Interview: Clean Bandit
Clean Bandit are that British trio comprised of people your parents wish you were more like, as do your mates. The members Grace Chatto and brothers Jack and Luke Patterson are well-educated, well versed in classical music, speak multiple languages and can play more instruments than you can name; and yet they are also irritatingly cool AF.
They’re behind those inescapable earworms that you sing on repeat until your co-workers throw a chair (mainly because you’re massacring what once was a decent song) and I was lucky enough to chat with Jack ahead of their upcoming tour of our east coast over the Aus Day weekend.
K: Hey Jack, how ya going?
J: I’m good thanks, how are you?
K: Pretty good thanks, it sounds like you guys are having a bit of a crazy night over in Tokyo!
J: Yeah, I mean I’ve had a bit of a horrible cold so I’ve been just tucked up in my hotel room for the last two days, not really moving. But I’m about to finally emerge.
K: Oh that sucks!
K: Well first of all, I wanted to congratulate you guys on your Brit award nominations!
J: Oh thank you!
K: You guys are managing to stay on top and are just putting out hit after hit. Is there pressure to top your last hit? I mean first you had ‘Rather Be’ and then you’ve arguably been able to top that with ‘Rockabye’. Are you now like, “Well shit – now we have to beat that as well!”?
J: (Laughs) Yeah kind of, we do get the occasional email saying, like, “Come on. Where’s the next hit?” from our record label. But it’s always been that – you know that pressure’s there for everyone and I think if you think about that, you’re not going to be able to work. So you just have to ignore it and kind of make the best music you can.
K: Your new track ‘I Miss You’ is copping plenty of spins down here. How do you guys pick artists to collaborate with, like how did that collab with Julia Michaels come about?
J: Well, we’re massive fans of Julia and we wanted to work with her for a long time, and so we had a day/writing session out in LA with her and just seeing her work and watching her process is just absolutely amazing. She’s just so talented. And so genuine, you know just hearing her, we were just really happy about that.
K: Did you guys approach her then?
J: I don’t know actually! I think we probably did.
K: (Laughs) Fair enough. Sort of came about maybe as a coincidence then I guess?
K: You guys have definitely got to start looking at picking an Aussie artist next – we’ve got the goods down here for yas!
J: Yeah for sure! Um, who would you recommend?
K: Oh mate, there’s so many! But perhaps someone like Vera Blue, or maybe Alex Lahey might be keen! We’ve got some talent down here!
J: I’ll have to check them out.
K: Definitely. The video for ‘I Miss You’ is a different sort of a film clip. It’s kind of ‘Seven Nation Army’ (The White Stripes) mixed with ‘Wish You Well’ by Bernard Fanning – who’s another great Aussie artist BTW – but with a dash of hoola hooping and fire twirling! Did Grace have to learn how to fire twirl just for the clip or is that a hobby of hers? Or is it CGI? (Laughs).
J: (Laughs) No CGI! I don’t know if she can actually do it. We were filming the first part of the video – half of it was shot in LA and half of it was shot in East London – and Julia just mentioned that she could do this hoola hoop stuff, and so we just did it right at the end of the day and just filmed her and it ended up looking really good and so Grace was like, “Shit. Well what can I do?” and got her poi out. I think she’s done poi before but she’s never done fire poi. Yeah it was really dangerous, she actually almost set her hair on fire doing it. Because when she first did it, she just smacked herself in the head with a burning poi, and singed a few hairs.
K: Oh my god! I have heard that you guys have nearly killed people on the sets of your videos, most prominently Lily Cole – can you tell us about that?
J: Yeah, that was one of our early videos for a song called ‘UK Shanty’ and we somehow managed to blag* Lily Cole in the video and basically we filmed it in our friend’s swimming pool but it wasn’t heated. It was a very weird shoot and very kind of haphazard but yeah, the pool at one point almost was… well it was live with electricity. It had like 240 volts running through it and we realised and yeah it was just very silly.
K: But it made for a good video anyway.
J: It made for a good video, yeah.
K: I believe that yourself and Luke made the video for ‘I Miss You’ didn’t you? You guys kind of started out with a focus on the video-clips, would it be fair to say more so than the music itself?
J: Yeah to begin with for sure. Some of our earlier videos we kind of had the concept for the video before the song was almost finished and we’d be finishing the song after the video was done and really just focusing on the visuals. It’s still the case, we still love doing that, and it’s why we’re quite slow at putting music out because as soon as we finish a song we start thinking about the video and I think because we’re moving back and forth between those two disciplines it slows the process down quite a lot because you get into the rhythm of working in the studio making music and then suddenly you’re out having to think about frame rates and you know, um, green screens and CGI and all this stuff and trying to get in those two different head spaces. It’s quite difficult, like it’s too much fun.
K: And it’s quite rare these days, I think that that much effort gets placed on the music videos. It used to be quite a big part of a release of a single but now it seems to be an afterthought with these lyric videos being released before anything real comes out. So it’s quite refreshing to see that you guys are still putting emphasis on that medium.
J: Yeah, it’s true. It makes it even more difficult for us, because it’s still really important but I think there is less of a priority. I think for other artists you could have the concept for the video being kind of semi finalised or you could have directors with this bank of potential ideas that could potentially suit a lot of different songs. But for us we can only start thinking about it once a song’s finished and it’s quite a difficult process. Because the label will be like, “OK cool the song’s finished now, we’re happy. Now you have like, a month to make the video.” And it’s always like a really stressful time (laughs).
K: And then it’s MAYHEM! (laughs)
Now you guys are about to tour down here. Can you please try to sell me/the readers a ticket? Like if I had to choose between going to see a Clean Bandit show and some other awesome gig happening on the same night, what would you guys bring to the stage that I really shouldn’t miss?
J: Like our singers are just the best you’ll ever hear. They’re so good. We tour with these two vocalists, ‘Kirsten’ and ‘Yas’. Kirsten Joy and Yasmin Green. They’re like two of the best singers I’ve ever heard live and they do an amazing job.
K: Awesome! And you guys bring strings up there as well?
J: We bring the strings! Yeah I play electric sax and that’s really cool, so you’ll get to see that.
K: What was that? Electric saxophone?
K: Oh my god I have no idea what that would be but that’s definitely a seller!
J: (Laughs) Well you should come and see it and then you’ll find out!
K: Ok, now I have a quick six questions for ya, just answer quick, short answers ok?
1: Name a song or band that everyone loves but you just can’t get into.
2: Who’s side are you on, Noel or Liam Gallagher?
3: What’s the best perk you’ve received from being famous?
Umm, lots of free headphones.
4: Have you ever been star-struck?
Yes. When I met Janelle Monáe.
5: Were your parents angry when you guys dropped out of school to follow music?
(Laughs) No because we didn’t. But no, they’re very supportive.
6: What’s the dumbest thing you and Luke or maybe even you and Grace have argued about?
Oh everything! We’re constantly arguing about stupid stuff.
Laughs – Brilliant.
Well thank you so much for your time today Jack. Hopefully you get better!
Thank you, cheers, bye.
*According to Wiktionary – the word ‘Blag’ is a noun (although Jack has used it as a verb in this case) in British slang meaning, “A means of obtaining something by trick of deception.”
As mentioned above, Clean Bandit are touring our way next weekend.
Here are the dates/locations and where you can pick up tickets:
Thurs 25th January – Eatons Hill, Brisbane [18+].
Fri 26th January – Metro Theatre, Sydney.
Sat 27th January – Trak Lounge, Melbourne.
Don’t miss out on that electric sax! Grab your tickets here: https://www.frontiertouring.com/cleanbandit