Let’s jump in at the deep end, and talk about a specific song – I believe, from Gods and Monsters. It finishes the album, the closing monologue if you will. Musically it’s gentle, opening with piano and building to a subdued but determined peak. Lyrically it starts “I believe in the Hallelujah chorus of the shopping malls, we say we can’t, we know we shan’t, but of course we shall, because I’ve seen, I believe”. The crucial question, it seems to me, is as self-confessed dramatists, what perspective are they taking here. Is it one of detached, slightly clever, observation, or is it more engaged. I put it another way – is there affection for these figures wandering the world of the shopping malls, or is he pulling the piss out of them? (This has Bramwell in stitches – he’s never heard the expression.”It’s either ‘taking the piss’ or ‘pulling your leg’”, he corrects, obviously not having spent much time in Dublin). “The ‘hallelujah chorus of the shopping malls’ infers all the chatter and talk of the supermarkets, that become almost like religion – he continues, as his laughter subsides – and that’s not something I like. By the same token though, these are songs about being human, and I can guiltily admit to having enjoyed shopping, of being a consumer. That line is repeated, as is ‘I believe that we are something that is incomplete, that words are our conceit’, with which I wanted to conjure up images of chatter and babble. The one line that isn’t repeated in the song is ‘I believe that the ceaseless, seamless strain of your heart will one day make a start with me’, so at the end of the day all I can bring it down to my relationship with someone else, that’s the only thing I’ve got, and it’s the only thing that isn’t ambiguous.”
Ask Johnny Bramwell who he’d like to work with musically, and he’s at a loss for words. It seems in I am Kloot he’s found his natural home: “I’ve never done a lot of collaboration. Before this I was on my own. I never really wanted to be in a band. Pete and Andy are the only people I’ve really played with. On a musical level, being a trio, it’s very important. It’s also important from an aesthetic point of view, as a band. It is about the three of you, and it’s not about bringing in so and so to play such and such. We did play everything ourselves, apart from the studio owner, who played a bit, ’cause it was his studio and he wanted to, and he was good at it. We played all of the instruments, and some of them were ones that we didn’t really know how to play, so some of the stuff is interesting because of that. When you don’t know an instrument that well, but you are a musician, it’s good to play. It frees up your imagination a lot more, and you end up playing stuff that, someone who has more experience on the instrument wouldn’t.”
I push him though on the idea of collaboration – in an ideal world, there must be someone else who he’s admired that he’d like to collaborate with? “I’d kind of like to work with Chrissie Hynde – I don’t know why [laughs]. Cause she’s great I suppose. I guess Brian Eno or Philip Glass. On Ordinary Girl you can hear that I’ve been listening to a lot of Philip Glass.”
Ordinary Girl is another interesting song – full of stops and starts, creepy sound filling the background, and a chorus with the priceless lines “She’s laughing, flirtatious, while falling unconscious, she’s selfish and greedy, wanton and needy, she’s mugging her lovers, she’s bleeding the buggers from below”. An ‘Ordinary Girl’ indeed! “Ordinary Girl was The Midwich Cuckoos [Novel by John Wyndham]. There was a film made of it, The village of the damned. It’s set in a strange little village in England. Over the period of a month, all the women in the town get pregnant, all at the same time. Old women, young women etc. Then these babies are born, all with blonde hair and piercing eyes. Then, as they grow up, you realise that they’re all psychic with each other. All the other kids in the town go missing, and you’re never told where these strange children are from – they’re either from hell or outer space, and there’s nothing you can do against them. It’s fuckin’ creepy. I was thinking of a town like that, and the town that I grew up in, when I was writing Ordinary Girl”
The horror angle is interesting, because it’s not something you find in indie rock, I suggest. “No – he agrees – because people think it’s Ozzy Osbourne, or Goth. It’s not Goth music we’re doing, but we mention the supernatural. I find using characters that are supernatural in songs, and most of my songs are love songs, or about love, it gives a different edge. Making lovers into monsters and vampires is a good way to show what love can do to you!”
Supernatural figures, created worlds, to hammer home a point – drama. To what extent, then, has film influenced their writing? “Hugely. I’ll give you an example: the three of us, how we play songs, because we can’t read dots etc (well, Pete can, but..) and we don’t describe it in bars or alegretto or anything, we describe it to each other in terms of films. The Avenue of Hope was a good example of this. When I brought it to the guys they asked me, ‘what is this? How should it go? It sounds a bit blues’, and I said, ‘no, no. It’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly‘, and with that they knew what I meant. Otherwise it would have been blues, which is something we wouldn’t do.”
There’s a strong tonal influence in I am Kloot’s music from Cabaret. One element of Cabaret was a dramatic social commentary through the music, with figures like Brecht and Weill. Gods and Monsters was written and recorded last November. Is there an element of commentary in it? “Absolutely – he answers – Gods and Monsters, the song, was used on the BBC during the American election. As much as I say that Gods and Monsters refers to us, people, there are references that were influenced by the time we were recording. There’s that line in the song ‘Just keep earning, keep on yearning, [...] and someone’s got to pay for all this television’ . There is an element of that, where we were seeing all this war etc through the eyes of the television. I’m not keen though on a manifesto according to me, – he stresses, – Why not a manifesto according to someone else?”
And so we finish up. Showtime is approaching, and Bramwell wants to meet up with some friends beforehand, and enjoy the early summer evening. We talk briefly about Italy, and about the language barriers. He thinks that it’ll be harder for I am Kloot to have success here, as a result. “The songs are constructed so you can hear the lyrics, both on the record and also live, but in a way I do want it to be instantly recognizable when it’s us. I think because of the instrumentation that we use, it’s really got to come down to the vocals and the lyric, cause instruments are instruments”.
A couple of hours later, a packed club proves his fears unfounded. Sure, those singing along may not have gotten all of the nuance, and may be garbling some of the phrases, but, and it’s a crucial but, they are singing along.