Clean Bandit Talk Their Grammy Win, Going On Tour & ’90s House Music: Idolator Interview

Bianca Gracie | March 31, 2015 6:30 am
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Watch their joint performance at the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Awards.

Clean Bandit made waves early last year, thanks to their breakout international smash — “Rather Be.” Since then, the UK classical-pop group have been releasing solid tunes that are loved worldwide. They are now in the midst of their second U.S. Spring tour!

During our trip at 2015’s SXSW, we caught up with band members Neil Amin-Smith and Grace Chatto about favorite onstage experiences, covering ’90s house music and their first Grammy win. Read on to see what they had to say in our fun conversation below!

Congratulations on your Grammy win! What was your reaction when you won the award?
GRACE CHATTO: We were very surprised! Once we got on the stage, it became quite emotional because we had to thank so many people who have been with this project since we started years ago. [The win] felt like a big ending to that. There were loads of parties afterwards — it was quite a long day!

Cool! Which parties did you go to, if you can remember?
GC: We went to the Warner after party, and we were DJ’ing there. That was at the Chateau Marmont, which was fun. There were lots of off shoots at that party, like Mark Ronson had a smaller party in his room that got shut down by the fire brigade in the end because there were so many people in there. Then we went to Charli XCX’s room, and that got shut down as well. After we went to Sam Smith’s party up in the hills, which was a massive party. Diplo and Disclosure were DJ’ing there all night.

On your New Eyes album, there are a lot of collaborations with UK artists. Was that important for you to include local artists?
NEIL AMIN-SMITH: That’s just really how it happened! A lot of those artists were just people that we met without even looking for someone to work with. Like Jack [Patterson] saw Eliza Shaddad busking down the street and that’s how we ended up doing two track with her. So it was more of the fact that we were in the UK than being a deliberate decision.
GC: And we hadn’t met anyone from the US at that point.

So who would you like to work with in the future? Are there any US artists you have in mind?
GC: Rihanna!
NS: For me its Frank Ocean, or Kelly Clarkson.

You have collaborated with Jimmy Napes for a lot of your music, and he recently dropped his own solo EP. Did you take a listen?
GC: Yes! He’s a great musician and has a lovely voice. We’ve actually written loads of stuff with them, which are unreleased. Sometimes he or Jack sings on our demos. I actually hope the more music he writes, the more people can hear his real voice. I know he’s interested in auto-tune a lot and that’s a really cool sound; we use it as an instrument as well. But he does have a naturally powerful voice.

Let’s talk the “Stronger” video! It’s such a feel-good video and it looked like a lot of fun to shoot. What was your experience like on set?
NS: Well actually it was quite weird for us, because we usually go on location for a week to make a video. We shot this one in like two days, so it was really different and much more professional.
GC: We had a lot of people involved! Usually we just make it with the four of us and a few of our friends. With “Rather Be” we went to Toyko and filmed crazy stuff and tried to get people to be in the video. At that point we had no money, so we basically just did everything ourselves. For this one, because of all the lights and the special mode of filming with the phones, we had loads of technical people operating that — which was a new thing for us.

One of my favorite songs from you is actually the cover of Robin S.’ “Show Me Love!” Why did you choose that tune in particular?
NS: It was partly due to the singer who we work with live, Elizabeth Troy. She has a classic diva voice and uses it for her soundcheck sometimes, and its a song we’ve always loved. I have a memory of me, Grace and Jack when we were at a festival in the UK around 2010 where we tried to compete over who could sing that synth line the most accurately! So it just seemed like it would be a fun thing to do for us. To play the synths with the strings came quite natural, and it’s such a crowd pleaser to put in our live shows as well.
GC: Yea we never really intended to record it — it was more for the live shows. But people love it so much!

Are there any other house songs from the ’90s that you’d want to tackle?
NS: I don’t think there are any ’90s house songs we wouldn’t tackle, they’re all great! I want to do “Let Me Be Your Fantasy” [by Baby D] or Strike’s “U Sure Do” — that’s one of my favorites.

“Rather Be” was a mega-hit and blew up everywhere! A lot of people actually covered the song like Seinabo Sey, The 1975 and Pentatonix.
NS: Yea we want to hear the Seinabo Sey one, I really love her voice!

Is there anyone else that you’d want to cover the song?
NS: I would like to hear a cover from a male voice. Someone with a completely different voice to Jess’ [Glynne] would be cool.
GC: Originally we wanted Sam Smith to sing it, but he wasn’t around at the time. But that would be wonderful.
NS: That version might have been a bit tearful! [laughs]

Speaking of Jess Glynne, how has your experience been working with her?
GC: We’ve done two tracks and it’s been an amazing transformation. With the first one, “Rather Be,” she has only recorded one song ever in her life. She had this incredible voice but channeling it was a different thing. It was quite challenging in the studio, but seven months later we recorded “Real Love” and it’s been such a massive transformation in her singing. It’s so amazing to see!

I know you are the midst of your Spring tour in the U.S., what are your current feelings on it? Are you more excited or nervous?
NS: We find American audiences to be a lot easier actually! They’re much warmer and more intense. We’ve always found it to be that way, without exception.
GC: So we’re quite excited, because we just wrapped up a tour in the UK. We just know the crowds are going to be warm before we even walk out, so we don’t have to be scared at all.

Were there any moments from the UK tour that you will never forget?
NS: It was quite an unforgettable tour all around! We played such massive venues. The last London stop was at Ally Pally (Alexandra Palace), which was near where Grace and I grew up. It has 10,000 capacity, and for us that was so insane! It was an unbelievable experience.
GC: And our parents could just walk there from their houses, which was nice! We also played at Cambridge University, which is where we went to school. That was really amazing because lots of our professors came and students know us as having studied there.

You guys are relatively new to the industry but are now propelling into the mainstream. So where do you see yourself in five years?
GC: We don’t think that far ahead, but we’d love to be just playing bigger gigs. We want to do more with the classical side of what we do. So like playing in venues like the Albert Hall in London or Carnegie Hall in New York, where we start with a classical performance then gradually bring in the drums and turn it into a dance rave event by the end!

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