From Iceland — A Look Through the Zonoscope

A Look Through the Zonoscope

Published July 19, 2011

A Look Through the Zonoscope

Crossing over seasons, time zones, language barriers, and maybe even dimensions, Cut/Copy continue to pursue their tour of the world, which has now brought them all the way to Iceland. Nicknamed “The Cutters,” this Australian electro pop group are currently promoting their new LP ‘Zonoscope’. With the release of their third album in early 2011, the band—originally a solo project of Dan Whitford, which has now evolved into a handsome foursome—strode into stardom as it cut through the clamour, gaining them headlining spots at various international festivals. Their combination of a trance-y pop melodies with eighties synth beats, transcends the album into a new genre of electro-indie that’s making waves for all the right reasons.
Since they’re playing NASA tomorrow night, we figured we’d call them up and see what’s in store. Bassist Ben Browning, who is the newest addition to the team, shares his thoughts…
Have you ever been to Iceland before?
No we have never been, so it’s pretty exciting for us. It’s one of the last shows of our two-month tour, so it will be a nice something different. We’ve already been in The States and Europe, so yeah I’m looking forward to it.
I heard that you named your new album ‘Zonoscope’ after a secret instrument. Care to explain?
Uhm, well actually it’s a made up word—the instrument that we spoke about was a fictional, conceptual one. It’s kind of a word that we wanted to create to encapsulate the world that we have made. And maybe it’s a kind of a lens that you can sorta look through to view this fantastical place that we’ve created. 
Does that somehow reflect into the cover art?
I guess so; the sort of circular viewing scope thing is a little indication of that. The image of the city with a waterfall and stuff is more of a reflection of an idea of sort of two things meeting to create this dreamlike world, where the synthetic and the organic come together.
Your three albums really differ from one another, and I figure the synths played a large part. Have they changed a lot from album to album?

On the previous record, the synth that was used was called Prophet 5, which is a vintage synth. On this record the most used synth was the [Yamaha] CS 80, which is also a vintage synth. It was made famous by Vangelis in the Blade Runner soundtrack. Very orchestral, sort of big brass sound and string sounds. Synths are almost their own thing, and there is a sort of retrospective nostalgic thing going on there.
Do you think that the theme of modern vs. vintage has remained evident throughout all of your albums?
Yeah, obviously this process that we are working with is very modern and mobile. We are able to create stuff on laptops. You know, the studio we built was very DIY, and a lot of equipment was basically our computers and some mics… I guess the modern way of working dictates the sound of our record a little bit. But we sort of are trying to find a lot of these classic vintage sounds that we hear on old records that we like, and we try to recreate those sounds with our equipment.
I read in another interview that you guys are excited to make yet another album, and felt this push to make new music quickly. Tell me about that.
We are trying to keep this tour shorter than our tours have been, so we can get back and create another record quickly. It seems like a world away at the moment, though, since there are so many shows to do this year and, you know, we seem to be touring and playing constantly. The idea of being in one place to create a record thus seems unreal at the moment. I’m sure that once we get home and settled in later this year, we will really start that transition thing again. There’s a lot of material that we didn’t get to finish, so we might revisit some of that—or we might do something entirely new, we aren’t sure yet.
My first experience with Cut/Copy was when I saw you as the opening act for Franz Ferdinand back in 2005. How did that tour affect the band’s reputation?
I think that was an important tour for the band to reach so many places in America, and I think they had a great time and that it was a great touring experience for them. That sort of helped propel us, especially in the U.S to now, where we are getting a lot of really good spots at festivals. And doing sold out shows in New York. We’ve come a long way.
Does the continental crowd respond differently to your shows?
Its amazing that regardless of what part of the world we’re playing, we seem to get a similar response. No matter what language people speak, people tend to respond the same way to the songs. Which kind of proves the notion that music is sort of a universal language for people. We’ve been blown away by some of the crowds in places where we didn’t really expect to have a big following. Like places in South America, like Chile and Columbia and sort of exotic places like that. We went to Israel this year as well and got to play, it’s really amazing. I guess the modern age, with the internet and things, people are able to access bands and appreciate bands without a record company pushing it down their throats. That has enabled us to have a bigger audience,  and an audience in much more places.
Are you guys planning to do anything while you’re in Iceland?
Isn’t there a lagoon or something? Our two managers have been there a few times, so he’s got some sites that he knows about, but we often don’t get a lot of time to do anything except play shows. I’m usually happy to just look around the cities and have a walk and find cool cafés or something. There’s plenty of cool cultural stuff to check out in Iceland as well, I’m sure. 

As a matter of fact, there are lots of wonderful places to find in Reykjavik, and a lot of them are featured in our ‘Best of Reykjavík 2011’ issue (available on-line or on the street). We all know the Blue Lagoon is for suckers, and that there are plenty of other fun things to do that are all in walking distance of one another. Here’s hoping that Ben Browning and the rest of the crew may find themselves engorged in a traditional Icelandic lunch at Mamma Steina, perhaps grab a cup of coffee and a cake while singing some acoustic originals at Babalú, chug some super cheap birthday celebratory beers at Bakkus, and fall in love with an Icelandic woman or two, since Katla might blow any moment now (as always). Who knows?
But we do know that Cut/Copy is awesome, and we hope they come back again soon.
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