Australian electronic pop artist and Cut Copy bassist Ben Browning kicked off a nine-date US tour on July 22 in support of his debut LP Turns and comes to SF to play at Neck of the Woods on Saturday, August 1.
A member of Cut Copy since 2008, Browning reveals his own musical identity and solo strength in this new album. Prior to starting on Cut Copy’s 2010 album Zonoscope, Browning dug into his trusty mind-hole and began penning tracks for a solo release. In 2012, he released his Lover Motion EP and just last month, he followed up with a formal LP, Turns, which consists of 10 pop-infused tracks, but still remains a dance album at heart.
We asked Ben Browning about how he joined Cut Copy, his biggest challenge with the new record, and what he enjoys most about visiting San Francisco.
When did your musical exploration begin as a child?
My parents had a piano in the house. When I was nine or 10 I think, my dad, he wasn’t really a musician, but he played songs of sheet music. He played Beatles songs. He showed me a couple chords. I got into music around that age.
I was always in bands in high school in the nineties. I’ve always played in bands and had written songs. It all feels the same to me. I haven’t really grown up. I still feel like a teenager making music.
How did you join Cut Copy in 2008?
I knew those guys just from around the music scene in Melbourne. They needed someone to go on tour with them and play bass. They just recorded the album In Ghost Colors. They had these cool bass-lines and needed someone to play them I guess. They asked me which was great. I hadn’t toured the world and it was really an amazing opportunity for me. It’s been a while now. I’ve gotten to make records and see the world. I’ve had a lot of fun in the last few years.
Why did you move from Australia to your new hometown of Washington, D.C.?
I met my wife of the last couple years. I met her here. She lived in D.C. I met her after a Cut Copy gig in 2011. I started travelling back to D.C. when I could in between touring. Even when I was based in Australia I was coming over to see her a lot. Eventually I made the move. I’ve spent so much of the last eight years touring in America. It wasn’t too much of a change for me to base myself here. I really like it.
Does your solo work still contain lots of bass guitar or have you branched out much wider?
Yeah, I mean a lot of the tracks are based around ideas from bass-lines and stuff. Certainly, playing bass in Cut Copy influenced my songwriting and some of my approach. Definitely the solo stuff is about all the instruments, especially keyboard parts and synthesizers and guitars and stuff. I wouldn’t say I’m mainly focused on any instrument. For the solo project, everything is equally important.
What has been your biggest challenge with the launch of Turns?
I guess the whole getting it out into the world has been a challenge. I recorded it all myself, I didn’t have a label or anything when I did it. And just finding time to do it in between Cut Copy and whatever else. Now that it’s out, it’s a big relief. I just want to do it justice by getting out and doing some shows and hopefully making people aware of it. That can be the challenge to get people to notice that you’ve done something. There’s so much great music out there and new bands that go unnoticed.
Who are a couple dream collaborators on your wish list?
Yeah! You know I haven’t thought about that too much. I’m a big fan of the French band Air. They’ve done some solid stuff. I’d love to do a track with those guys. It would be a lifelong dream come true. There’s obviously a million people out there I’d love to do stuff with. David Bowie is one of my all-time heroes. That would be a dream come true as well.
How did you partner with Trouble Hands and Alex Karpovsky (Ray in the TV series ‘Girls’) to make the ‘Friends Of Mine’ music video?
The Traveling Hands guys actually did a Cut Copy video last year in 2014. A really funny video for the song ‘House of Love’. It had Ben from that weird series High Maintenance. I really love that video. I just reached out to them to figure out. I told them I’m putting out a solo record. They’re in New York and I’m in D.C. I was just like, if you have any ideas or if we could do a video, let’s try to do something. He had this idea to go to this random beach house. This really old, weird looking beach house on the coast.
Alex the guy from Girls, he just volunteered to come out for a few hours and be a cast member. That was awesome. He was just happy to help out and appear in it. It was pretty humbling to have someone of his caliber to be in the music video for sure.
Do you have any additional music videos in the pipeline?
Yeah, I mean, it’s something I really like doing. The aspect of making an album, having the visual stuff that goes with it work in videos. I always sort of consider that being a part of the same idea.
It’s really fun to be able to work with creative people, people who specialize in video and visual arts and to collaborate with them. It’s something I love doing. I think there may be another video for this album. But definitely I’ll be making more music in the future with new material as well.
Can you share some details of your live performance setup?
We may have visuals. It’s mainly old-fashioned singing and playing music. It’s kind of a hybrid of an electronic show and a live show. We have more synths and stuff. Me and another performer who’s gonna be playing drums and electronic samples and stuff. I’ll be doing more traditional singing and playing guitar.
The live show is going to be slightly different than the record. We’re going to be bringing a slightly different interpretation of some of the songs from the live record. Exciting for me to re-envision some of the material. And also for the audience, hopefully it will be a more dynamic way of experiencing the music.
What do you enjoy most about visiting San Francisco?
It’s really an interesting place. It’s one of the more unique cities in the U.S. obviously. One of the bigger cities. I’ve been there many times. Obviously the coffee there is really good. Blue Bottle, we always try and go there. The band always tries to hit that up. I’ll be doing the same on the solo run.
Obviously we’ve done some great sets in SF. Outside Lands was probably one of the most amazing live experiences I’ve ever had. SF has such a great feel. Also, the cultural history. So much music came out of the city in the sixties. A lot of venues around town that have a rich history of music performances. It’s so nice to be able to go play a show there.