The plenitude of playfully sophisticated U.K. dance-pop shows no signs of diminishing. An unassuming group of Cambridge students, Clean Bandit started out as a string quartet, but bassist/keyboardist/producer Jack Patterson kept adding beats to their classical pieces on the sly. Before long, the foursome – violinist/singer Grace Chatto, drummer Luke Patterson (Jack’s brother) and violinist/DJ Neil Amin-Smith – had been transformed, boasting tracks that possessed the most breathless, glimmering, 2-steppin’ elan this side of Disclosure (with whom they toured). An endorsement followed from Rudimental, who signed Clean Bandit to their label Black Butter.
The group’s artfully exultant single, “Rather Be” featuring Jess Glynne, spent four weeks at Number One in the U.K. and has more than 31 million YouTube hits. Debut album New Eyes will be released on June 17th in the U.S. on Big Beat/Atlantic, accompanied by shows in Los Angeles and Brooklyn.
Today, we’re premiering Cash Cash x Valley’s remix of Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be,” and we chatted briefly with Clean Bandit violinist/DJ Neil Amin-Smith about the evolution of the group.
I know the name Clean Bandit comes from a specific Russian phrase (loosely, “naughty rascal”), but do you think it also sort of applies to your music being mischievous in its unlikely genre mixing?
We never intended it to, but I guess it does, in the way that people see the two types of music we’ve combined – classical music as a stuffy thing and then dance music is not like that. We don’t see the two being different, though, they’re just two types of music that make you feel emotions.
What do you think electronic dance music bring to classical music and vice versa?
Dance music brings classical to the ears of the new generation, since a lot of younger people don’t really listen to it. Hopefully, our music will encourage some people to do that. We’ve actually stopped using classical samples, but we still use classical instruments, like acoustic violin and cello. Those instruments produce a kind of depth and richness of sound that no synths can replicate.
Was their other music that inspired the addition of dance beats to the string quartet?
I think our original string quartet music inspired us. Grace and I were playing a lot of concerts and Jack was recording our concerts, and we started playing around with those recordings, so I’d say Shostakovich and the sounds of Mozart were what inspired us to mix the two.
How have Disclosure and Rudimental influenced the group?
Indirectly, we’ve taken a lot from the British dance-music scene at the moment, especially Disclosure and Rudimental. It’s opened our eyes to a big side of dance music we were not aware of, like the bass-y house sound. People like Gorgon City who have done a remix of our song “Nightingale.” Also, Disclosure and Rudimental don’t have singers and that made us more confident that this was a valid, plausible thing to do. It’s such a big part of what we do to bring on different singers to every song and brings totally different styles to every song.
Why did you put that quote (“Some people think electronic music is boring…”) at the beginning of the song “Mozart’s House”?
That just started out as a joke, but at the same time it is something we do believe, so it became almost like a manifesto. With a lot electronic music to modern classical music, repetition can create beauty.
What is classical music’s greatest moment in pop music?
Back in the day, when Mozart was working, classical music was pop music and that was the height of it because the songs were written for the mass of people to be considered his primary audience.
What was your greatest fear when you moved in a dance-music direction?
We didn’t have any fears because the first-ever gig was mostly people who were our fans, people who were fans of string quartets. It was such a friendly atmosphere and it went so well that it just boosted us forward to having these huge ambitions. It really would’ve been sad if people hadn’t responded so well.
How did you choose vocalists for the tracks?
In so many different ways, actually – Eliza Shaddad sings on a couple of our songs and we’d seen her busk on the street and we asked her to come to the studio with us. Someone at Atlantic Records recommended Jess Glynne to us and we really liked how her voice sounded. Elisabeth Troy was someone that we sought out; she is on one of our favorite records, [M.J. Cole’s] “Crazy Love.”
Could you talk a little about the Cash Cash remix?
It’s great to hear a remix that is club and dance-oriented because a lot of the remixes we’ve done before are a lot more relaxed and there’s no three-in-the-morning banger like this one. It’s really interesting for us to hear a remix going for that drop and just killing it.