Clean Bandit is not the first group to mix up classical music with electronic dance music, but it is arguably one of the more successful ones so far.
Formed in 2008 by Grace Chatto (vocals, cello), brothers Jack (bass, keyboard) and Luke Patterson (percussion), and violinist Neil Amin (who left the group last October), the British band got its name from a rough translation of a Russian insult.
Since releasing its debut album New Eyes in 2014, Clean Bandit has been making waves with its infectious blend of classical and electronic music. The group is also popular for its entertaining self-produced music videos, many of which have raked up millions of YouTube views.
Even more impressive is the long list of artistes the group has collaborated with like Swedish singer Zara Larsson on Symphony. Clean Bandit has also worked with rapper Sean Paul and singer Anne-Marie on Rockabye and The X Factor 2015 winner Louisa Johnson on Tears.
Its most famous collaboration, however, is with singer Jess Glynne on Rather Be, which topped the British singles chart in 2014. The song peaked at No.10 on the US Billboard Top 100.
Apart from that, the song won Clean Bandit a Grammy Award in 2015 for Best Dance Recording, too.
“We never expected the song to be that big. It was the song that really got us where we are now, and it’s still great to play that song now,” said Luke during a phone interview from London recently.
Clean Bandit will be playing in Malaysia on May 18 at KL Live in Kuala Lumpur, as part of this year’s Urbanscapes creative arts festival. The festival runs from May 5 to 21.
Other international acts who have also confirmed attendance are Mew and TTNG.
1. What can we expect from the upcoming show at Urbanscapes?
Basically, it’s like a party that we’re bringing on stage. I’ll be playing live electronic beats, Jack plays the keys, and Grace does cello and plays some of the basslines live as well.
We’ve also got two string players, and our two singers Kirsten Joy and Yasmin Green, because obviously we can’t bring all those people we collaborated with on tour with us!
2. You’ve done quite a few collaborations, some of which have become huge hits. How do you decide who to collaborate with?
A lot of the time, the songs we write start with Jack writing an instrumental, a bassline, or the beat of the track. Then we’ll have a rough idea of who we want to work with on the track, and we’d get them in the studio, and hopefully a lyric or vocal idea will happen there.
It’s a natural process – it usually starts out as an instrumental, then to wherever the singer wants to go. Sometimes it’s the other way round – we get a verse first, then work some music around that.
Now, we’ve got a lot more vocalists wanting to work with us, and so we’ve got more options and ways for it to happen.
We’re also working with songwriters like Jimmy Napes (who co-wrote Sam Smith’s Grammy-winning Stay With Me), who helped us with songs like Rather Be and Extraordinary.
3. Rather Be is your biggest hit so far, and even won you a Grammy in 2015. How did the song come about?
That song is quite a funny one. It started off as a much more chilled instrumental … it was an R&B song in its early stages.
We were looking for the right vocals to carry the song, and then heard Jesse on Route 94’s My Love. We thought her sound was amazing. She just had that ability with her voice to make the song sound really big.
So, we got in the studio with her, and just made the song less chilled, a bit more house-y, and that was the start of it all.
4. Do you ever worry that your music will come to be defined by the artistes you collaborate with?
Inherently, it is. Collaborations are always give and take. We work with these people, and because it’s a collaboration, an aspect of it is always defined by the other party.
That said, we’d never put out a song we didn’t believe in, or one that didn’t do justice to the artiste we worked with.
5. How is it like going on as a trio after Neil left?
It’s fine. It was a massive shock for us all, but the band has always been evolving and working with different people. This was basically just another step in another direction for us.