Interview with Clean Bandit
Exposed meets Clean Bandit.
Cambridge collective, Clean Bandit, have been riding a wave of success since debut single Rather Be dropped itself on an unsuspecting British public – going straight to the top spot and causing massive ripples across the UK music scene.
Their success was all the sweeter given the fact that many labels initially refused to sign them on the basis they thought they were a ‘joke band’ – after all, what numpty fuses dance music with classical instruments? Humble pie all round, please.
Hitting the UK this month on the back of a massive US tour, including a date here at the O2 Academy, we collared stringsman Neil for a natter to find out how it all went so right.
Neil – you’ve lost your band, what’s the craic..?
Hello… and I know! Currently everyone else is in Germany working hard, drinking beer and eating schnitzel – but I’ve lost my passport so I'm kicking my heels, trying not to think about all the fun they’re having without me.
Well, your loss is our gain. Cheers for chatting to us as I know you guys are super busy these days. Your debut album, New Eyes, is out now – has it all sunk in yet?
I can’t believe the album’s been out for two months already – this year’s been such a whirlwind. We’ve been so lucky that we’ve managed to get our music across to so many people. I think people should go into the album with a totally open mind – it was our chance to properly express our crazy brains within 45 minutes of music. Jack (bass, vocals, keys) is our main creative force, and he’s into so many different genres of music that they were all going to make their way onto the record somehow. Grace and I have always been into classical music – we met at a youth Orchestra when we were very young – so listeners can certainly expect to hear a big influence from us too. Also, the tracks on the album have been written over a long period of time – from 5 years ago with Telephone Banking to tracks written 2 months before we finished recording.
We’re obviously thrilled that you’re going to be coming to Sheffield in October. Are you familiar with the city?
Only a little. We've DJd a few times at The Tuesday club – and both times were immense. We’ve played so many cities in the UK now, but now we’re actually headlining, and we have a tour bus – it means we get to properly explore the cities without having to wait for the headline band to soundcheck! I can’t wait to have a proper wander around Sheffield this time – any recommendations are welcome!
We’ll give you the grand tour! What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
Probably playing on the main stage at Bestival this summer. We’ve played SO many festivals this summer, it’s been a total blast. Glastonbury definitely comes a close second though – the crowd was so huge – and everyone partied along with us at about 5 in the afternoon. Hearing that many people sing your songs back at you is such a special feeling. Bestival was amazing, especially with everyone dressed up. The perfect way to end the summer.
Some people are claiming you’ve changed the face of dance music – would you agree?
I’m not sure I would… but it's very nice that people are saying so! There are so many incredible acts coming through the UK dance scene right now – I feel really privileged to even be said in the same breath as many of them. We’ve been working for so many years with people like Gorgon City – so to see them rising up the charts is amazing. I’m also loving seeing people we’ve worked with, or know well, doing so well right now. Big props to Jess Glynne and MNEK making their way to the top!
You’re keen Instagrammers – a recent favourite of ours was the photograph entitled ‘Dragonfly On Arse’. Maybe you’re changing the face of Instagram too?
Changing the whole WORLD – one medium at a time (laughs)! Being serious though, I love Instagram. Such an easy way to ‘talk’ to people – especially when you’re the other side of the world. I much prefer it to Twitter since I always worry I’m going to say the wrong thing (plus you can make things look pretty on Instagram)!
You’re also renowned for creating very unusual music videos. Where did your inspiration come from for the ‘Rather Be’ video?
Everyone in the band, apart from me, went on a holiday to Japan a few years ago and met this amazing sushi chef – he became the inspiration for the main character in the video. Jack always comes up with these crazy ideas for videos – they tend to start off as a joke but then evolve into an actual idea. Japan is such an amazing place, we couldn’t really turn down the chance to film there. We went over with a plan for the video… but kinda got side tracked along the way! We filmed the train scene along one line going out of Tokyo – and when we reached the end of the line we came across a beach. That beach turned into a big part of the video, with us and some local extras dancing up a storm on the sand.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have associated bandits at first with good personal hygiene. Do you think a clean bandit would be a more successful bandit?
Always. Especially when we’re on tour, nobody wants a bunch of smelly bandits on stage!
If you were bandits (although we’re not counting out the possibility you may be), what would you steal?
I can never have enough ear plugs on the tour bus – these guys snore like nothing else! I spend my time with headphones on watching movies, trying to block out their crazy snoring… especially Grace – I’m kidding!
What about your single, Mozart’s House – what would you expect to find in Mozart’s cupboard under the stairs? We’re assuming you did your research…
It would probably be pretty bare. He seemed like quite a frugal chap, so I can’t imagine he’d have much clutter under there!
Finally then, what else is on the horizon for you guys?
Following a huge US tour, we’ll be back in the UK for 15 dates -which will be amazing. I can’t wait to play London’s Brixton Academy – it’s such an iconic venue to us, I’m nervous just thinking about it! We’re also going to start thinking about album #2 – we’re writing all the time, so it’ll be great to get back into the studio to start putting everything together. Make sure you come and see us when we hit Sheffield, yeah?
Catch Clean Bandit at the 02 Academy on October 18, see www.o2academysheffield.co.uk for more.
Real Love is out on Nov 16th through Atlantic Records (available to pre-order here – smarturl.it/real.love) and will be included in the New Eyes: Special Edition re-release of Clean Bandit’s debut album, out 24th November. Listen to Real Love on soundcloud here.