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In the Studio

Cut Copy Urges You to ‘Free Your Mind’

cut copy in the studio, free your mind

A few months into making his band’s new album, Free Your Mind, Cut Copy frontman Dan Whitford had an epiphany. His band was working with a batch of songs he had been writing at the rate of one-a-day, the lot of them split evenly between bombastically blissed-out dance tracks and guitar-based, shoegaze-informed psychedelia. “Do we have two records here?” Whitford remembers wondering, just before realizing they weren’t all that different. “It was united by a slightly hippie vibe, a freedom and a euphoria,” he says. Later, it dawned on him that a similar mindset linked the two “Summers of Love”: 1967’s Beat-inspired reaction to the Vietnam War and the rise of rave in Britain at the close of the 1980s.

The latter in particular resonated a great deal with Whitford, who had just rediscovered the underground dance scene in Cut Copy’s home of Melbourne, after 18 months spent touring in support of their last record, 2011’s Zonoscope. “I got this real sense of tribes and little subcultures within dance music,” he says. While spinning for one of these communities at a bi-monthly dance night, he adds, “I just felt so many vibes.” He started digging into formative house music from Detroit, Chicago, and the U.K. – A Guy Called Gerald, the Orb, the KLF – and the bands they influenced, like Primal Scream and the Happy Mondays. “Coming out of [Margaret] Thatcherism, it opened up in people’s eyes this positive time,” he says. “Big dance parties, and the way DJs would mix records: It’s a blueprint for modern dance music.”

Once everything came together, Cut Copy decided to work with producer Dave Fridmann, who’s worked with musicians both trippy (Neon Indian) and trippier (Flaming Lips). They flew halfway around the world to Fridmann’s studio in upstate New York, which wasn’t so far removed from the abandoned warehouses and secluded fields where British promoters threw unlicensed raves some 20 years ago. Except this time there were local hunters’ dogs “trained to hunt things running along the road,” so when Whitford went jogging, as he likes to do, Fridmann told him to bring a rock to throw just in case. Despite the threat of being mauled, Whitford says those few weeks, which he also spent cooking communal meals for everyone, made for a memorable recording experience.

Back in the real world and wary of instantly forgettable Soundcloud song premieres, Cut Copy took that process off the grid as well. Fans could only access their fourth LP’s title track via smartphone while standing underneath “Free Your Mind” billboards in remote locations around the world. Copies of the next single, “Let Me Show You Love,” were only available at Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival, where the band pressed and monogrammed 120 twelve-inches on-site. “Everyone encounters music on the internet,” Whitford says. “Making music available only through real-world scenarios seems a lot more interesting. If a few people complained that it wasn’t delivered straight to their music box, that’s missing the point.” So, naysayers: Go dance in the fields already, think outside the music box, and get ready to free your mind.