Alt-rock trio I Am Kloot are finally getting some of the recognition that they deserve for their seventh studio album, Let It All In, and it's about time - they've been around since 1999, after all.
Despite being best friends with Elbow, I Am Kloot have never seemed to achieve quite the same level of mainstream success. Now the band are ready to change all of that with Let It All In, and it seems like the music world might be ready to let them.
We caught up with frontman John Bramwell right after the record's release to talk famous fans, missing teeth and why they don't want to be called a Manchester band...
Are you happy with the response to the new album so far?
I can't be unhappy with it, can I? It seems to be welcomed with open arms, and it seems to be some kind of major commercial success, I suppose. Yeah, we are delighted. We work in our own bubble, we're happy and we get on with what we want to do, and the last few years it sems to have tipped over into a much wider audience hearing our stuff. So part of me is surprised, part of me is like, 'yeah, of course it should be!'
You've been a band for a long time.
Do you ever think you might run out of things to write about?
I think I've definitely covered drinking and disaster! I don't really think about writing. I think of it as making things up rather than writing - if I think of myself as a writer, then it tends to stop you writing. I started making things up when I was seven, so I don't see there's a reason I'd be stopping now - in fact, I think there's a lot to say that I haven't done yet. All my songs so far have been almost spiritual songs, but there's a lot more subjects. It's quite a spontaneous thing. I've never really sat down and thought, 'right, I'm going to write now.' And when I have tried to do that, it's not very good.
This is your seventh album, not including the Radio 1 sessions - do you feel any pressure to keep it fresh?
With this album, every time I wrote a song, we'd rehearse it the next day and record it that night - so from finishing writing the song to recording it, we'd try to do that always in under 24 hours. Our mates own two studios that we use, so we've always been able to ring up and find out if it's free rather than booking it and spending all this tim in the studio. I think that on 'Hold Back The Night', you can really feel the kind of total aliveness of it - the solo was done later, but the rest of it is very much one take.
For this album, many songs are in a major key which I didn't realise - I only worked that out later. There's a joyous feel about a lot of this, even though the lyrics may pull the other way. There's something about the melodies that's quite upbeat - for us, at least!
The album seems to be a lot more like your earlier ones. Was this a conscious decision?
I think after Sky At Night, we didn't want to make Sky At Night 2. We didn't want elaborate orchestration, and we just used other instruments on this album here and there. Obviously on 'Hold Back The Night' and 'These Days Are Mine', they're quite heavily instrumentalised but the other songs are kind of like our first album. We'd decided we wanted to do something stripped back, but not as lush as Sky At Night - because then we'd just go off down a road it might not be possible to come back from. And that meant I had to really find our strongest melodies, because if it's just based on guitar and vocals then you've got to be coming forward with your strongest melodies So there's eight songs there that I find the approach to recording was very similar to our first abum.
You've worked with Guy Garvey from Elbow - would you want to reach Elbow's level of stadium success?
I don't think that we're really that kind of band - it's a different thing. I think we're playing venues this tour to about 2,000 people and I can tell you, if you stand in front of 2,000 people it looks like a lot of bloody people! I've got a feeling that's a good size with us, it works.
How do you think the closure of HMV is going to affect the music industry?
HMV shut just before our records got sent out, actually, so ours didn't actually get sent there. The main thing, obviously, is that you're talking about 4,000 people losing their jobs. Which right now feels like it's not going to be easy for those 4,000 people to find another job. I've been going to HMV since I was a kid and I suppose in a lot of ways, it will be a help to the independent shops, like Piccadilly Records in Manchester, which is a brilliant shop. It just must be pretty tough for everyone who's been working there.
And you've got some quite famous fans. Has anyone ever made you slightly starstruck?
I've met Paul McCartney and I was a bit, I didn't know what to say. Because - well, obviously I said hello, you know, but I didn't feel like my usual self, I felt self conscious. Which must be a pain in the arse for him because I suppose there's a lot of people who meet him and he just keeps meeting people who are self conscious.
If you could talk to yourself in 2001, after the release of your first album, what would you tell yourself?
'Lay off the booze a bit!' Wall of Sound, our first album, got into trouble financially around this time and our record got taken off the shelves in the UK just as we were on our first tour. So we went to Europe instead in order to keep the band going, which turned out to be a good thing - it meant we've always had a good support in Europe now, because we went there straight away. But it also meant that we were doing something like 100 gigs a year and at the end of a gig, I'm always wide awake and always up drinking. Everyone has a lovely time and of course it's fantastic but doing it 100 nights a year, I just felt a bit unhinged after a while. I think I became a bit depressed, really, and not easy to be with at all. But happily that's like, what, six, seven years ago now, so it's all behind us! And we can laugh about it... sometimes.
You're associated quite strongly with Manchester and described as 'Manchester band'. Do you ever feel like that label can be a bad thing?
We've never touted ourselves as 'we're from Manchester' or as a Manchester thing, because I think it just doesn't matter where you come from and I find it a little bit insulting. But there is something about Manchester - I think it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. People gravitate here to do music and the more music comes out of here, the more people gravitate here. I think the good thing about the Manchester scene is that all the bands don't sound like each other - the Buzzcocks and Joy Division were around at the same time but totally different. I'm just not really the 'Manchester la la la' kind of person, you know? I like the people and I like the place but I'm not going to get all football supporter about it.
Finally, on Wiki it says on 'Bullets' you sing with a bit of a lisp, because of an accident. And there are a few different versions of how this happened...
The power boat accident in the South of France? Or was I rock climbing? I've just told a different one every time.
So what's the real story?
My teeth just started f**king falling out. And I've had to have them all worked on. I went for the natural yellow colour and because my teeth were still in, they were actually able to make exact replicas of them. It was a bit pricey but to be honest I didn't have an option because I couldn't sing. And that's why you can hear me lisping away at the beginning of 'Bullets'. I didn't mind it but the thing is, it was just going to get worse and worse. I mean, I honestly think I could've been on stage and my tooth could've shot out of my head!
But no speedboat accident.
It wasn't the speedboating accident, it's nice to say it was, though. I mean, speedboating in the South of France, I can't believe anyone thinks that's what I'm doing! They must think I'm incredibly glamorous.
Thanks, John! Let It All In is out now.