Clean Bandit has been pushing the boundaries for years, making electrifying hits with their combination of electronic beats and classical sounds. Years ago, the band’s single “Rather Be” blew them out of the water, and it has been nothing but success since then. With a second album coming out before the end of the year, we spoke with Clean Bandit’s cellist, Grace Chatto, about the process that goes behind the creation of the band’s biggest hits in our Summer 2018 issue.
We often focus on the mundanity of everyday life and shift from that into a dream world and fantasy state.
You all quite obviously have a different sound than most out in the industry right now. How do you all effectively balance pushing yourselves, keeping true to your roots, but also appealing to such a large audience?
I guess we try not to think about either of those things. All of our roots are different. Jack comes from a large jazz background. Luke plays a lot of rock. I have a classical background, and I have always loved dance music all my life. All those roots come together naturally in this indescribable mix when you make the music. In terms of appealing to a mass audience, the first time I heard Jack’s music he had written, I knew it would have a mass appeal. We played a club night in Cambridge and the reactions to the songs he had written were electrifying. Now we don’t think about how it will affect people because that can have a negative effect. We try to make stuff we like.
In the press release I received, it talks about ensuring all songs have a solid foundation, like what you find on sheet music. Going a little deeper into this, give us a peek into your writing process and song creation.
We try to change our writing process for the second album. For the first album, we produced all the music as we went. In our song “Rather Be” in that melody of the violins, it was written on the same synth you hear on the final production. Now, we try to write piano and voice early. That way, you can get a feel for the song as a song without any frills. We tried to do that, but oftentimes, ideas would come immediately about how the drums should sound and things like that. We use a lot of synths in our songs. And of course violins and cellos, we often call upon those instruments.
There’s a great representation of classical music in your sound, an element that has been lost in much of what we listen to today. Why do you think it’s so important to keep classical composers alive in the music industry?
I think all pop music comes from people like Bach anyway. All of the chord progressions we hear in pop music, or even dance music, originated in classical music. It’s not that it is important to keep those composers alive, they are so much alive automatically in popular music. I think acknowledging that and trying not to think as classical music as separate from [other music]. Mozart’s music was the pop music of his time and therefore can have just as much mass appeal as a Katy Perry song. When it we started out, we wanted to mix the two. We’d write bass lines and beats around snippets of Beethoven and Mozart quartets. It’s interesting to see the simplicity of how that can actually work.
You all have collaborated with such a large spectrum of vocalists. How do they usually come about? Do you reach out, they reach out to you, etc?
Usually we write the song and then think, “Who would sound good writing this?” The last thing we wrote together was “I Miss You” with Julia Michaels, and she was going to sing that from the beginning. We reached out to her because we love all the songs she has written. Everything she has written is simple, relatable, and genius. We were desperate to work with her. The song “I Miss You” was written in 45 minutes. It was so easy and quick. Most of our songs we finish and think about who is going to sing it. Sean Paul is a person we had wanted to work with for six months. We had gone to a show of his in London, got backstage, and gave a CD of ours to him with demos on it. We waited and then he finally got in touch with us about doing some writing for his album. While we were doing that, we played him “Rockabye” and he immediately kind of just jumped over on it.
Are there any vocalists you’re still burning to work with?
Yeah, Lana Del Rey and Rihanna are the top of my list.
When creating your music videos, what are key elements you always like to have?
We often focus on the mundanity of everyday life and shift from that into a dream world and fantasy state. Our video “Dust Clears” is our best video I think. It’s most representative of what we try to do, juxtaposing fantasy and reality. We also really love transportation; modes of transportation tend to be in our videos. They always get weirder and weirder. In our video for “A&E”, Jack made a massive snake from 3D modeling on his computer. They made it into this train, and Jack and Luke were driving the train. We often have trains, skateboards, ice skating, and a lot of movement.
What kinds of things can we be excited about for the future from you all?
I think with this second album, a lot of the songs have the same tempo and feel as “Rockabye” and “Symphony.” There’s some reggae beats and dancehall beats that are intertwined with pop and female vocals. In the song with Demi Lovato, we experimented with violins and cellos. We recorded the violins really slow and sped them up. It gives this cool sound. We took the inspiration from Britney Spears’s “Toxic.” That’s how they did it, and they actually did it by mistake. They accidentally sped it up but thought it sounded amazing.
For those trying to find their own place in the world, what sort of advice do you have?
I think if you want to make it, you have to prepared to work all the time. Don’t be put off when people don’t like the stuff you do. There’s always going to be people who don’t. That’s part of any art.
If there’s one thing you want to communicate to listeners with your music, what is it?
We want to communicate joy above everything else.
STORY ELIZABETH STAFFORD
PHOTOS BARTEK SZMIGULSKI for ROLLING STONE ITALIA/LUISAVIAROMA
Read more in Volume III, Issue No. 003 – Summer 2018.