Open to music<br>in all its forms
Clean Bandit’s first single, A+E, spent one week at Number 100 at the back end of 2012, then it disappeared. Not a starting point that obviously heralded the arrival of the UK’s most exciting new pop band but flashforward to 2019 and here they are, with as many Number Ones as your average Now That’s What I Call Music compilation and, to be fair, nearly as many guest vocalists.
One of the world’s most-streamed bands, Clean Bandit (Grace Chatto, Jack Patterson and Luke Patterson) are a Grammy and Ivor Novello-winning, multi-platinum-selling phenomenon with international success across Europe, the US and beyond, matched by UK success so extreme that they’ve scooped ‘Best Single’ nominations at the Brits in four separate years. They’ve landed four Number 1 singles in the UK, accumulated over 10 billion global streams and their past seven releases have all reached the UK Top 10.
“I don’t think any of us anticipated what would happen,” Jack admits, when he thinks back to the band’s early days as students in Cambridge. “Although I do sometimes wonder if Grace has been secretly plotting since the beginning.” Grace’s version of events is that from the moment she heard the way Jack had been manipulating classical music — they shared a house at uni, so it was hard to keep these things secret — she always thought it might have mass appeal.
Our string quartet would rehearse in the house and he’d (Jack) record stuff: random bits from Dvořák or Shostakovich. Then he’d write beats around that. It was so unexpected — he’d loop, add basslines and melodies, and make something totally new. I thought he was a genius.Grace Chatto (Clean Bandit)
A loose collective started to form around what Jack, Grace and Luke were doing. Before long they’d started their own club night, National Rail Disco, at the local Cambar — quite literally a bar in Cambridge — which hosted Clean Bandit’s debut performance, as well as guest DJs like James Blake.
"When we performed we could feel everyone enjoying it - Grace remembers -Even from the beginning it felt really exciting". Word of mouth bookings followed, from a sunset performance at the opening night of Frank’s Bar in Peckham to the first festival booking of many, at the Secret Garden Party. Gradually the group of musicians, film makers and creatives began to naturally condense down from ten members to eight, five, then four…
Now in 2019 Clean Bandit is a trio made up of an ex-couple and two brothers, but that early collective mentality is part of the band’s DNA. Whether it’s the regular team that helps bring to life the videos Clean Bandit continue to conceive and direct themselves, or the band’s carefully curated selection of co-writers and producers, or the vocalists who are one by one absorbed into the band’s world, Clean Bandit thrive on being a true collaborative endeavor, with the three musicians at the core conjuring a truly unique pop proposition.
Outside the band’s own work, Jack’s songwriting has seen him bag two Ivor Novello’s; Luke’s work remixing artists like Halsey, Flume, The Weeknd and Rudimental further extends the band’s reach through the pop world; while Grace has become one of the Labour party’s most staunch public supporters over recent years.
In an era when pop is often predictable to the point of sometimes being mundane, Clean Bandit have established themselves as one of the planet’s most essential bands.
Clean Bandit’s newest recordings, which will sit alongside hit singles Solo, I Miss You, Tears and Rockabye on the latest album ‘What is love’, showcase a pop band hitting its stride. Among other things, you’ll hear ‘Playboy Style’, in which Charli XCX and Bhad Bhabie sing about falling in love with, in Jack’s words, “an arsehole”; then there’s ‘We Were Just Kids’, which finds the protagonist reminiscing on her childhood and realising just how much how her older brother had always looked out for her; and ‘Out at Night’, about two characters — one male, the other female — who are only able to express their true selves after they’ve clocked off from their day jobs.
One pivotal song is ‘Nowhere’ (“why do I follow you when you lead me nowhere?”), an Ace Of Base-inspired, track featuring Rita Ora and KYLE about US politics which Grace says is “about being lied to by political leaders. It asks why we follow when we know we’re being lied to. We wanted to make a political song that sounded enough like a rave-up love song to get on the radio — but you can’t not notice what the song’s really about.”
One of the band’s other favourite songs is ‘Baby’, which was co-written with Camille Purcell (Little Mix, Jess Glynne), Jason Evigan (Madonna) and Marina Diamandis, who provides vocals. It’s a Cuban-influenced thunderer that Jack describes as being “the Latin ‘Rather Be’”: “It’s about reminiscing about your teenage years when you met a guy and it didn’t happen, and now years later you meet him again on the dancefloor at a wedding. But it’s too late. You’re already someone else’s baby.”
Consider Baby’s instantly classic tale of dancefloor heartbreak alongside the social commentary of ‘Nowhere’, and the daily struggle of the single mother in ‘Rockabye’, and the way Symphony’s video paired an ostensibly happy song with a devastatingly beautiful film about grief, and it’s clear that Clean Bandit have hit on a formula for marrying upbeat megabops with lyrics that pack a huge emotional punch.
Which is just as well because the second Clean Bandit album contains precisely zero ballads. “We keep trying to do one,” Jack laughs. “Lots of the songs start off as ballads. We think a ballad’s going to happen. And then…” Well, the next thing they know, as was the case with ‘Tears’, the ballad has turned into a 130bpm epic with a trap drop chucked in for good measure.
Behind the scenes, though, the band’s approach to writing has seen a big shift since the sessions that ended up forming New Eyes. “With the first album the production was so layered that when we came to recreate songs in a stripped back situation, or as part of our live show, we didn’t know how to do it,” Jack recalls. “So a lot of the writing for this album has started with us going: right, this is going to be a SONG. And we’ll start at the piano. And that will be the genesis of whatever comes next.”
Whatever comes next for the band, meanwhile, is impossible to predict — after all, this is a group whose new album puts Bhad Bhabie alongside Ellie Goulding. It’s also a group who’ve gone from Number 100 with their first single to Now 100 with their most recent one: a smart, creative and brilliantly idiosyncratic pop journey that’s really only just beginning.
Clean Bandit Discography
New Eyes (2014)
What is love (2018)