Where do you get your creative ideas for such unique videos?
Grace: Jack is the creative force behind our videos – he has endless ideas, and most of the time they come to him at the same as writing the music. Sometimes they are easy to execute, but often not. The one-thousand member orchestra of Japanese cello-playing children for our video Telephone Banking was a tricky one, but we made it happen in the end…
You’ve written and produced all your own music and shot the videos for all your songs; you’re like a self powered musical super-engine! This is reminiscent of 80’s punk bands like Crass in terms of DIY ethic – was it a conscious decision to approach things in this way or is it more a case of having the skills in the band to do everything and wishing to express yourselves through as many mediums as possible?
G: Well when we first did it there wasn’t really the option of getting someone else to do it, but we have had lots of help from friends and family. Now we like to keep doing everything ourselves as the visuals feel very much part of the project, just as important to us as the music, so it would feel strange not to.
With every song, the line-up of the band changes, so would you consider yourselves to be more of a collective of artists than a band? You’ve collaborated with a number of vocalists now; how does that selection process work? Do you find a vocalist and write music that suits them, or do you write songs and then seek the ideal vocalist? Will you be working with the same vocalists again for new records?
G: Yes definitely more of a collective, there are so many people involved. We tend to do more than one song with every singer we work with, and it feels like everyone is very much part of the family rather than one-off features. Who sings on which tracks comes about in different ways, sometimes we send instrumentals to vocalists who then write their own parts. We’ve been very lucky with how smoothly it’s all worked out so far.
Let’s go hypothetical: Clean Bandit can play at any gig or festival past, present or future, anywhere in the world, no limitations – where do you play?
G: Glastonbury 3000!
You started playing together in 2008 – did you know each other for a long time before you started the band? And how long have you each been playing your instruments for?
Neil: Grace and I had been playing together in various youth orchestras from long before, and we met Jack at University, where we formed the band. I’ve been playing the violin since I was 3, and I think the rest were pretty young starters too.
You met while studying at Cambridge; a lot of young bands meet at uni but most will struggle to see the success that you’re currently building upon. What advice would you give to aspiring musicians in a similar position?
N: For us, university was a great time to do so many different musical projects – I did a lot of DJing as well as running a night with Grace, we both played classically a lot, Jack was in a funk band, and I put on quite a lot of contemporary classical concerts. It’s the only time you have the time to just try out whatever you like, make the most of it!
It must take a serious, conscious commitment to continue this kind of work when you no longer have the convenience of sharing a university. How did you ensure that the band kept progressing once you finished your studies?
N: I think it helped that Jack and Grace are together, plus Luke is Jack’s little brother… No idea how I stayed on track though!
How difficult was it to make the transition from playing to fellow students in bars and clubs to playing massive festivals like Leeds Fest and Creamfields?
N: We were actually really lucky at university to get the opportunity to play on some really big stages at university parties, supporting people like Dizzee Rascal, which definitely prepared us for the festival circuit. Having said that, nothing really prepares you for walking on in front of a massive crowd of hyped up teenagers at Reading, that was amazing.
As a classically trained musician, did you ever envisage yourselves creating the kind of music you do today? Or was it a fairly natural combination of two sides of music that you love?
N: It was definitely not something I ever envisaged! But both Grace and I had a previous love of dance music – Grace used to sneak into Fabric as a 14 year old for her DnB fix, and the night we ran at university was a garage/house night.
How did it feel when you first jammed all together? How about your first gig? Where was that?
N: Our first ever gig was from the back of a truck in the garden of the house Grace was living in. Man Like Me were there too and we didn’t end up playing until about 3 or 4 in the morning because it took so long to work out how we could all fit into the truck.
I first came across your music through the YouTube videos you guys have made to promote your music and generally this is how I discover new music these days. Do you think this will make record companies obsolete and do you think this is a good thing?
N: I’m not sure that it will make record companies obsolete – it’s still one of the only ways to be able to support yourselves financially in the early days, but it’s definitely a great thing that anyone can upload their music to a forum where it can reach an unlimited audience. On the other hand I sometimes wonder if so much is being created nowadays that it’s kind of impossible to really hear anything… bit of a morbid thought really!
What has it been like touring? You seemed be at loads of festivals this summer, how did that go?
N: This was our first serious festival season, and it was insane. We’ve never played to such big or rowdy crowds and I’m already looking forward to next summer.
What are you currently listening to? Which up and coming artists should be looking out for?
N: Walter Ego is killing it at the moment, and I reckon Kelela is surely set to take over the world. Or at least she would if I had my way.
We can’t wait to hear your album, when will it be released? Would you ever fancy playing a gig in Lancaster?
N: It should be released early next year, we’re trying to get it finished as quickly as possible! We’ll definitely do a gig in Lancaster as soon as someone books us, haha!
You heard it here first Lancaster! To book tickets for Clean Bandit’s gig in Manchester on the 24th October some are still available here.