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Clean Bandit: An Extraordinary Interview

clean bandit_ april 2014_ 1

There’s this terrible misconception about classical music that it’s wildly different to any other type of music and you need this massive base of knowledge before you can understand it. That’s wrong…

Clean Bandit cook up a truly unique fusion. All scholarly-trained musicians, they’ve successfully balanced their love for classical orchestration with dancefloor music in a way that no other act has dared to do.

With roots that trace back to the hit-maker-machine Black Butter, and even further back as a classical quartet, this year they enjoyed an impressive month-long stay at number with the Jesse Glynne-fronted Rather Be. They’re following it up this week with the equally big Extraordinary which could well see the band smash the top spot once again.

We caught up with Neil, the band’s violin player, to see if there was any pressure following up the massive Rather Be and to ask: What’s the most extraordinary thing that’s ever happened to Clean Bandit? (We weren’t disappointed with his answer!)

You’re in the middle of a massive tour, right? How’s it all going?

Yeah. There have been one or two hairy moments but it’s going really well!

Hairy moments? 

Just some tweaks to the live set-up. Some new things we’ve been didn’t go down as well as we’d wanted them to so we’ve had to change our set-up a bit. It’s all good now though.

Nothing good ever starts off as perfect! Your set-up is a bit more complex because of the live instruments, right?

Yes, the cello has been impossible! It has such a big microphone, which has caused crazy feedback so we’ve switched to an electric one.

Wouldn’t that have been a logical decision back when you first started doing live shows?

Hmmmm… Yeah. But the sound of an electric one compared to a nice big wooden instrument just doesn’t compare. But it’s a necessary decision.

Soundchecks must have been a nightmare!

Sure. Especially playing at festivals or doing support slots. It really was a nightmare.

So is tour life conducive to songwriting for you guys? Or do you put that type of creativity on hold while on the road?

Well it’s on hold for now as we’ve finished our album – New Eyes – which is out next month. It’s been great so we can focus fully on the live stuff.

Extraordinary is a nice way to build up to that. Are you feeling the Sigma remix?

We love it! We’ve never had a drum & bass remix of our singles and it’s cool to hear it. Extraordinary isn’t a massive club track so to hear Sigma give it a proper dancefloor feel is really exciting.

Very. So tell me… What’s the most extraordinary thing that’s happened to you guys so far?

Ha! The first time we were booked to play at a certain festival we thought we had a full show to play… But it turned out they only wanted us to play the Blind Date theme tune for some real life blind dates they were hooking up.

Really?

Yes. And we didn’t know this. We’d rehearsed loads and got so excited about it.

Oh man. So did they give you a slot at the following year’s festival? Have you forgiven them?

We’ve just about forgiven them. The next year, five minutes before we went on stage, the plug was pulled on our set.

What?

The headliner demanded that no other stage played while they did. So we couldn’t play. We ARE playing this year though, and we’re still really excited about it.

Good to hear. Going back to Blind Date… Are you even old enough to remember the TV show?

Not really. One of the band knew it and we kind of worked our way around it. A very weird time in our history as a band!

I bet. So Extraordinary is out this week. It follows Rather Be which was at number one for four weeks – quite a feat as most tracks seem to fly into number and fly back out again… Any pressure on this?

You’d think so but we’d already written the whole album before Rather Be happened. So there was no pressure during the whole songwriting process. It would have been a different situation if this hadn’t been the case! I think there’s some big expectations on Extraordinary but for us we can’t replicate the success of Rather Be because that was a unique moment for us so we can’t think about it in that way…

That’s cool. Let’s chat about the classical aspect of your songwriting… I’m a total noob on classical but would like to know more. Where the devil should I start?

It’s a weird one. I wouldn’t ever want to point at any one particular composer. There’s this terrible misconception about classical music that it’s wildly different to any other type of music and you need this massive base of knowledge before you can understand it. That’s wrong… Just listen to anything in the same way you would with other genres. I might want to listen to a Metallica album this afternoon without having listened to their work before. I’ll take from it what I want to take from it and won’t be concerned that I’ve not listened to Metallica or much heavy metal before. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t… Move on and find something you do like!

Wise words. Would you agree with the idea that classical music was the dance music of its time?

Definitely! It was the pop music of its time. Huge rowdy crowds would gather and enjoy it and shout all the way through. Just like we do at live shows and festivals now!

Nice. So if you could go back in time and hang out with any composers who would they be… And why?

Bach or Beethoven. Bach’s music is so simple and beautiful. It’s very pure and clean so I’d love to understand more about how he approached that and what influenced him. And Beethoven was just a massive genius. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with him for a while?

Extraordinary is available now.