Clean Bandit are one of the freshest (and brainiest) bands to come out of the UK in a long time. They fuse hip-hop, electronic and classical music (yes, really) to create a sound that is truly original. The band is: Jack Patterson (bass/sax/deck), Luke Patterson (drums), Grace Chatto (strings) and Neil Amin-Smith (strings). From time to time they welcome in guest vocalists/lyricists such as MC Ssegamic, who takes the lead on the glorious “Mozart’s House,” their biggest hit to date. Worth noting is that the band all met at Cambridge University, so if music doesn’t work out, careers in laser technology and economics await. The way things are going though, it looks like they are here for the foreseeable future. We spoke to Clean Bandit exclusively while they were in the studio, working on their debut album. Read the full interview after the jump.
Hello guys! So how has life changed in the past year?
Grace: Well finally people are hearing our music, which is super! Since we met a great guy called Leo Greenslade who introduced “Mozart’s House” to Radio 1’s Huw Stephens, we began hearing the song on the airwaves and subsequently met our publishers, lawyer, agents, managers and record label. Now there are a lot more people involved in our project, which is great in lots of ways. We’re growing into a big family!
You are the toast of the music scene it seems. You’re playing at a bunch of summer festivals and were Song of the Week on Radio 1 recently – does it feel real? What’s the best thing about it for each of you?
Grace: I’m not sure we’re the toast of the music scene, but the support from Radio 1 has been so great. Doing live sessions for Huw Stephens, Sara Cox at Radio 1 and Tom Robinson over on 6 Music have been such enjoyable performances for all of us: going into the BBC is extremely exciting and we love playing in that controlled environment. That said, we can’t wait to get out to the festivals this summer, too. We’re really looking forward to hearing loads of other bands and spending time together in the sun.
Your music fuses electronic, classical, pop, hip-hop and dub. There are so many layers and the end result sounds so seamless. How hard do you guys find putting a song together?
Grace: Sometimes it’s really easy and quick – “Mozart’s House” took a couple of hours – but sometimes we do a million versions and then find it hard to take the best bits from each and merge it all together. When we take this latter approach, the results tend not to be as good as when it flows out quickly.
Can you take us through your artistic process a bit?
Grace: Jack (curly hair) is our principal writer. To him, the visuals are as important as the music, so we take a lot of time on our music videos and often the ideas for these come simultaneously with the musical ideas.
I swear I can hear a didgeridoo noise when the electronic bass kicks in at various points in “Mozart’s House.” What is that? (It really works whatever it is!)
Grace: I don’t know! Jack does play the didgeridoo, but we definitely didn’t record it for the song. However, maybe it would be a good idea to bring the didgeridoo out live in this song: that would be fun, thanks for the inspiration!
Is music what you all want to do full-time for the immediate future? What other possible careers are we looking at it (given your various degrees)?
Grace: Jack and I have been doing music full-time for a few years now, and it’s a pretty cool job! I think all of us are keen to do it full-time for the moment yes, but we love making films as well. Our violinist is actually studying for a Masters in Economics so perhaps that’s a plan.
Who is producing the music or do you also do that yourselves?
Grace: We do it ourselves. Jack does it with a little help from me. With electronic music the compositional process is so tied up with producing – they are kind of the same thing, so it has felt quite weird when we’ve tried outsourcing the production after we’ve already “produced” the track.
A lot has been made of you guys having gone to Cambridge and how many combined smarts you all have. Do you think bands that are university-educated from somewhere like Cambridge get a different reception? How has your experience been?
Grace: I know Hot Chip went to Cambridge (to the same college as us I think!) but I don’t know how it has affected their reception. I’m DJing alongside Joe Goddard in Sheffield next week so I will definitely ask him! So far I don’t feel it has affected how we are received too much, but we are very lucky to have gone there, otherwise Jack and I would not have met!
I read that Ssegawa was recently made the youngest-ever nominee at the global Institution of Chemical Engineers Awards. What did he do for that honour?
Grace: I think it’s classified, but I do know that he has been writing a PhD in laser analytics and made several developments in this field.
Jack: I think he’s secretly creating the world’s best laser disco. He was also the captain of the university boxing team last year, don’t know how he juggles it all!
Having your own video production company, you are true self-starters and very much from the YouTube/DIY generation. Do you believe artists should be more self-sufficient and give less power to the major companies?
Grace: I don’t think there are any rules: in some cases it works really well for the videos to be made entirely by the record companies. For us, we feel our product is the “music video.” Neither element serves the other, it is just one. We want to make a video for all of our songs.
If a big brand – let’s say someone like Pepsi – came along and offered you a huge amount of money to do an ad and use your song, would you do it?
Grace: Totally, especially if it was Lilt.
Where do you get the ideas for your videos? Who is the most into that side of things or is it very much a group effort?
Grace: Jack has the ideas and is the director of photography and editor. He also does all the special effects, eg in A&E and Telephone Banking.
Jack: Grace makes them happen. Actually we co-produce and co-direct most of the time but she leans towards producing and I lean towards directing. I studied cinematography in Moscow and often we get my Russian friends I met there to help with additional photography: Anya Patarakina and Darya Novitskaya.
Grace: Also Luke, our drummer does most stunt photography, from his skateboard! Everyone else in the band pitches in and a lot of our friends and family have helped in various ways, too.
Who else do you love from the current music scene? And any big past influences? (Mozart is a given!)
Jack: At the moment I like Walter Ego. Past influences include Radiohead and Shostakovich.
A lot of young people don’t listen much to classical music. What do you think everyone can take from it?
Grace: Everyone can appreciate the beauty of classical music and be emotionally effected by it as with any music. Within every style of music there is so much variety so it is weird that many people disregard classical music or pop music as a whole, when there are probably lots of pieces/songs they might love that fall under the classification, no?
What are you going to do after all the summer touring?
Grace: Go on holiday. Hopefully release the album fairly soon.
How long until we see the debut album and what can we expect?
Grace: This year, we hope. And that would be telling…
Interview: Liz McGrath /Highsnobiety