Globally, 2013 continued a fairly bleak stretch where issues like terrorism, economic depression and warfare dominated news headlines. Amid this morass, electronic Australian quartet Cut Copy released its fourth full-length album, Free Your Mind, a relentlessly optimistic, dance-oriented effort that cut through the darkness like a road flare.
“If you look at some of those eras we were inspired by — whether it was the ’60s counterculture or the acid-house movement in the late ’80s — those came out of dark times,” frontman Dan Whitford said in in early March phone interview. “These fairly positive, unifying eras in music have sort of come out of pretty depressing times. Sometimes I think that’s the function of art: To offer people an outlet or an escape.”
In turn, the beats on Free Your Mind are universally warm, shimmying synths and programmed drums combining to conjure images of an open air, springtime dance-off. The lyrics are similarly optimistic, coming on like passages from a patchouli-scented self-help guide. “You shine brighter than the sun,” the band counsels on one tune.
There’s also a strong spiritual thread that carries through the music, and the group repeatedly references love, some unnamed higher power and the importance of embracing a role as part of a larger, global community.
“On this record we were really trying to tap into that feeling of being in the moment and the feeling of togetherness and the energy of dance culture,” Whitford said. “Coming home off the last record, I started going out to club nights and reconnecting with some of the local scene here in Melbourne, and I just sort of had that nice, warm kind of sensation descend over me. I wanted people to get the same warm feeling from [our music].”
Whitford, who was raised by an architect father and a librarian mother, said he was first drawn to electronic music because it felt more accessible to someone who lacked formal training.
“You could just dive in and press some buttons and make yourself a song,” he said. “It might not be the best song … but sometimes it’s fun to have no idea what you’re doing and just dive in and learn on the fly.”
It’s a free-spirited approach that has served Cut Copy well over the course of its decade-plus making music, and one Whitford believes the band will continue to embrace as it moves forward.
“I think there’s a purity of vision to what you’re doing when you start out,” he said. “I’ve seen other bands go through their careers and lose sight of that and become a bit jaded or just sort of start wanting to focus on money or other things, and that’s always something we’ve tried not to do. We’re all still passionate about music, and we still just enjoy the journey of making records.”
Michael Muller photo