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The Weekly interview: Cut Copy frontman Dan Whitford

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Dan Whitford and the rest of Cut Copy perform at Brooklyn Bowl on August 8.
Photo: Michael Muller
Annie Zaleski

Cut Copy frontman Dan Whitford checked in from Melbourne, Australia, about the recent reissue of the group’s 2013 album Free Your Mind and how the underground electronic scene in their hometown inspired the record and his latest project, “putting together and curating a compilation of a lot of the inspiring dance music stuff that’s happening in Melbourne at the moment.”

You guys recently released an expanded version of Free Your Mind. When did the new songs develop? And what led to the reissue? In making the record, part of the process was working on a lot of different material. In the beginning, each day I’d wake up and work on a new idea, like a new song. I’d write the essence of a song in a day and the next day wake up and do a different song. And over a period of time, [we] just accumulated a whole plethora of different ideas and a large pile of half-finished music, I suppose.

When it came to making our record, we didn’t necessarily go in with an idea of what the album was going to be. So we tried all these different things and different approaches. I think it was inevitable that we were going to end up with a lot of ideas that maybe didn’t fit with whatever the final outcome of the record was.

[The expanded edition] is an opportunity for us to show some of the other ideas and avenues we followed in making the record. We’d even gone so far as to mixing a lot of these tracks with [Free Your Mind producer] Dave Fridmann—we actually got into a really final stage with some of these songs. When it came down to sequencing the album, there were the things that fit and the things that didn’t. We’d always thought it would be cool to somehow put these out.

It’s true that all of your records are very cohesive; you can tell they’ve meticulously sequenced, like a good DJ mix. So this makes sense. Yeah, exactly. We didn’t want to just throw extra songs on because we’d finished them. Like all our records, we wanted Free Your Mind to be considered a listening experience from start to finish. A lot of these songs were some of our favorites, but in the context of the rest of the album, they didn’t make sense. It can be a little bit heartbreaking leaving off songs you really love, but I think the record is better for it. You have to consider it as a whole, and that’s sort of what we always like to do.

Free Your Mind developed after you were immersed in or discovered the underground dance scene in Melbourne. What was your takeaway from that scene? What was brewing there? Melbourne’s always had a pretty strong scene for dance music, and when we came to prominence in Melbourne in the mid-2000s, there was a certain type of live-based dance music with us. More recently than that, the [live music] scenes have drifted apart a little bit more. The indie guitar bands kind of thing, whatever you want to call it, and the more DJ, underground club scene have gone in different directions.

When I came to Melbourne after being away for a while, I was really surprised by the sheer volume of different interesting dance music artists doing their own thing within this underground scene. There are so many parties and things going on that were, like, really fairly secretive. The average person in the street wouldn’t know about a lot of the things that were going on. But there were crazy illegal raves and warehouse parties and regular club nights. There was strong support for that scene amongst the clubbers and people that went along each week.

It really reminded me of that early rave culture and early acid house culture in the U.K. In my mind, at least, there was this real parallel to the sort of birth of dance music as we now know it. It inspired me and excited me just seeing that DIY enthusiasm amongst a lot of the people that were making music, DJing and also going along to events.

It’s a very renegade thing. And it’s nice to have music be secret; it feels like music is so accessible, and you can get it anywhere. There’s the thrill of the hunt. I think that’s what I like about it. It makes it feel more special. In the case of Melbourne’s parties and events, the people that go to those things feel like they own it; it’s sort of their thing. It’s not something everyone knows about. They can really have ownership of that kind of sound and the stuff that’s’ going on within that scene. I think that’s really important, the sense that people can identify with a particular type of music or a particular type of scene.

You guys opened for TV on the Radio and Franz Ferdinand in Vegas way back in 2005. Do you recall anything about that show in particular or about being in Vegas? That original tour was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. We had done very little touring internationally—we had done a lot of shows in Australia and established ourselves as this little local band. Somehow, we got on the radar of Franz Ferdinand and got on this tour with TV on the Radio and them.

Basically, it was our first chance to play a full tour of America and a chance for us to see the whole country and also to be on such a big tour as well, with bands that we really looked up to. It felt like we made friends for life out of the Franz Ferdinand guys and the TV on the Radio guys, and we catch up with them whenever we’re either in New York or in Glasgow.

I don’t remember that specific [Vegas] show. I think afterwards we all went out with the TV on the Radio guys and lost a lot of money on the blackjack tables. But as the show itself, I don’t remember too many of the details. And was that the show where Elton John came along? I think Elton John might have even popped into that show. I might be making that up.

Really? He came to one of the shows; I think it might have actually been that one.

That’s not intimidating at all, having Elton John show up to one of your shows. We didn’t know it until afterwards, thankfully, so we weren’t stressed out. Feel free to quote me on that. (laughs)

Cut Copy August 8, 9 p.m., $30-$40. Brooklyn Bowl, 702-862-2695.

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