How Clean Bandit Made Classical Music Cool Again: Interview
Whenever Clean Bandit releases new music, be it in the U.S. or abroad, they quickly find themselves sitting at the top of the charts. Collaborating with the likes of Jess Glynne, Zara Larsson and, most recently, Marina + The Diamonds on "Disconnect," the electronic trio have transformed every note they play into sonic gold.
Though they're enjoying the fruits of their musical labor now, it was definitely a long journey for the three Brits from Cambridge.
In the wake of their latest radio banger ("Symphony," now climbing up the U.S. Billboard charts), cellist-vocalist Grace Chatto and drummer Luke Patterson open up to PopCrush about their road to success, new music and how the INSANITY workout entered their lives.
You have been a band for a long time. How do you feel things have changed for you since Clean Bandit got together?
Grace Chatto: When we started the band, it was a classical group. We built a bit of an audience at our university in Cambridge, playing Beethoven and Mozart quartets. And then me and Jack [Patterson] were kind of living together, and he would start recording the quartets and adding beats and bass lines. Then he was like, "My brother plays the drums." So [Luke] came and played, and we set up this club night and invited all our friends. And from that moment, we felt very excited about the project. The atmosphere was kind of electric, and we had been trying to bring [our music] to the public. Now it just feels so amazing. I feel so happy. I'm just so honored to be able to travel around the world and play songs. It has been a massive journey. Everyone feels really happy in the group, and it's just so fun.
Clean Bandit has become a household name at this point. What's been the biggest thing you had to get used to from all the fame and attention?
Chotto: I guess the number of people involved is growing all the time, and that was quite hard to get used to at first—the delegating and not knowing everything and that kind of control element. But on the other hand, life has gotten much easier now. There's much less stress.
Since the band started playing classical music, it's clear that you've changed the game for what people think the genre sounds like. How do you feel now that you're part of this new era of classical music and changed how people view it?
Chotto: It's cool. It's amazing. We get so many kids telling us that they've taken up the violin or cello. It's really special, and it wasn't really our intention in the beginning. But now that it's happening we're really happy and proud of it.
There are clearly a lot of elements that go into your songs. How do you go about the songwriting process?
Luke Patterson: Usually the vocals come last, so it would start with a beat that Jack's made, or a hook or melody that he's written that he'll put another melody over. It's mainly getting that first instrumental and beat, and then he starts thinking about how to make it more.
Chotto: We tend to start with the production from the outset, which Jack, on this second album, tried to avoid. He wanted to start writing songs with piano and vocals to check that they worked as songs before any of the electronic sounds came on board. But at the same time, we're always interested in the textures and sounds right from the beginning, so they kind of start creeping in. A lot of the music is pretty much written on the computer.
With this tour coming up, you have Anne-Marie to open the show, and she sings on "Rockabye." Does this mean that Sean Paul will be playing some of the dates?
Chotto: Oh! Hopefully!
Patterson: Yeah, I haven't even thought about that. But if he's around, yeah, we'd love to have him in the show.
Chotto: We always try. We've bumped into him at several festivals. Him and Zara Larsson and Anne-Marie, and their shows are usually a few hours away from ours. But we [recently] performed "Rockabye" with Anne-Marie and Sean Paul. It just happened that we were all in the same place, and it was great.
You collaborate with a lot of vocalists. How do you go about choosing who features on your songs?
Chotto: It's still a process.
Patterson: I think there's always got to be an element of soul or feeling within that person's voice. This is what Jack's always saying. It's that combined with a powerful voice that gives it that strength.
Going back to Clean Bandit's early days, what would you tell your younger selves? Any advice?
Chotto: I think we would have made an album quickly. We did make an album of songs but never recorded it. And we were just so obsessed with playing live and playing gigs that we didn't think, "Oh, let's record all this stuff and release it." It's a real shame because now that we started to do that, things started moving quite quickly. Before that, we were trying to make a career, but not really going about it the right way.
And I think if you've got a song that you like, the best thing to do is put it on iTunes. It's so easy to do that now.
Patterson: So wait, what would you say to your younger self?
Chotto: I would say record the song and put it online. Don't just keep playing live. My life was spent finding gigs and getting the equipment when really the power of online is so strong now.
I heard you guys do the INSANITY Workout every day together. How did that tradition start?
Chotto: It was just for that [U.S. spring 2017] tour. We might start that again when we do our big tour here again. But we're only here for seven days...
Patterson: But I think we should still do it. We should do it tomorrow. Let's get in the gym.
Chotto: Or Luke sometimes does it before a show to gear up and focus.
Whose idea was it to bring the workout in?
Chotto: It was one of our singers, who never does any exercise ever. But she got this DVD, brought it along, and everyone started doing it.
As for the upcoming tour, is there anything new fans should look out for?
Patterson: We might have some new songs by then.
Chotto: Definitely new songs. That's the main new thing.
Patterson: And I might have another drum. Maybe. Just one!
And since you mentioned new music, are you talking about a new album?
Chotto: We're working on our second album now. We've got quite a few songs. And if we do put them in the show in October, you'll be the first people to hear it since it won't be released yet.
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