After debuting on Speak n Spell Records in 2006 with the bristling Shaky Hands EP, Cut Off Your Hands quickly set stages and airwaves on fire across Australia and beyond. And with steady attention to touring and the production of melodic, musical gems their avid fan base and the cavalcade of media hyperbole has only continued to grow.
With their nationwide billing on 2007’s Laneway Festival and jaunts to Los Angeles, SXSW and New York really getting the ball rolling, it was, tellingly, the band’s first visit to London that would prove their watershed moment.Having been bewitched by the band in Texas, the lovesick indie-maven Steve Lamacq (hosting John Peel’s old show on BBC6) wasted no time in pulling them into his Maida Vale studios for a live performance when he knew they were in town. All of a sudden the boys from the antipodes were a bright pin punched on the British musical ‘map’, and as a consequence, their remaining shows were rammed full of hungry industry folk.
It was also while in London that the group, through various channels and the snowballing momentum, found themselves working with ex-Suede guitarist and Producer de jour, Bernard Butler, for the first time. Their second EP, Blue on Blue, being the fruit of their labours. While the recording’s lead tracks, ‘Still Fond’ and ‘Oh Girl’, settled quickly into the higher echelon of the radio charts at home, things continued to move for the band abroad. For the release of their debut English 7″ – the double a-side Still Fond/Closed Eyes â€“ through vinyl-ists Fandango was followed almost overnight by the inking of a deal with 679 Recordings (home to The Streets, Mystery Jets and Death From Above 1979).
Through the heady rush of record deals, single releases and the imminent debut LP however, the group’s dedication to their first love, the live arena, never waned. Incessantly in the van, Cut Off Your Hands forged solid friendships with fans and bands alike through UK tours with the whip-smart Foals, the legendary Edwyn Collins and Florida’s Black Kids – not to mention shows with The Duke Spirit and Les Savy Fav. All this while also treading the festival circuit, playing eight shows in just three days at last year’s CMJ festival in New York before winging their way to Iceland’s epic Airwaves festival and a return to Australia to play Falls Festival and the full Australasian tour of Big Day Out – alongside Bjork, Dizzee Rascal and LCD Soundsystem.
Now based in the dynamic environs of Hackney, London, the band have finished juggling life on the road with life in the studio, (for now) having put the final coat on their debut LP ‘You and I’, with Butler once again at the helm. With such an amazing album waiting in the wings, Cut Off Your Hands couldn’t be set in a better position to win over the World’s hearts.
Right. That’s about enough of the press spiel…let’s hear what Nick Johnston – Cut Off Your Hands’ Iggy-like, whirling dervish of a front-man – has to say about Bernard, recording and the record…
“For the album we all felt Bernard was the best for our band. He just seems to understand us as a group more than most. He’s very hands-on with the pre-production, with a clear vision for how each instrument has a part to play in bringing the best out of a song.
For the first time I’ve written songs with the studio in mind, as opposed to writing for our live show. Once again, this has been just treating each song in the way that best suits the song. Bernard’s really adamant in pushing to treat each song on its merits. Some songs worked straight away, whilst others came together slowly, only sounding amazing once we put all the vocals and overdubs on.
There’s a whole lot more instrumentation on the record this time as well. BB was really keen to make a record which had points of difference to separate us from the droves of British guitar bands around right now. And we’ve taken a few more risks than usual. Bernard has taken us (as players) out of our comfort zones, deconstructing the way we think. But it’s a good, healthy thing – risk taking- because when it works out you progress. I feel that the new songs are definitely an organic progression. In that the songs from the EP Blue On Blue were completely melody based, but all fairly similar. They were bouncy and energetic. Hopefully we’ve made a LP which listens in a far more dynamic sense than the two previous EP’s.
Our pop sensibility has come lately. (While writing the record) I was listening to a lot of doo-wop – in particular Phil Spector produced groups like the Ronnettes, and the Crystals – and I’ve been obsessed with how melodically centred those old songs are. It’s what makes them still relevant and exciting to someone like me, a 23 year old, 50 years later. I also began seriously taking an interest in 1950’s artists such as Roy Orbison, Ritchie Valens and Elvis. I found that I was no longer that interested in weird sounds, or noisy groups, all I wanted to hear and recreate were beautiful vocal melodies that are calculated but appear so effortless.
We feel we’ve really matured as songwriters quite a bit since the last release, and we think that maturity is demonstrated in the depth of this record. I’m happy that Bernard has been so eager to take risks with our music, and has aimed to make a record we’ll still be listening to in years to come.”