'People worry about the current climate'
Ahead of their collaboration with Benny Dayal for an initiative, Clean Bandit on the place of politics in their music, and its impact on fans
Unlike the relationship managers who, in the midst of this interview, urge us to refrain from posing "political questions", Clean Bandit isn't particularly perturbed about addressing the influence of the goings-on in society on their music. "Right now, everyone's terrified about what's happening, especially since Donald Trump became the most powerful man in the world," says Grace Chatto of the musician trio, reiterating her position as one who doesn't shy away from using her celebrity status to discuss pressing matters.
Arguably their most successful track after the Grammy Award-winning Rather Be, the 2017 hit Rockabye, Chatto says, finds itself relevant again in the wake of the recently introduced anti-abortion legislation in Georgia. The song, "about a poor woman, left behind by the system" talks about the lengths she must go to, to raise a child as a single parent. "Women are forced to have babies, even if they can't survive," she says, the abhorrence attached to this fact requiring no further words to make her stance evident.
Seated beside her, Benny Dayal cannot let this discussion slip without making a pressing point - women cannot be stripped of the right of choice. And even though Chatto says the band doesn't set out to make songs that touch upon political subjects, she understands that "hearing about it in music is attractive and important".
The UK-based band is in India for collaboration with Dayal as part of Tuborg Open's music initiative, and only hours after first meeting him, are left seemingly impressed. "With Benny, we're learning about the music scene [in India] and the place it holds in films. We are taking elements from [this learning] to bring out something interesting," says band member Jack Patterson.
With little understanding of the Indian music industry, the trio certainly has a lot to learn. "I've been telling them how the music scene here is different from that in the UK. There, they have acting and music as two identities. There is no music in films. I've also highlighted how I write my own songs; so I'm an artiste they can work with." His comments giving us a rare peek into his personality, Dayal showcases his child-like delight at being "hand-picked" by a band he has been listening to since 2015.
He underplays his worth, as he makes evident at a launch party later that evening, belting out the best from his kitty, putting up an array of offerings, from Tamil, Hindi and English numbers that cut across genres, and sprinkling them with delightful mimicry. Anyone who has watched Dayal perform live would agree that the nimble-footed singer, with a training in dance, is a powerhouse act that shouldn't be missed. Yet, before the British trio, he seems to pull out his best punches.
It is justified, perhaps, given that Clean Bandit has gone from strength to strength since their inception. Tracing their journey, classical musician Chatto recalls how "jazz and acoustic" performer Patterson would add electronic beats to her loops. "We instantly knew we wanted to develop it further, and took 10 songs into a concert. From the first [gig], there was an electric atmosphere. People were both excited and confused to see violins in a night club. That experience gave us confidence."
On best collaborators
It's been an hour-and-a-half [since we met him]; I don't want to jinx it, but it will be Benny - Jack Patterson
As soon as you hear Sean Paul's voice, it is so attractive that what he's saying doesn't matter - Chatto
Love Ssega was originally a singer in our band. He has got such great energy - Luke Patterson
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