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Tales of performing at Ibiza Rocks

We catch up with Clean Bandit and Karen Harding when in town for Rocks.

Ibiza Rocks celebrated bringing live music to the island for ten years in July with a suitably rock ‘n' roll show from The Libertines, the venue leading the way in providing band music to holidaymakers at Mallorca and Croatia venues too.

UK acts that descend to Ibiza Rocks stay at Pikes, and this where we met up with Clean Bandit member Grace Chatto (pictured above left) ahead of their show last week on August 5th, which featured singer Karen Harding in support. "It's cool Karen Harding is playing; I didn't even realise until earlier, I love her," Chatto admits warmly. This is Clean Bandit's third summer performing at Ibiza Rocks and they have such a good time at the infamous Pikes - with a three-day marathon last year - they haven't been out anywhere else on island, with the exception of Privilege yesterday for Paul Oakenfold. "If I came to Ibiza again I would just stay here. It's like a house party and the dance floor is so small."

Later that night, the show opens with strings before the band jump into Real Love. During the performance band members fly across the stage, the bustling mixed crowd below following suit. On album ‘New Eyes' there are twelve singers, the vocals shared between the members. "We have one singer Elizabeth Troy who fronts the show. She's really versatile and can sing all of the songs, including the raps. I sing on a couple and Neil sings on my favourite song Dust Clears, and we have two backing singers."

Clean Bandit's live set-up is ever evolving: "we're always changing the electronic sounds and who plays what. Luke's drum kit is always growing." Grace talks me through their instruments, as she takes charge of a cello and midi steel drum giving the show calypso vibes. There is also an acoustic violin, electronic drums with acoustic symbols, saxophone, pads and Moog synthesizer on the go. "I hope it's quite exciting because the audience don't know who's going to do what and when." Bringing a truckload of kit makes sound check an event in itself when done at Ibiza Rocks Hotel. Recalling last year, "everyone was on their balconies so it was kind of like a gig and we had to be a bit more well behaved."

The band's mix of electronic and classical came about as a friend played around with recordings from Chatto's string quartet with drum samples. From there they started a club night in London and Cambridge. "At the time it was much more classical, with added beats and basslines around that. I found it quite interesting the juxtaposition of classical, hip-hop and dubstep. We had a dubstep night at the time where we had people like James Blake and Pariah."

Grace and fellow member Jack started a production company Clean Films, using moving images at certain points of the show after finding it distracting to use throughout. When they perform at Rocks, raining golden shards are visible before the screen turns black during new track Just Met. "We do more with the lights now and a logo Jack designed to put in the visuals, moving them around and making it explode. We haven't really worked out how to make it work with video yet." After performing Nightingale with the bassline from Gorgon City's remix, chrome shapes are left on screen as Clean Bandit leave the stage, quickly returning to perform Rather Be to big voiced support. "None of us knew the song would become a big hit," and yet it saw them burst onto festival line-ups and win a Grammy.

It began with making a film for Clean Films seven years ago in Japan after meeting a sushi chef who agreed to take them to a fish market to show the auctions. "It's crazy, the biggest fish market in the world. We did a 'day in the life', the camera was rubbish and it was our first attempt at filming anything." Following this, a video for ‘Mozart's House' drew the attention of the music industry, and they decided to recreate the Japanese film they'd made in the past for Rather Be.

"It's about a chef. We took her to the fish market but couldn't get permission to film as it takes months and costs thousands to film in there, so we snuck a camera under Jack's jacket. We were there at 4am, but we didn't speak any Japanese. We were trying to get Neil our violinist playing on a fish cart that they drive around the market. We were trying to communicate to this guy... we did it eventually, and kind of made friends with him and later filmed him playing the piano. Everyone in the video are just people we met doing the video. This year we performed in Tokyo and it was quite emotional because all the people who had been in it came and that was when I realised what had happened. It was a whirlwind last year, suddenly playing all over the world."

It's been ten minutes since Karen Harding got off stage at Ibiza Rocks, adrenalin still rushing from the burst of songs she just emitted into the audience. "It was so much fun and the sound guys were really good so it made my job so much easier. I love going out there and singing my little heart out." And that she certainly did, clearly enjoying herself onstage with the crowd singing Say Something back to her at the end. "I've got so much new material in the set, so I'm always nervous about how the songs go down. Everyone seemed to really connect with them."

Three days before Harding played Ibiza Rocks Bar for their new Monday sessions. "It felt like everyone was having dinner and just a quiet drink. Then when I got up everyone just came up and started dancing and got involved. I was surprised to say the least and it's left a really good memory in my mind now."

Harding is determined to bring vocals back to house music, "sometimes when I'm in a club I want to hear a bit more of a vocal that I can sing along to. All the classic big diva vocals - Robin S and Joyce Sims - I love that. I want to make it my stamp, having something catchy you can sing along to." At Ibiza Rocks Harding covers Drake's Hold On, We're Going Home on top of Piano Weapon. "People get into it because they can hear the vocals; it's some familiarity."

"They way I sing, I kind of let it all out and go for it and get people excited with the occasional high note." To hit those notes Harding doesn't see a long warm-up routine as crucial. "It's like if you're going to jump off a rock and you stare at it," she says, starting an analogy. "The other day in Ibiza I went to jump off a cliff and I got way too scared, but did jump eventually. In terms of warm-up I don't do that much, I have a routine but I try to get it done as soon as possible instead of delving too deeply into it."

Harding's journey so far seen her learn about the industry through setbacks. "It made me more aware of myself, who I was, and what I wanted to do. With things like the X Factor and Eurovision you're pushed into something you don't necessarily want to be. Those little steps and let-downs help us search for what I really wanted. It's all a process." Now she's linked with Disclosure and their imprint Method Records: "I went to see them before I got signed and it's safe to say I was dancing the whole night. Four times more than you should be dancing - and I just remember being so into it. To then get signed by their label is crazy."

Always on the look-out for new talent, the Ibiza Rocks team continues to choose its bookings with one of the keenest ears on the island, with so many of its support artists going on to huge things, returning years later as headliners. Up next week - blast from the past, Spandau Ballet.

WORDS | Emma Gillett PHOTOGRAPHY | James Chapman

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