Interview: I Am Kloot
A FTER a decade and a half, I Am Kloot might finally be having their well-deserved afternoon in the sun. For much of their 15-year career, the Manchester three-piece have been a little underrated, despite having a loyal fan base. But that looks set to change now. They've just released their sixth album, Let It All In, and frontman John Bramwell isn't taking any chances this time round.
"I like to be involved in everything," says Bramwell, relaxing at home. "Whether that's writing and recording, or in conversation, or gigging, my attitude is that I have to be involved. I don't like to speculate on anything else, or think 'What's going to happen?'. I like to get lost in making something happen. It's worked so far. I'm not thinking about anything outside this album, and I'm doing fine. I've been very busy."
Bandmates Andy Hargreaves and Pete Jobson have been busy, too. Whether it's recording sessions for radio, or interviews, they've been promoting Let It All In like never before.
Bramwell reckons the band have been on the radio more in the six weeks leading up to the album's release than in the previous five years.
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"A lot of the interviews and things were before the album was released, and we've had nothing but great feedback. It's a seismic shift from Sky At Night, which gathered a lot of pace after its release."
That was due in large part to the album's Mercury Prize nomination in 2010.
Before that, the trio had enjoyed small but steadily-growing success since they formed in 1999. Their debut, Natural History, released two years later, earned much praise and a cult-like loyalty among fans, with subsequent albums I Am Kloot, Gods And Monsters and I Am Kloot Play Moolah Rouge building on that success.
But it wasn't until Sky At Night, produced by long-time friends Guy Garvey and Craig Potter of Elbow, pricked the ears of the Mercury judges that things really began to change.
"We've never had to follow up an album that's been nominated for anything before, but yeah, it's my thinking all this is the knock-on effect," says Bramwell.
"There was something in the air then. But this time it's different again. And, of course, it was great to record this album. I've been asked if we were self-conscious recording it because of the extra anticipation, but because we've been together so long, we're just enjoying the psychic way we play together.
"We concentrated on that rather than any thoughts of what we were going or supposed to do.
"I suppose the real key thing is what the people who buy it think. There's no shortage of opinion these days, so I'm sure we'll hear soon enough."
It would be difficult to pick fault with Let It All In. In the main, it's simply I Am Kloot gathered in a small room performing live, save for overdubbed instrumentation on a couple of songs. This simplicity harks back to the sound of their debut, until now their best collection of songs, and highlights their best qualities – Bramwell's distinctive voice, in turns genteel and snarling, Hargreaves's deft drumming and Jobson's subtle, driving basslines.
"There are only two over-the-top moments on the album, These Days Are Mine and Hold Back The Night. They're the two dramatic songs, but elsewhere the high drama comes from the way the three of us play together," says Bramwell.
"What I'm hoping we've got is the freshness of our first album but, because we're not the band we were ten years ago, we're able to punctuate it with bigger moments.
"And, if you're going to just have simple arrangements, you better cherry-pick your very strongest melodies."
Then of course, there are Bramwell's lyrics, wry examinations of love gone wrong and the minutiae of life. After years performing solo as Johnny Dangerously, he says writing for Kloot's debut was the first time he'd ever been completely honest in his lyrics.
Times have changed, of course, and there are notable moments of happiness in the 47-year-old's words in Let It All In.
"I've honestly never felt my lyrics are sneering or cynical, and after making a very reflective record last time we feel rejuvenated," he says.
"I've written a lot more songs in a major key this time, and everything definitely sounds more positive and uplifting. The album is bookended by two very haunting songs, but what's in between is much happier."
Their forthcoming tour will see them play all of Let It All In, plus back catalogue material.
"I think we can do that, because we've got dedicated fans," says Bramwell. "I don't think you have casual I Am Kloot listeners, and we've never shied away from the power and emotion you can communicate with music, and that attitude engenders a certain sort of person to come to your gigs.
"There's an almost spiritual link with our audiences."