By anyone’s standards, it’s been an exciting week for Clean Bandit.
Currently on the cusp of bagging their fourth number one with latest single ‘Solo’, they also headlined the Labour Party event Labour Live over the weekend, which cellist Grace Chatto tells HuffPost UK “might be the best gig we’ve ever done”.
“It was such an amazing atmosphere,” Grace recalls of the event. “We just had such a good time.
“The media have been all kind of funny about it, but it was such a good turn-out and such a good vibe.”
Conversation quickly turns to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, with whom she was able to spend some time at the event, revealing: “We had a bit of a chat about Brexit, which I think is, you know, the kind of alpha and omega of what’s going to be happening in this country... I really want to see a clear strategy from Jeremy and John [McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer] on Brexit.”
Throughout Corbyn’s time as the leader of the opposition, Grace has been one of his most staunch public supporters, and it’s on the subject of politics that she speaks most passionately during our interview.
“Up until that general election [in 2017], in our generation, we haven’t really felt much of a need to get involved in party politics, because the main political parties have been so similar, you know?” she observes. “Jeremy Corbyn became the leader of the Labour party, and suddenly there was a reason to get involved.
“Also, we’re sort of coming to the end of a terrible period of Tory austerity, where the country has been ruined. And so we come to a time when it’s not really a choice… we all have a responsibility to do something.
“Especially after Grenfell Tower, we need a Labour government, we need to make sure that something like Grenfell never happens again.
“And that’s why I think… people who have never had any interest in politics before are realising that we all have to get involved. And I think that’s only going to become more and more until we have a Labour government.”
Last year, Grace made headlines when a pro-Corbyn t-shirt she’d been wearing was blurred out during a BBC broadcast, which the corporation said at the time was due to the requirement that they remain “impartial”.
Grace, however, has other ideas.
Reflecting on the controversy almost a year on, Grace says: “Well, I think the BBC has shown, you know, they showed a really terrible bias against Jeremy Corbyn in the run-up to the general election, and that [censorship] was just part of it.
“But actually it served as a good thing in the end, because it meant that the Evening Standard and several other newspapers wrote about it,” she says with a laugh. “It actually ended up getting more press than if they hadn’t blurred it out. So, they kind of shot themselves in the foot.”
She continues: “I think, after the election suddenly the Corbyn leadership had more credibility, because everyone was suddenly like, ‘oh wow, they’ve done it in spite of the fact that the only mainstream newspaper that supported him was the Mirror’. Even the BBC was making it very difficult for anyone to support Corbyn.
“But nonetheless [Labour] had that huge triumph in the election, and I think the media’s been a bit different [since the election result]. But now the BBC bias is kind of like creeping back a little bit. I think, anyway.”
Listing fellow musicians Stormzy and JME as artists who have also contributed to young people getting more engaged with politics, Grace says: “I think, in the 2017 election we had the kind of demographic reshaping of the electorate. Young people want to be engaged in a different way.
“For me, I’m not that interested in reading newspapers, for example, so the Labour Live event is a really good way for me to engage in party politics and hear speeches and have discussions. It’s all changing.”
At the time of our interview, all signs suggest Clean Bandit’s latest offering, ‘Solo’, will bag them yet another number one, bringing their total up to four.
The track features vocals from US singer Demi Lovato, who Grace describes as “one of the great singers of our generation” and someone who embodies the song’s “empowering message”.
“We always like working with really powerful female voices,” Grace says, having previously topped the charts with tracks featuring Jess Glynne, Anne-Marie and Zara Larsson. “I think that Demi has been so open about her personal life and so strong in her journey. And I think that really is part of the meaning of the song, you know?
“It’s about wanting to not lean on other people or… you know, move on from one ex to another by jumping into another person’s arms, but actually finding yourself and finding your strength. And I think she’s found so much strength in her life.”
But since its release just over a month ago, listeners have picked up on another aspect of the lyrics, as Demi is heard singing on the chorus: “I wanna f***, but I’m broken-hearted… touch, touch, touch, but I got nobody, so I do it solo.”
Acknowledging the song’s not-so-subtle sexual themes, Grace comments: “I guess we have written sexual songs before but we’ve never released them.
“But yeah, I think it’s… I think… it’s a very rare topic in pop music in general, masturbation,” she says, again through a laugh. “But especially female masturbation.
“It’s something we don’t see in popular culture, but it’s actually something that’s very universal. So that was something that was a fun thing to [make a song about].”
She also acknowledges that ‘Solo’ is among the post personal songs she and Clean Bandit have ever released, having recently split up with her long-term boyfriend at the time it was written.
“It was quite cathartic making it,” Grace admits. “Because I was going through a break-up myself at the time.
“It’s just a really difficult thing to do, and this… being able to write songs and make songs in that time was really important. But yeah, it’s quite a fun song... that wasn’t the intent at first, but that’s definitely been the result.”
Unlike plenty of other chart-topping acts, Grace says she and the rest of Clean Bandit are reluctant to get too sucked into the world of celebrity. She is currently on a break from social media (“but again, that’s to do with my break-up as well - I think when you’re breaking up with somebody that social media is a nightmare!”) and admits she has reservations about the effects it’s having on us.
“I think it’s a really interesting time that we’re living in, this Instagram generation,” she says. “But it can be a bit damaging, so I don’t really want to do it much anymore.
“I think fame is really dangerous and… I don’t really like to get too involved in it all.”
Indeed, despite currently waiting on the news of whether or not ‘Solo’ has brought it home for Clean Bandit once again, Grace says she feels it’s “best not to get too involved in thinking about the charts, because you never know”.
In fact, with three number ones already under their belt, she says she feels under less pressure than ever, particularly compared to when Clean Bandit were first starting out as a band.
“I feel like in the early days there was more pressure, actually when we were releasing music,” she claims. “Just because I felt so desperate to try and make a career out of making music. And it was kind of impossible.
“That was really high-pressure, you know, being able to kind of pay rent and stuff but now there’s a bit less pressure... there’s not so much riding on whether a song goes to number one or not.
“We’re just making new songs at the moment,” she adds, referring to the group’s upcoming sophomore album, slated for release later this year. ’So my head is completely there.”
But that doesn’t mean she’s not excited that the song is doing well, particularly as she’s received “lovely messages” from fans who relate to the song’s personal lyrics.
“But it’ll be a really nice thing obviously if it gets to number one,” she says. “And we’re so overwhelmed with the amount of people who are listening to ‘Solo’. It’s crazy.
“It’s just really lovely to know that people are enjoying the song. Especially as it’s got such an empowering message.”
Clean Bandit’s ‘Solo’, featuring Demi Lovato, is available to download and stream now.