I’ve been lucky enough to have known The Cut Ups since about 2006 when an old band of mine played with them. Since then I’ve been in three more bands and they’ve kept on trucking, getting better and better with every album. They’ve gone from being the new band on the block to the old hands. Reliable but always progressing The Cut Ups really are a constant ray of sunshine and a source of hope and inspiration to everyone who knows them. I really can’t praise this band enough as people and artists. You are in for one heck of a treat. If you get the time please talk to them too as they really are the nicest bunch around. If you haven’t heard or seen The Cut Ups before then it really is a joy and an honour to introduce them to you so without further ado here is the one and only Jon Curtis…
Let’s start with a generic one for those who aren’t in the know – who are The Cut Ups and where did it all begin for you?
That’s not as easy a question as one might imagine! The Cut Ups are Dan, Pippa, Jack, Reza and Jon (that’s me). However, for these shows our friend Robin is playing the drums instead of Rez. It all began nearly 12 years ago at The Cavern in Exeter. We played our first show on December the 23rd, 2004, which was my 22nd birthday. I wanted to pump up the jams in new and extraordinary ways, so Rez and I set up with a fella called Adam. The lineup that made our new LP (“The Nerves”) has been solid for about 4 years I believe.
How do you think coming from Exeter has influenced the band’s development and sound and do you see this impact on other band’s from the area?
Well, Exeter is quite isolated actually. If you live there, its the main place where everything happens for you, you don’t often go elsewhere – so i guess this means that lots of us get the same influences in similar ways. Everything is centred on the Cavern (which Pippa runs with Dave from Exeter punks Annalise (from No Idea Records, fact fans)) which operates as an alternative venue, but its actually way more than that. As such, there’s been twenty years of community built there around a mix of UK indie and DC punk rock kinds of things, which loads of bands have imbibed to varying degrees. Those bands include and have included Muncie Girls, Annalise, The Computers, Kids Near Water, Tyler, An Emergency, OK Pilot, Shit Present, Some Sort of Threat. For me, the big thing i took from Annalise (around whom the best ideas revolve, and who i got to play guitar for on their last LP) was that there’s no value in pretending that you’re from anywhere else. I’d be a terrible Liverpudlian, or Leedsy, but no-one can doubt my legitimate Exetertonian (that’s the real term!) status. If punk rock is about honesty, then I’d be daft to act otherwise.
What have your previous impressions of Leeds been and what might you be expecting this time?
I really like Leeds, and have always enjoyed playing here. When we played here with Franz Nicolay (from The Hold Steady) as his backing band we got to stay in a Hold Steady mega-fan’s mansion. So i have had very high expectations since then. I’m expecting a butler to serve me lunch, and to have to wear a top hat on stage.
We get a lot of younger people at our gigs and therefore always ask bands if they have any advice or tips for young people thinking of starting out playing music. What would yours be?
Go and watch as many bands as possible – It’s the best education possible. And listen to Fugazi every day.
Seeing as we have a fair few miles between Exeter and Leeds are there any bands from the South West we might be missing out on that we should investigate?
There’s loads but you’ve probably heard of most. You can have a look at that list up the page a bit, but Woahnows from Saltash are a really really great quirky post hardcore band (you’ve probably heard of them), and I love a hardcore band from Exeter called Fall Children. They are very noisy.
You’ve been going now for over ten years, how do you find managing the changing pressures of life (work, family, friends etc.) that can impact on being in a band?
I just plough on regardless.
If you could recommend one book, film and record to people that has had an impact on your growing up, what would they be?
Yeah, a book would be Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – your friends might get embarrassed by you, and shift on, but you’re alright. keep going.
A film – I watched La Vita E Bella (Life is Beautiful) when i was 15 and was overwhelmed by the idea that goodness can overcome the effects of the bad things in the world. That hope is more powerful than anything else.
A record – an impossible question! Today i’ll say Billy Bragg’s first EP – “Life’s A Riot with Spy Vs Spy”, which always sounds like the voice of a young person not settling for what they’re given.
I’m aware that you have had a huge role to play in Exeter with regard to food banks. Could you tell us a bit more about how you became involved with this area and your thoughts on the huge increase in the use of Food Banks over the past 2-3 years and where you see this going moving forward?
I started a food redistribution project with my friend Martyn – we take “excess” food from supermarkets/wholesalers/manufacturers (the stuff they’re throwing away, even though its still good and tasty) and share it with organisations that feed people, including Food Banks, Hostels, community cafes, school breakfast clubs and soup kitchens. I got involved cos i thought it might be possible, and if it was, then we should at least try. Obviously there have been mistakes made within the welfare state as to how people are given what they need to survive when they’re struggling. So those errors have led to a lot of hungry and desperate people – hence food banks have done brilliant work in making sure that they are fed.
What has struck me in the five years I’ve been doing this is that actually there is much more waste food than there are hungry people. We completely overproduce in order to give very wide consumer choice. There needs to be an acknowledgement, either corporately or individually, that this can’t continue if we expect the global situation to improve regarding resources (energy, water, oxygen, not just food). So, our style of living on ready meals, every kind of fruit you could imagine, and no planning or preparation can’t last, if we want to see changes to food waste.
Cakes play a pivotal role at Youth Anthems so what’s the dessert of choice for each Cut Up?
I like anything with chocolate and cream. Pip would choose lemon drizzle. In truth, we’re all obsessed with Krispy Kremes, and its a constant struggle not to eat three a day.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Was it Plato or Aristotle who said “Pick up your head, get off the ground. These High Hopes that I have keep me from getting down.”?