Nowhere they'd rather be

By Chris Lau

A mix of electronic and classical music is proving a surprising hit

By Chris Lau |

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Clean Bandit might just be the most intelligent band on Earth. Three of the four band members went to Cambridge University. But even this prestigious education hasn't helped Clean Bandit solve the biggest puzzle so far in their musical career - why has their single Rather Be been such a huge success?

The electro-classical track, featuring British singer Jess Glynne, topped Britain's Singles Chart for four weeks straight. It also broke a record for most listens in a single week in Britain on Spotify.

And it wasn't only a hit in the band's homeland. The dance track quickly rose up the charts in many European countries and those of other English-speaking nations, including New Zealand and Australia.

Violinist Milan Neil Amin-Smith recalls when he first realised they had a huge but unexpected hit on their hands.

"One time, we played the song at a [British] music festival," he says. "We've never seen a crowd reacting so well."

Despite his classic musical background, Amin-Smith guesses the hit owes much of its success to its typical pop song sequence of major chords.

"Some of [these chords] we have never even used before," he admits to Young Post.

Founded in 2009, Clean Bandit's connection stretches back to two of the members' childhoods: Amin-Smith used to play with cellist Grace Chatto when they were 10. The duo reunited in a string quartet at Cambridge, which is where they met Jack Patterson.

"He would record our [string quartet] shows and then kind of mess around with it by adding new drums and beats. And we really liked it a lot," Amin-Smith says. With the later addition of Patterson's brother Luke, the band was soon off the ground.

The foursome has been spending their time finishing up a debut album, New Eyes, due out in May. With such a successful single already to their name, expectations are high. Amin-Smith says the album will be diverse, while maintaining Clean Bandit's iconic strings-based sound.

Since the band does not have a lead singer, they have instead brought in 12 different vocalists to perform on the record. As a result, it is bound to be a melting pot.

"Some of them have big soul voices," says the violinist, pointing to British singer Eliza Shaddad's hypnotising vocals on the album's only medium-paced track, Birch. Some, he adds, are rappers, including American hip hop artist Lizzo.

The band has plenty of touring to do, too. Their schedule is already packed until September, with a national tour of Britain taking place in late April and early May.

The group will then take their groove to Europe, playing a series of shows across the continent before heading home to play even more gigs.

As for the fans in Hong Kong, Amin-Smith promises the band won't forget the city: "Hopefully, we will get to come later this year."

We know where we'd rather be when they get here.