I Am Kloot have a unique way of making music that works for them and their long-standing fans. Duncan Seaman talks to the band.
After 14 years in the band I Am Kloot, Pete Jobson has grown accustomed to late night visits from singer and band mate John Bramwell.
Often the bass player will be woken at 3am by his band mate, anxious to get straight to work on a new idea for a song in the recording set-up in Jobson’s back bedroom.
“An example of that was Bullets (the opening track on I Am Kloot’s new album Let It All In),” says 41-year-old Jobson. “He turned up and knocked on the door. He was pretty flustered. He said, ‘Don’t say anything; I’ve got a new song.’ He played it twice. The second was good but the first one is the one that’s on the record. All of that, apart from the drums, was done in my back room.”
While some may baulk at such working practices, easygoing Northumbrian Jobson seems happy to go with the songwriter’s flow. “For me it’s brilliant,” he says. “That’s how Johnny writes songs. Lyrically and on the guitar he’s got them finished. We join in with them. It’s one of the most enjoyable things for me that Johnny comes down and says, ‘I’ve got a tune’. More often than not (my reaction is) ‘Jesus, that’s brilliant’. You can’t talk to him – you will get in the way of what he’s thinking. I just press record and don’t say anything. I’m used to it now.”
Let It All In is I Am Kloot’s sixth album and their most eagerly anticipated. Its predecessor, Sky At Night, was nominated for the 2010 Mercury Prize and there’s a growing feeling that the band could follow in the footsteps of their Mancunian mates Elbow into the musical mainstream.
After the lush orchestral arrangements of Sky At Night, the band this time favoured simplicity.
“There’s nothing too massively planned in advance,” says Jobson, “but we were conscious that we were not going to do the same LP again.”
Having had to employ several extra musicians to recreate their last album live, “this one we wanted to do something that was more the three of us”. With drummer Andy Hargreaves, they recorded the tracks themselves, before bringing old friends Guy Garvey and Craig Potter of Elbow in to produce and mix them, “like we did with the first LP (Natural History, in 2001)”.
Jobson acknowledges this album moves away from structured themes of Sky At Night. Let It All In is more a celebration of the trio’s varied tastes. Musical diversity has, in the past, baffled record companies. Echo, for whom the band made two albums, “could not get their heads around it”, yet others took them to their hearts, including director Danny Boyle who used their song Avenue of Hope in his film Sunshine. He apparently remains keen on a larger collaboration. “We’ve talked to him a few times,” says Jobson. “He was interested in doing a musical.”
Like its predecessors, Let It All In is peppered with Bramwell’s poetic insights. Jobson says “it’s often a lot later on when we’re throwing about the songs” that he and Hargreaves start quizzing their author about the stories behind them. “With Johnny’s songs, like a lot of good writing – fiction, poetry or songs – they are open to interpretation,” he says. “Whatever you think they are about that’s what they are about. There’s a song called Twist, it never occurred to me it was about a card game; I thought it was about breaking bones or your heart. I can’t believe I never twigged it.”
Though it took more than a decade for the trio to achieve national recognition Jobson says “from our point of view it’s not been any toil”.
“People like to measure success and talk about your career but as far as we are concerned it’s all been really good. There’s a cultural thing in this country, we’ve been going ages, there have been ebbs and flows, but we’ve done great in other countries.”
Indeed he feels it’s perhaps just as well that I Am Kloot weren’t overnight sensations.
“I’m 41 and the youngest in the band. If it had happened that we became popular when we were younger it would have been a lot of pressure. We might have lost the plot.”
Their approach remains distinctly level-headed. They jointly own a record label, Skinny Dog, with Elbow, and should it all go wrong they’ll release records independently. “We’re going to do this until we die,” says Jobson.
From promoting gigs to appearances in the charts
I Am Kloot were formed by John Branwell, Pete Jobson and Andy Hargreaves in Manchester in 1999.
Before forming the band Bramwell and Jobson promoted gigs in the city.
They released their debut album, Natural History, in 2001.
Their fifth album, Sky At Night, was nominated for the 2010 Mercury Prize and afterwards reached the top 30. Let It All In entered the UK charts this week at number 10.
I Am Kloot, February 13, Leeds Irish Centre, York Road, Leeds, 7pm, £17.50. www.lunatickets.co.uk