Clean Bandit's Luke Patterson on pop, politics and being called posh

Clean Bandit's Luke Patterson on pop, politics and being called posh



Ahead of the British band's gig in Abu Dhabi, we caught up with the Grammy Award winners.

There are few groups in the world that have more than four billion streams, and are, well, almost unrecognisable. That's Clean Bandit for you, though. The group's songs have made them household names – take the Marks & Spencer Christmas advert with Rather Be – instead of any celebrity antics. In an age where being famous for being famous is often celebrated, the paparazzi (and the public) don't seem too interested in what the band wear or who they dating. And, when we meet with the group's Luke Patterson, we find that they are definitely dancing to the electronic beat of their own drum.

It's 11am in Finsbury Park, London, and Luke Patterson has just woken up. Ahead of the British band's Abu Dhabi gig and new single Don't Leave Me Lonely being released, he has joined us over Zoom, rubbing his eyes and joking: "We were up late recording last night in the studio". As the group are coming to the music festival Club Social at Yas Links, Yas Island on 28 October, he chats to us about concerts, collaborations and Cambridge. 

Clean Bandit
Going from "posh" to pop    

Clean Bandit had an unconventional entrance into the music industry. While most music acts probably have BRIT School, Sylvia Young or some form of reality TV show on their CV, this group have the University of Cambridge. The original members Grace Chatto, Jack Patterson and Neil Amin-Smith all met at the prestigious university, while Luke is the brother of Jack. 

When they first formed, they were labelled as the poshest band in pop, but is that observation fair? "I never went to Cambridge. Due to the association with Cambridge, people think that we're just posh guys making tunes, but I don't think we're posh," he says in a down-to-earth accent. "We have not come from a privileged background. We definitely worked hard to make it happen. I feel like it's people pigeonholing us, and I wouldn't say that's accurate."

Inspiration and collaborations  

Over the years, Clean Bandit's members have all bought their own influences to the group, which have ranged from Radiohead to Disclosure. Now, they are being inspired by musical movements across the globe. Luke enthuses: "Recently, we went on a trip to South Africa and I got inspired by the dance movement that is taking over there. It's a new sub-genre called amber piano. I have just fallen in love with that sound and feeling. I am interested in trying to weave that into our sound."

The Clean Bandit sound is famous for fusing electropop with classical music, and topping it off with guest vocal appearances. They have collaborated with megastars including Demi Lovato, Ellie Goulding and Jess Glynne. The person who impressed Luke the most, however, was Jamaican rapper Sean Paul. 

Luke recalls: "Whenever we are together, he is so much fun. I remember him recording his verse for Rockabye, and we just couldn't believe it. The way he writes is like a stream of consciousness – it was so methodical. He'll get the first line, record it, figure out the next bit and record that. After about twenty minutes or half an hour, he had the full thing and it was done. It was probably one of the shortest sessions we've done. We thought, 'this guy is such a genius.'  

Given that Clean Bandit have a potentially rock n roll dynamic – two brothers and a former couple (Grace and Jack) – they must have ways of communicating that would be foreign to outsiders. If they're jamming, is there a look from his bandmates, which lets him know if something is, ahem, off key? 

Luke shares: "Kind of, we all have very different tastes. A lot of the time, Jack and I will be experimenting with sounds and we can kind of go off on a tangent and get deep into finding new sounds. Whenever Grace says, 'that sounds amazing' or 'use that', we know we are onto something."

Measuring Success 

Today, Clean Bandit have the musical accolades, from a Grammy Award to four number-one singles in the UK. For the group, however, success comes back to the music. Luke explains: "Success is whenever we make something we are all excited about. Whenever that happens and we're dancing around the room, that's the mark of success for me. You can talk about four million streams as a number – if you think about it, that's four billion people connecting with this sound. They are having an emotional connection with it. When you think about it like that, it is a success as well."

For many record companies, followers have as much currency as streams, as it all contributes to creating superstars. Does it matter that they aren't famous faces? Luke answers: "It would drive me nuts if I was walking down the street and I couldn't go into the local shop to buy a bottle of milk without getting recognised. Yes, it's fine. It happens now and again and when it does, it is nice. I definitely would rather keep it this way. People who have to deal with fame have a lot to deal with and it must be really tricky." 

Politics and pop  

Clean Bandit are clearly a talented as well as a smart group. Alumni-aside, they have been vocal about their political affiliations in the UK. They have showed their support to Labour Party leaders and headlined the Labour Party Festival. With so many British expats living in the UAE, we talk about the political climate in the UK. 

Just days before British Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned after six weeks in office, he is clearly frustrated by the state of affairs in the UK. "I find it so sad and depressing that we have had to live with this government in the UK for so long. It is pretty evident now that it is time for a change, that's all that I have to say, really," he sighs. 

When it comes to performing in the Middle East, he is focused on sharing the music and is keen to perform across the region. He explains: "For us, it is such a shame, if we weren't to go, we would be denying fans access to our music and doing them a disservice by not showing up to gigs. We would love to go more. It's important for the people that we do that."

This isn't the band's first visit to the United Arab Emirates, as they've played before at Zero Gravity in Dubai. Luke smiles: "The UAE never seems to fail in terms of the vibe. Everyone seems to be up for a party. It feels like you can do no wrong. As long as you give all your energy and just play banger after banger, everyone is up for it. I am looking forward to seeing the people, bringing our music and seeing the reaction. I can't wait."

Luke, neither can we. 

GO: Visit @cleanbandit for more information.