Cut Copy on “Haiku From Zero”

Grown Fonder

Dec 04, 2017 Issue #62 - Julien Baker Photography by Jimmy Fontaine Bookmark and Share


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The age-old saying goes, "Absence makes the heart go fonder." The four members of Melbourne, Australia's Cut Copy are finding this particularly applicable to their current residential situation. Central figure, vocalist, keyboardist, and guitarist Dan Whitford decamped to Copenhagen, Denmark over a year ago, guitarist Tim Hoey is living in New York, bassist Ben Browning is in San Francisco, while drummer Mitchell Scott remains in Cut Copy's hometown. It's only work-related circumstances that bring the four together: recording, touring; but when they get together, it's like a big reunion every time.

It was an exceptionally intense reunion when they went to Atlanta to record their fifth album, Haiku From Zero, with Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Neon Indian), who previously worked with Cut Copy when he mixed 2011's Zonoscope. Booking themselves into an Airbnb house, they spent 24 hours a day together for six weeks straight. "It was really cool," recalls Whitford, comfortable at his home in Copenhagen, looking for all the world like he was born and bred there. "We hadn't seen each for six months. We'd work on music in the studio from morning through to whenever anyone was feeling like dinner. We'd cook for each other every night, have beers, and got the band dynamic back. Kind of like a Cut Copy refresher."

This is a very different state for the group who until Haiku From Zero experienced fluid and seemingly infinite studio time with each other. Going from working in bits and pieces with the option of returning to ideas to being forced to finish in a predetermined amount of time ended up working to Cut Copy's creative benefit. "You jump into ideas and have more motivation to get things done," says Whitford. "Without that urgency, you could work on something forever because there's no such thing as perfect. You keep working toward something that doesn't exist. Having too many options is too stifling."

Haiku From Zero started, as it always does, with Whitford, who sent his sketches to the others for intercontinental input. The bulk of the writing was saved for Atlanta where they wanted to come in fresh. The multi-decade referential Haiku From Zero has the disco flair of the '70s on the funk-fused "Airborne," the New Wave synth rhythms of the '80s on the Depeche Mode-leaning "Memories We Share" and "Black Rainbows," which plays out like the most irresistible selections from The Human League's catalog, and both the indie dance grooves and the rave swing of the '90s on the loose flows of "Counting Down."

"This is the first time we've gone into a recording studio and followed a traditional recording process in making an album," says Whitford. "All our other albums we've had DIY recording setups in backrooms and warehouse spaces. We did things in a weird culled together way, which we would then try to make sound as big and hi-fi as possible. It sounds odd, but we've never tried to do something the right way.

"The sonic quality of Haiku From Zero is due to Ben [Allen]. He heard something in the demos that he could run with and offer us a chance to turn them from a small beginning into big ideas that could really cut through and reach an audience that's beyond what we've previously had. His affinity and enthusiasm for the songs really helped when we are trying to make something as good as we can possibly make it."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Fall 2017 Issue (October/November 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

 

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