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Meet our BOTW: Clean Bandit

Sometimes, modern music can feel like one big advertising budget-fueled game of who can cry the loudest; of who can make the most provocative statement and summon up the most linkbait. London-based Baroque house quartet Clean Bandit have been moving in a more subtle, cunning way.

Whether it be their breakout single ‘Mozart’s House‘, which sprung to life on a series of squelchy synths and what could almost be a call-to-arms in its sample of founding member Jack Patterson declaring “So, you think electronic music is boring? You think it’s stupid. You think it’s repetitive,” – something Patterson himself shrugs off as “a joke that stuck” – through to their most recent outing ‘Rather Be’, an infectious slice of garage-pop that insidiously attaches itself to every synapse and refuses to let go.

The truth is, though, that there’s nothing showy, nor anything gimmicky, about what Clean Bandit do. The four-piece – made up of Patterson alongside his brother Luke on drums, and strings duo Grace Chatto and Neil Amin-Smith – just have a knack for writing the sort of music that masterfully balances intelligence, catchiness and authenticity.

With a long-awaited debut album finally nearing completion – and featuring guest spots by a plethora of big names ranging from British ‘soundbwoy’ Stylo G through to Minneapolis rap queen, and PlanetNotion favourite, Lizzo – we caught up with the group to find out about shooting in abandoned Japanese hospitals, feeling legitimised by Basement Jaxx, and arming schoolchildren with Game Gears and cellos.

PlanetNotion: Congratulations for the Live Lounge session today; the Lorde cover sounded great. You chose to prelude it with ‘Walking in the Air’ from The Snowman. What was the idea behind that?
Grace Chatto: Thank you. Well, it’s actually the beginning of the verse melody to ‘Royals’ [begins to sing: “I’ve never seen a diamond in the rough.”]. It’s the same melody as, “we were walking in the air.” We were just rehearsing it so much that it kept reminding us of something and we were trying to work out what it was and then when we realised we thought we’d mash them up.

PN: Was it pretty nerve-wracking being live on Radio 1?
Jack Patterson: Yeah, I get really affected by it. I get so nervous. You suddenly hear the radio in your ears and then think, ‘ah, I hope I don’t mess this up live on the radio.’
GC: We’ve done it twice before now. We did a Justin Timberlake cover before and one of ‘Earthquake’ by Labrinth. It’s such an intense experience and the first time we did it we didn’t realise it went out actually live. We thought you got a couple of tries. It’s really kind of scary having that one three-minute take in which to do it, but it’s fun and exhilarating too.

PN: The video for ‘Rather Be’ was shot in Japan. How was your time out there? Did you get much of a chance to explore and see the sights?
JP: We saw a lot because we did loads of locations. One of the scariest was this boarded-off hospital that we rented for the afternoon.
GC: Yeah, that’s the scene at the end of the video where she goes mad in a mental hospital. It was actually a gynaecological hospital.
JP: It was literally like the most terrifying Japanese horror film that you’ve ever seen. We walked in and it was completely empty but they were pumping out classical music through all the walls.
GC: This really eerie – and very loud – choir music.
JP: And then we found out it was an abortion ward.

GC: There was quite a weird vibe in there but it was empty and so we had free reign in there. We had quite a bit of fun filming in the fish market in Tokyo, which was a really crazy, dangerous environment where there are fish carts zooming around at really high speeds and if you’re standing in the wrong place you’re done for.
JP: There’s a scene on a commuter train too where we took a load of extras and we got to the end of the line, looked out the window and saw that we were at the sea. That was a really nice moment. We took them all down to the beach and got them to dance, and that became the final scene in the video.
GC: We’d had this plan to film this dancing scene on the train and that in itself was quite difficult because we realised halfway through doing it that on trains in Japan it’s incredibly rude to make any noise, even just to answer your phone. Everyone speaks in hushed tones and we were there with a ghetto blaster, whacking out the dance moves. We kind of annoyed a few people, but most found it fun, I think.

PN: Is the track going to be on the new album? What can you tell us about the new record at this stage?
GC: Definitely. It’s pretty much finished and it’s got a lot of different singers featuring on different songs and they all come from completely different musical worlds. There’s one track with Stylo G and another with an American rapper called Lizzo from Minneapolis.

PN: Have you guys been doing much to pass the dreaded studio boredom?
GC: We’ve been gradually adding bodily sounds.
JP: Yeah, bodily samples like this [plays sound akin to a drop of water] wherever we can.
GC: That was actually made in Jack’s cheek.
JP: Heavy breathing too.

PN: That sounds a little unsettling…
JP: Yeah [laughs].
GC: It hasn’t really got boring yet, though. The fact that we have this freedom to call upon different voices for each track means that each song is so exciting – a new talent for every one.

PN: ‘Mozart’s House’ seemed to be the track that really broke you guys to a lot of people. Where did the “electronic music is boring” sample on there come from?
JP: I put that one as a kind of joke and it just stuck. It was me saying it into my phone back when that track was just an instrumental. It just never got taken off…

PN: Last month, you did a string of dates with Basement Jaxx. How was that? How did their fans take to you?
JP: It was amazing. Their show is so intense and it was great to see these tunes that I never really realised but were actually very important influences in my musical education. Hearing ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ was an incredibly emotional moment for the whole crowd. Felix came out from behind the decks and just screamed it. He was climbing up the rigging. It was such an amazing moment. Just to see that kind of outfit and to see how it operates is really inspiring for us as an instrumental group who work with loads of vocalists, because that’s kind of what their deal is. It legitimises what we’re doing.

GC: Their fans were really receptive as well. We didn’t know how they’d react because obviously our actual music is pretty different. They were lovely. It was quite possibly the best reaction we’ve had during support shows so far. We’d supported Bastille a few weeks before and that was really good as well but it was such a different vibe, because a lot of their fans are much younger. I think more people were aware of us already; there was a definite recognition when ‘Mozart’s House’ came on.

PN: I noticed going through your Twitter feed that one of you posted an article about 10 things you might not know about the Sega Game Gear. Who was that?
JP: [laughs] That was me.

PN: Did you always go for the Game Gear over the Gameboy when you were younger?
JP: I certainly did. Luke will kill me for this because he’s a complete Gameboy nut. I loved the Game Gear, but I was never actually allowed one. I had to play my friend Chris Longster’s Game Gear whenever I got the chance.
GC: We used the Game Gear in one of our videos, ‘Telephone Banking’.
JP: It features an army of Japanese children, each one armed with a Game Gear and a cello. There’s about 10,000 of them.
GC: That was really fun to make. We worked with about ten Japanese children who didn’t speak any English.
JP:… And we multiplied them with special effects.

PN: On a final note, where do you see 2014 taking you guys? I assume the album will be dropping this year?
GC: Yeah, pretty soon actually. We’re planning a headline tour for spring and we’re hoping to do a lot of festivals over the summer.

PN: I imagine your sets must go down pretty well at the summer festivals.
GC: It was fun last year. Reading and Leeds were amazing.
JP: I think they [the crowd] must have been pretty out of it as there was a lot of moshing.
GC: We’ve never had that anywhere else…

- Alex Cull

‘Rather Be’ is available now on Atlantic Records. You can buy it here.

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