Cut Copy (sometimes stylised as Cut/Copy) are an Australian electronic music band formed in 2001 by DJ Dan Whitford (vocals, keyboards and guitar). Initially a home-recording project, the band now includes Tim Hoey (guitars), Ben Browning (bass guitar) and Mitchell Scott (drums). So far they have released four studio albums, an EP and a number of singles and remixes, all on Modular Recordings. They achieved breakthrough success in 2008 with their second album, In Ghost Colours. Some of their most well-known singles include “Lights & Music”, “Hearts on Fire” and “Take Me Over”.
Cut Copy was established in 2001 in Melbourne, Australia as the solo project of Dan Whitford, a DJ and graphic designer. Whitford was educated at Scotch College, Melbourne and studied graphic design at Monash University. During his studies he became interested in dance music and began DJing while hosting a radio-show. Around this time he bought a sampler and keyboards to experiment with. Musically he was “inspired by indie low-fi stuff as much as dance”. Upon graduating Whitford co-founded the design-agency Alter, who continue to produce all of the graphical material for the band. Whitford began producing music at his home-studio and submitted a demo-tape to Modular Recordings, who subsequently signed him sometime in the first half of 2001. He enlisted the help of veteran guitarist Harry Howard to record the debut single “1981”, which was released on vinyl only.
According to Whitford, the band’s name was a random choice: “I was in the edit menu [of my computer] and I moved down in the document to the few words that didn’t make sense together, and at that particular day and time the words ‘cut’ and ‘copy’ really stood out to me. At the time it felt like a fairly abstract choice but now it feels very tied in with what we do”.The name is often displayed as one word with a forward slash in between: Cut/Copy.
With Howard filling in on guitar, Whitford asked his childhood friend Bennett Foddy to join on bass with the view to release an EP. The band was assisted by Robbie Chater of The Avalanches who produced the seven largely instrumental tracks that were leaning heavily on samples. I Thought of Numbers was released in September 2001 and spurred a number of remixes on vinyl. The following year saw Whitford remould the band with a view to take to the stage. Their live debut at the 2003 Livid festival was described by Foddy as “our first show was in front of 5,000 people at a festival, which was sort of terrifying”.
In 2003, Howard was replaced by Tim Hoey, a student at the Victoria College of Art after he and Whitford began exchanging demo tapes. Drummer Mitchell Scott joined shortly after, explaining that “we were just in the same circle of friends, and Tim was sort of roped in because he could play guitar and Dan’s sampler had actually broken down, which kind of brought on the need to find a new way of thinking about a live show”. Prior to Hoey and Scott joining, a Cut Copy performance was essentially Whitford together with Joel McKenzie doing a DJ set that included sampling their own material. Throughout their career, the band has continued to do DJ sets and remixes for others.
2003 to 06: Bright Like Neon Love
Whitford began working on the band’s debut album in early 2003 and had written half a dozen songs when during a DJ gig, one of their samplers broke down. Together with Hoey, Scott and Foddy he began reinterpreting the material. Later in the year Whitford gathered all the recordings and travelled to Paris to mix the album with Phillippe Zdar and his team and found that he had “two different versions of the recordings, so I started taking parts from both of those, and putting them together”. In April 2004, Cut Copy released their debut LP, Bright Like Neon Love to moderate success and supported by the singles “Saturdays” and “Future”. The four-piece began rehearsing for a tour and began to play ‘a garage band version’ of the material. At this stage Foddy left the group to study for his Ph.D, and the band continued as a three-piece.
In 2005, the trio toured internationally for the first time, as support to international acts such as Franz Ferdinand, The Presets, Junior Senior, Bloc Party and Mylo while also playing a number of European festivals. By playing a large number of shows their fan-base grew and three members became more proficient in their instruments. In contrast to previous occasions, Whitford began songwriting with the others in the band. A third single, “Going Nowhere”, was released in January 2006. In the first half of 2006, Whitford was asked to produce a mix for the Fabric label, which included a number of Cut Copy mixes. It was released in August 2006 as FabricLive.29 and described as “collection of indie, hip-hop, electroclash and straight up rock”. He did the same for the American clothing company Triple 5 Soul in the same year, which Modular later released as a podcast. In December 2007, the group toured Australia with Daft Punk on the Nevereverland tour, the Sydney leg of which attracted a crowd of almost 50,000 people.
