When Cut Copy hit the Red Rocks stage at last summer's Monolith Festival, dedicated indie rockers were suddenly transformed into a throng of hand-waving ravers. And with good reason: It's hard to resist the Australian band's combination of pop and dance music, which draws from the best aspects of '80s songwriting as well as recent trends in house, techno and trance.
Cut Copy's growing popularity in America has been fueled by three national tours and the breakthrough of its 2008 CD, In Ghost Colours, which was produced by DFA's Tim Goldsworthy. Amazon UK calls the sophomore album "far more fun than the '80s actually were," declaring it "one of the slickest and most varied reinterpretations of the era to appear in the last five years."
In fact, the album's contagious single, "Hearts on Fire," sounds like a more melodically pleasing Depeche Mode, especially in the hands of fellow Australians Midnight Juggernauts. Their remix pushes the comparison further by adding underlying synth pads that bring to mind "Enjoy the Silence."
"Yeah, we'll probably always get that comparison in America, but I'm not sure that at the time we were thinking, 'Oh yeah, this is our Depeche Mode number,'" says Cut Copy guitarist Tim Hoey, who does acknowledge bandmate Dan Whitford's vocal similarity to David Gahan and New Order's Bernard Sumner. "But yeah, I remember hearing the Juggernauts remix and how we were blown away with the way they changed the key and stuff. It was quite musical, not just some kind of slamming house track, and we were all happy with that one.
"When we were making it, we were listening to a lot of Itali-disco, so it kind of takes its cues from that. And then there's the saxophone I think we were listening to a bit of Gerry Rafferty. [Hoey appears to be serious here.] It's such a fine line with an instrument like that, where it can either be really cool or it can be insanely cheesy. So we thought it would be interesting to toe that line a little bit."
The vocoder on opening track "Feel the Love" might lead you to suspect the group is borrowing a page from former tourmate Daft Punk's playbook. But Hoey cites an even less expected source: "The instrumentation and the vocoder on that song is more of a reference to ELO like on 'Mr. Blue Sky' than Daft Punk. It was a really nice vocoder, too it almost sounds like it's about to break."
On stage, Cut Copy's more densely layered tracks aren't easy to replicate, especially by a trio, so the band manages to get by with a little help from its friends.
"Generally, the machines that made the sounds on the record, we'll let them play that live," says Hoey. "And then the parts that we can play live, we'll do ourselves. Dan and I both have controllers, so at least we've actually got to press the buttons in time."
All of which sets Cut Copy apart from acts like the Chemical Brothers, who pretty much hit play at the beginning of their sets and spend the rest of the time dancing.
"Yeah, it would be great if we could do that sometime," says Hoey. "But I don't think our dancing is up to scratch."