Gig preview: Clean Bandit at Live At Leeds

Clean Bandit
Clean Bandit
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Ahead of Live At Leeds, I got to talk with Neil Amin-Smith from Clean Bandit, about all things ranging from their upcoming record, to the fact that he’s being playing violin from the age of two.

Since dropping their single Rather Be, they’ve smashed the charts, with a long stay of four weeks. And their debut album isn’t even out until May.

So the first question had to be ‘what’s life like as part of one of the country’s most exciting bands?’ “We’ve just gotten extremely busy. Everyday there’s stuff to do which I’m 
not really used to, and weekends are a thing of the past. Every day is full of travelling somewhere, for radio or promo stuff for the album.”

Released on May 12, debut album New Eyes will feature all of their previously released singles, and a couple of new songs to total 13 tracks.

Explained Amin-Smith:“The album was finally finished at the end of February or the beginning of March, but it’s been nearly finished for quite a long time.”

Amin-Smith’s main thoughts are on whether new fans will appreciate the album. “I feel really good about the album, but it’s hard to know whether people who have come to us through Rather Be will appreciate the album. Whether they’ll find other stuff on it they like or not, it’s really exciting to see what happens.”

The origin of the band started with a love for both electronic and classic music. Amin-Smith and fellow bandmate, cellist Grace Chatto, have actually been playing together since they were young. “We grew up playing together from a young age. Grace and I ran a club night together in Cambridge, it was throughout 2010 and the scene around then was a lot of dubstep and new/future garage. And that kind of helped the music of Clean Bandit quite a lot.”

For Amin-Smith, the classical influence in their music is pretty obvious as he’s been classically trained in violin from the age of two. “Apparently I begged my parents to start learning, which doesn’t sound that likely at the age of two, but that’s what they claim.”

It’s not just about throwing some strings on a track for these guys, Clean Bandit combine all their influences to create what you hear on record. Amin-Smith commented on Jack Patterson’s influence, with him being the primary songwriter. “Jack comes from more of a jazz background, which is more evident in the chord structures and the improvisatory feel to some of the stuff.”

Talking to Amin-Smith, it’s pretty clear that a lot of thought and know-how goes into what they do.

Another fundamental aspect of Clean Bandit has been their collaboration with various artists, ranging from Love Ssega (vocalist on Mozart’s House) who they met at university, to Eliza Shaddad (vocalist on Birch), who they met while she was busking on the street. “Jack walked past her on the street, heard her singing, and asked her if she’d like to collaborate.”

While they have scouted some pretty amazing talent, they also take the more conventional approach of contacting artists off the same record label, through their “musical and dance community” in South Kilburn, London. But who knows, if you busk in the right place you could end up on a new Clean Bandit track.

When I asked Neil about artists he’d like to collaborate with in the future, there was a pause. “We’d always say that we would really love to collaborate with Drake, but I guess who wouldn’t?” he said eventually. “It would be cool to collaborate with James Blake or Woodkid or Beyonce.”

Considering their increasing success, a collaboration with Drake or James Blake sounds more like an eventual reality than a distant dream. But eventually we had to reach the topic of them being on tour, with Live At Leeds and their sold out UK tour looming.

“We played Live At Leeds last year, and it was really fun so we’re looking forward to playing that again.

“We’ve basically done one gig in 2014, and that was it. It’s quite exciting really, I think we’re all really looking forward to getting back into doing it because we started off as a band that only played live and didn’t make any recordings, so it’ll be fun to get back to doing that, but it will also be quite daunting because there’s an expectation now.

“There’s a lot more pressure, but sold out gigs are the best way to go about it.

“It makes it easier when you know that the crowd’s really excited and they’re up for it.”

Live at Leeds runs at various venues from May 2-5.

Clockwise from top left, Paul Weller, Morrissey, Jorja Smith, Paloma Faith, Sam Smith, Flight of the Conchords, Zara McFarlane and Beth Nielsen Chapman are all performing in the region this year. Montage: Graeme Bandeira

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