Frequencies: Year in Review 2008
1. Cut Copy In Ghost Colours (Modular)
There are many effective ways of gauging if a band has had a breakout year. The first is usually record sales and chart placement, followed by critical reception, number of gigs, MySpace plays, and to a lesser extent, number of interviews given. For Melbourne, Australia's Cut Copy, the figures go like this: 4,000 units sold in Canada, 50,000 sold in the U.S. and 35,000 in their home country for their second album, In Ghost Colours; a number one debut on the Australian album charts; a 79 out of 100 score on Metacritic.com based on 17 reviews (one of which was a highly coveted 8.8 from Pitchforkmedia); over 100 concerts performed through to the end of 2008, which included appearances at high profile events such as South By Southwest, Coachella, and Glastonbury; and by the time you're reading this, the six songs on their MySpace player will have exceeded five million plays.
All very impressive, yes, but where Cut Copy have undoubtedly reigned supreme in 2008, aside from in the ears of Exclaim! writers, is in giving interviews. One Google search of "Cut Copy" and "interview" pulls up what seems like endless pages of results for features on the band. So, come mid-November, it must be a trying experience to be sitting in an airport, forcing out one more chat about influences, how In Ghost Colours was conceived and the year in review, but the band's front-man and founder Dan Whitford is not only game, but also aware that he and his band-mates have broken some sort of record for interviews given in one year.
He laughs but seems prepared. "Don't take offence to this but we were just sitting in an airline lounge right now ordering some food, and our tour manager came up and said that I had to do an interview," he explains. "And Ben [Browning], our bass player who just started playing with us this year said, 'Y'know, I think I could actually do this interview and answer all of the questions correctly.' Because we've done so many and he's heard them all, it's almost to the point where we already have the answers to any possible questions you could ask about the record or us - we've answered them at least five or six times already."
There's no denying Cut Copy earned the success they've had this year. To some, answering the same questions over and over as many times as they have is enough. But it's been a seven-year journey to this point, and prior to the release of In Ghost Colours in April, the Australian trio (also including Tim Hoey and Mitchell Scott in the official line-up) were lost in a sea of rock bands armed with synthesizers trying to keep a steady balance of electro with their pop.
Beginning as a solo project for Whitford, a DJ with a graphic design background, Hoey, Scott and briefly Bennett Foddy, joined in to make it a proper band and help finish Cut Copy's debut album. Released by the hip Australian boutique label Modular in 2004, Bright Like Neon Love was a straight-up fusion of dance and rock, awash in an '80s new wave glow with a strong nod to French touch. It put them on the map, earning them an opening slot on a North American tour with Franz Ferdinand and TV On the Radio and eventually an Australian tour opening up for Daft Punk in 2007. But it wasn't until the release of In Ghost Colours that the band noticed a shift that resulted in the album debuting at the top spot of their country's album charts.
"We've noticed, certainly in our country, a new audience for that kind of music, because I think people who were too young to actually go and buy tickets to our shows and go to bars to see us when the first record came out are now out there partying," says Whitford. "It's almost like they've adopted that type of music as their own, so it definitely feels like there's a subtle shift in the music that young people are into. In the last few years that's made things a lot better for us. It's a readymade audience for us this time, whereas with the first record we felt like we were battling to get a crowd or battling to get people to understand the kind of music we're making, and this time it felt like people just got it straight away."
The times are certainly changing for Cut Copy, who along with acts like Justice, Hot Chip and compatriots Midnight Juggernauts use electronic foundations like electro, house and techno and construct their music with the pop format in mind. "It always felt like dance music and guitar-based music were always separate," explains Whitford. "Dance music was always kind of minimal and more of a niche thing, whereas now it feels like the two converge a lot more. Dance music is a lot more poppy, with more 'regular' song structures, than it was ten years ago. Maybe it's a reflection of that, and why our music is more palatable."
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