of the way the sounds evolve because we have been able to absorb other cultures, to purchase records and gear from other places. We use that as a way of absorbing new music and we always take that home with us. Travelling and absorbing helps us start to think about what the next record is going to be like.
Stand out sounds from other countries that you would say have gone into Zonoscope?
There was a period in the 70’s and 80’s of artists being really inspired by African music and culture and it came across in their art and music. If you think of when Brian Eno and Talking Heads were collaborating and bands such as Liquid Liquid or Konk or Paul Simons Graceland, they were really influenced by this heavy, percussion, tribal sound. That is certainly something that we have picked up on and we thought it was a really interesting road to take. It is an approach that we had never really used with Cut Copy, so there was an emphasis on percussion on Zonoscope and it becoming more of a tribal sound.
Does the band have equal input in the song writing process, or is there a stand out member behind a lot of the song writing?
I think we all play our part, certainly Dan (Whitford) is the ringleader, there’s a great analogy said by Raekwon from Wu-Tang Clan on 36 Chambers when he says “We form like Voltron and GZA is the head.” Well if we were Voltron, Dan would be the head. Dan is the main lyric writer and vocals and without him Cut Copy wouldn’t sound like it does. Dan had Cut Copy up and running before I even knew him actually. We knew mutual friends and I lived in Byron Bay at the time, he would come up to visit and stay. When I moved to Melbourne he asked me to work on the first record with him and it just snowballed into what it is now.
Can you shed some light on the album name, Zonoscope. is there a story behind it?
This album is about creating a new world for the listeners to immerse themselves in, and if you were using a lens to view this world, Zonoscope would be the lens you would use. It’s a word that we created, the idea being that for the rest of time when people talk about Zonoscope it will only have significance to this record and nothing else so we just thought that would be a really cool concept.
There has been a lot of talk about the cover art for the album, but who was responsible for the rest of the art in the sleeve and back?
That was done by Dan and ‘Alter’ his graphic design company, they handle the visual side of Cut Copy. They do all of the single artwork and have worked on all the sleeves. They also appropriated the cover image, done by Tsunehisa Kimura, whose work we commissioned for Zonoscope. Alter are a huge part of the Cut Copy family, it’s not just us (the band), there’s always a group of people we are working with that are just as integral as we are.
How have you found the response to zonoscope so far by the public and the media?
I’m not sure, we try and really shut off from that because it can be quite detrimental to your career if you’re reading too much of what people are saying. It works in two ways, because there could be 10 reviews of your record, there could be nine good reviews and one bad, but you will fixate on the bad one and start to self analyse. It can send you into a downward spiral of self analysis and being way too critical of yourself, but on the other hand if you read all the good reviews about yourself its quite a narcissistic process. I think once we finish an album and feel we have fully expressed our ideas, we’re happy with it, and hopefully people will appreciate that. With Zonoscope, we wanted it to be an album that revealed itself over time. People have become so accustomed to downloading music and putting it into iTunes along with a million other albums and just listening to bits and pieces. For us it was about a complete picture that you had to listen to a few times before really understanding where it was coming from. We didn’t want it to be an instant ‘hit’, we really like the idea of records that take time to reveal themselves after repeat listens. That is something Cut Copy tries to do with every album, we like to work to join the tracks together. It is a traditional way of thinking that we are very attached to.
How do you feel about your upcoming months of touring? is there anything you do to prepare yourselves for such and extensive tour?
You can’t really think about it too much otherwise you might have a nervous breakdown. We are all really excited after being holed up in the studio for the better part of a year, which is a very introverted experience. When you play live it’s the most immediate connection you have with your audience, so it will be good to get out and in front of the people again. However, it takes us away from the people we’re close toandwehavetospendalotof time apart from partners, family and friends. It can get quite difficult, but we realise we are in a very unique position and I never want to take that for granted.
Is there any particular country that you’re really excited for?
We are actually going to St Petersburg, Russia and when we go to America we’re going to New Orleans! We have never been to either of those places as a band before so we’re really excited! We’re always about trying to go to as many different and new places that we can, it’s a unique way of seeing the world and we try to go everywhere that appreciates our music.
Was it always planned for the last song on the album ‘Sun God’ to be a 15 minute epic? will you be incorporating it into your live sets?
We will be playing ‘Sun God’ live; it’s definitely in the set list. When we made the record, and we finished that song it went for about four to five minutes with a little 40 second outro on the end. However after listening to it a few times it felt like it wanted to go somewhere else, so Dan stayed up over night working on this weird synth kind of jam and the next day we pulled it all together to make the finished product. The whole album is about immersing yourself in the listening experience. I know that it can sound like career suicide to put a 15 minute song on a record these days because people are so used to the very instant 3 minute songs and moving on to the next thing, but for some people hopefully it will be a rewarding listening experience.
Originally Published in Metior Issue 1, 2011
Words by Kyle Pauletto