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Clean Bandit Puts Classical Music In The House With ‘Rather Be’

The British quartet hits the Hot 100 with its former four week U.K. No. 1, an unlikely mix of live strings and dance beats.

“We try not to see boundaries between genres. We believe you can just do whatever you want,” says Jack Patterson, multi-instrumentalist of Clean Bandit.

For the British quartet, that means pairing live classical strings and old-school dance music, a combination that has fueled worldwide chart success ahead of its debut album, “New Eyes,” released June 17 on Big Beat/Atlantic Records.

The group’s breakthrough single, “Rather Be,” featuring singer Jess Glynne, debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 dated June 28 at No. 97. The song, a joyous slice of vintage house with a violin melody, also rose 10-9 in its 19th week on Hot Dance/Electronic Digital Songs. In the United Kingdom, it topped the Official Singles Chart for four weeks.

“It has come as a shock to us all,” says Patterson, 28, who formed Clean Bandit in 2008 with cellist Grace Chatto and violinist Neil Amin-Smith when they were students at Cambridge University. In 2010, after enlisting Patterson’s brother Luke on drums, the group posted a YouTube video for “Mozart’s House,” a garage tune with vocals by fellow Cambridge student Love Ssega that unexpectedly jumps into Mozart’s String Quartet No. 21. “Suddenly it had 30,000 views in a week, and we knew we were on to something,” recalls Patterson.

Soon after, the band signed to London independent Black Butter Records, which also launched dance duo Rudimental, before joining Atlantic. Along with Rudimental and Disclosure, Clean Bandit is part of a new wave of British instrumental acts making noise with a retro dance sound, early-’90s house and early-’00s garage, specifically, that leans on live instruments and guest vocalists.

“When we saw Rudimental, it legitimized us. We thought, ‘We can get away with this as well,’ ” says Patterson, who was raised in the Liverpool suburb of Birkenhead. “There are some unifying musical themes. I think it’s a reflection of a lost childhood of garage I missed not growing up in London.”

Clean Bandit is equally adventurous in its video locations, which have included Japan (“Rather Be”), Cuba (“Extraordinary”) and underwater in a friend’s pool (“UK Shanty”), where Patterson says the band almost accidentally electrocuted British model Lily Cole in search of the perfect shot. “In hindsight, maybe we should have had a couple of safety officers onboard,” he says with a smile. “But we take our videos very seriously. We are completely willing to die for them.”