2007 to 09: In Ghost Colours
For much of 2006, Whitford had been working on the second album using the three-piece template that had been touring the world. Towards the end of September, he had much of the album complete in demo form. These recordings were sent to Tim Goldsworthy who agreed to produce the new record. In early 2007 the band travelled to New York where the new album was completed in a six-week period. Whitford commented on Goldsworthy’s contribution that “he was almost like an extra member of the band and gave us feedback on things that were working and things that he thought we could change. On top of that he has an incredible wealth of experience with what he’s done with other records and brought some of those recording techniques to our music”.After some mixing in Los Angeles, the album was finalised at the band’s homebase in Melbourne.
In May 2007, the band decided to play a small Australian tour while Modular Recordings released the single “Hearts on Fire” digitally and on vinyl. In September, the band had announced the completion of their second album, In Ghost Colours, but its Australian release was delayed until 22 March 2008 to co-ordinate with its international release. The rest of the year was spent doing a number of remixes, playing a number of local festivals and supporting Daft Punk on their Australian dates. The promo-only single “So Haunted” was made available for airplay while Whitford was putting together another compilation of mixes.
As a prelude to their second album, the band released the So Cosmic mix in February 2008, showing the disco/new wave inspiration behind In Ghost Colours. The album debuted on the ARIA Albums Chart at number one. Cut Copy’s next single, “Lights & Music” was used in video game FIFA 09. “Far Away”, album’s third and final single, was played on Nip/Tuck, a United States TV series, on one of its final episodes, in a club scene.
2010 to 2012: Zonoscope
In July 2010, radio station Triple J broadcast the teaser track “Where I’m Going”, ahead of Cut Copy’s third album, Zonoscope, which drew inspirations from the early 1980s. It was largely recorded in a Melbourne warehouse with only the band and an engineer working on it. The band confirmed they had officially become a four-piece with the addition of bass guitarist Ben Browning. “Where I’m Going” became the theme song of RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook’s sneak-preview video, which was released in September 2010.
The band premiered the album’s first official single, “Take Me Over”, in November 2010 on Triple J’s breakfast show with Tom & Alex. In an interview with The Music Network, guitarist Tim Hoey described it as “certainly one of the more pop moments on the album.” Zonoscope peaked at number three in Australia in February 2011 to critical acclaim. In March 2011, the group performed on the Saturday of the Ultra Music Festival in Miami, US. In June 2011, the band played at Indie Fest in Puerto Rico and later that year at the Zappa Club and the Barby Club, in Tel Aviv. In July 2011, the band performed to an audience of 25,000 people at the Camp Bisco Ten festival in Mariaville, New York. On 10 September 2011, Cut Copy played the Virgin Mobile FreeFest in Columbia, Maryland, US.
In March 2012, Cut Copy bassist Ben Browning released his debut solo EP Lover Motion. It was preceded by the single “I Can’t Stay”.
2013 to 14: Free Your Mind
In early September 2013, the full version of the title track to their fourth album Free Your Mind debuted at six specific locations worldwide. Fans were informed that they could visit selected billboards in Mexico, Chile, Australia, two locations in the US (Detroit, and California) and one in the UK at Blaneau Gwent in South Wales. When fans were standing near the billboard, they could open an app which would allow them to stream the track through their smartphones. The track quickly appeared on Triple J’s hitlist getting regular airplay. The music video for “Free Your Mind”, directed by Christopher Hill and released in October 2013, stars Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård as a cult leader.
The album Free Your Mind was released on 1 November 2013 to considerable success. After rehearsals in Nashville, Cut Copy embarked on a world tour of North and South America through to Europe and Russia. The music video for “We Are Explorers” premiered in February 2014, followed by the release of the vinyl single “In These Arms of Love” for Record Store Day. The latter was later included in the deluxe re-release of Free Your Mind.
2015 to present: New album
The band spent most of the 2015 working on the follow up to Free Your Mind. In September 2016, they released January Tape, a 44-minute ambient instrumental piece recorded during those sessions available as a limited cassette run of 400 copies. According to Dan Whitford, the new album was about three quarters complete as of October 2016.
Cut copy are looking to build on there already large following in America and Europe with the new album to be released in 2017 followed by a world tour.