In my previous life as a journalism MA student, I was given an assignment to interview an up-and-coming music act. I chose Clean Bandit, partly because I knew their cello player a little from school, mostly because I had a sneaking suspicion they were on their way to hugedom. At the risk of saying “I told you so”, they’re currently no. 1 in the UK charts. The elements that make Rather Be so striking (synths, classical strings, big joyful house choruses, unexpectedly soulful verses, mad and marvellous video) have been in place more or less from the start, but the pop runes have now aligned for them, and deservedly so.
To my shame, I’ve sat on this interview since March 2012. Seems as good a time as any to post it.
Clean Bandit can’t believe they are getting away with it. “I thought there’d be more die-hard classical fans, like, ‘You bastards! How dare you touch Mozart!’” says Jack Patterson, the band’s soft-spoken synthsmith and audiovisual mastermind. “But most of the negative remarks are more like, this is good but the strings sound shit. This would be a good tune if it didn’t have these strings on it.”
The drummer, Jack’s 19-year-old brother Luke, agrees. “Most are just – they don’t get it, but in a good way. It’s like, ‘What is this? Why does it work?” Continue reading
Our last afternoon in Dubai is spent talking business, rehearsing Christmas music and throwing together a hotel room iPhone cover of the Doctor Who theme, to put out in time for the 50th anniversary special. The Swingles and the Doctor share a birthday, and we’re both regenerating spacetime travellers, so it seems apt. Plus, Sara can sing real high like a theremin.
It feels good to bring an idea to fruition so quickly – even if it is just a bit of ephemeral fun – and to watch the likes and tweets and comments roll in. What did needy artists do before we had instant feedback to obsess over? Continue reading
On a crisp Sunday morning, Greeneville TN is a small town straight from a Hollywood backlot. The red-brick-and-white churches and courthouse gleam in the November sun, and the only movement is a flutter of the Stars & Stripes and a rustle of russet leaves. Nothing’s open on main street.
The lull comes after the first show of the tour, a homecoming triumph for Greeneville girl Sara. The gig, and the brunch her family laid on for us beforehand (squash casserole, biscuits and gravy, sweet potato pie) are a mighty fine advertisement for Tennessean hospitality. For Sara, the day is presumably one of those dreams in which you’re suddenly in a room with everyone you’ve ever met.
We’re at the start of an insane four week tour. Tennessee, North Carolina, Chicago, North Carolina again, Chicago again, Indianapolis, Dubai, Seoul, home. I’m pretty proficient by now when it comes estimating luggage weight, packing quarters for the coin laundry, collecting frequent flyer points and so on. As I packed I was thinking about how to be good traveller in the more, forgive me, spiritual sense. Being present, open-eyed, keen-eared, not letting experiences go to waste – it’s an ongoing project. It’s why I’ve resolved to write more about our trips (no, for real, I mean it this time.) And I’ve realised a lot of it comes back to lumping and splitting.
Happy New Year! I made this for you (yes you).
I’m not very good at the whole “albums of the year” thing. I only intermittently plug myself into current releases, so always miss a lot of gems and find myself playing catch-up at the end of the year. If there’s one record that grabbed me and kept me coming back for more in 2012, though, it’s Love This Giant by David Byrne and St Vincent. The songs are often as odd and misshapen as the cover art, but the hooks and the great horn arrangements bring me out in a big grin.