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Clean Bandit

Grace Chatto

Issue 11 | Headliner

Grace Chatto is one fourth of Grammy-winning UK electronic group, Clean Bandit. Fresh from another stonking set at Glastonbury, the cellist reflects on the band’s beginnings, last year’s mega-hit, Rather Be, and picks out her favourite classical compositions.

ELO obviously were able to do it with Pop/Rock, but Clean Bandit are the only band I can think of that have successfully fused classical music and dance/electronica in a cool way... Was that always the idea, from day one, and what took you down
that route?
Oh, I love ELO a lot - and I had the pleasure of meeting some of them recently in an airport! [smiles] Anyway... We started out as a classical string quartet, performing music by Shostakovich, Mozart, and Dvorak amongst others. Jack then began adding electronic elements to recordings he’d made of the concerts, and then we got various friends to come up with vocal lines over these instrumental ideas and sing with us. That’s how it all evolved, really.

Considering your instruments of choice, your influences as a band must be pretty wide and varied - can you share a few with us?
Sure. Anything as far and wide as Radiohead, Nirvana, John Coltrane, Man Like Me, Drake, and even the Spice Girls!

Collaboration seems to be pretty key to you guys - and it clearly works, when you look at Jess Glynne in particular, and other guest vocalists such as Kandaka Moore and Nikki Cislyn. Is it to add that extra dynamic to the music, and keep things fresh?
Yes, definitely. It gives us a huge and exciting freedom to be able to work with different voices, almost as thought they are different instruments, in fact.

Congratulations on the recent Grammy for Best Dance Recording; an amazing achievement, and also a big thumbs up to your production. How involved are you all in the making of the records, and what’s your process in the studio?
We pretty much record and produce everything ourselves. A lot of the album was recorded in my bedroom, and a studio we built in a portacabin as part of a community project. Jack has always been into recording, and began producing electronic music when we started the band some seven years ago.

Do you have a preparation routine before shows?
To be honest, we don’t really do much preparation! It’s often a shock when we are suddenly on stage, and a lot of the time, after a long journey. Luke sometimes drums on his knees for a while, but the rest of us tend to just go in cold!

Last year, Rather Be was second only to Pharrell’s Happy in terms of sales in the UK, at over 1.1 million, and was the fastest selling single in nigh on 20 years. What is it about that track that the public were so drawn to?
It’s very hard to say! I think there are a lot of hooks in the song, and there is an element of melancholy that can be heard alongside the happiness in the music. Perhaps this is what draws people in?

Last year, Glastonbury was arguably your biggest live show to date, and you rocked it again this time round. How exactly does it feel to be received like that at such a
major festival?
Yeah, we’ve played at Glastonbury for the last three years, and it’s been incredible every time. I enjoyed this year so much: one of our best gigs ever, I think. We were all very relaxed for some reason, and had a great time. It means a lot to be received like that, it’s a huge honour.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened on a Clean Bandit stage?
Once, Neil felt ill, and I looked at him, and he was gesturing that he was about to throw up, and asking where he should do it! I think he almost did it into his coat or a cello case, but managed to run off stage just in time! [laughs]

And finally, what’s the one musical moment you’ll never forget?
There are loads I’ll never forget, so I’m not sure which to mention... Maybe when I first heard Schubert’s String Quintet when I was little. That was a major musical moment, for sure.