The word that keeps coming up, in conversation with Johnny Bramwell, lead singer and songwriter with Mancunians I am Kloot, is drama. Whether it be references to Harold Pinter, or the description of their latest album as “like Richard III as a character”, it’s clear that he, and indeed the band, have specific goals in what they do, namely creating a dramatic self-contained world. “That’s what I feel, for people coming to see a band, or listening to the record, it’s about. It’s about stepping into a different world for an hour and a half or whatever”, says Bramwell.
The dramatic world that I am Kloot create is for the large part a dark and edgy place. They may have brilliant pop tunes, particularly so on their latest release Gods and Monsters, but lyrically they sing about dark emotions and spaces. As such it’s quite a surprise to meet Bramwell, sitting outside in the evening sunshine before the Bologna show on their current European tour, sunglasses perched atop his head like a naturalised Italian. From the records one could be forgiven for thinking that he’s a wide-eyed, nocturnal serial killer. In the flesh he’s friendly and professional, and more than happy to talk about Gods and Monsters, an album that critics have recognised as a significant development in the band’s sound.
“Our first record [Natural History] – he explains – was done when we’d only been together six months, and it’s got a real charm to it, and scruffiness, and for that type of record, I’ve always thought you’d be hard pushed to do it better. But we’ve been gigging and playing together for 4/5 years, so we can bring a lot more drama to a song now.
We’ve gone another way in recording terms, for this album – he continues – This album was more organic, the way we did it. Basically we had microphones everywhere. We were miking up things that were vibrating because we were playing. If you’ve got a tabletop with cups and saucers on it, it might vibrate when you play a certain note, and not when you play others. So you mike up the tabletop, and play the song, and on certain notes you get these strange sounds.”
If pushed to describe the album, the words swing and space come to mind. Swing because there’s a definite momentum to the album, a momentum that’s far beyond the simple 4/4 beat of your average rock song, taking in quirky rythms alongside pop, but no less captivating for it; and space, well Bramwell describes it perfectly, while discussing his admiration for English playwright Harold Pinter: “What I like with Pinter is the space, and it’s mainly space [throaty chuckle]. But it’s what the space means that’s important. In music, we try to put a lot of space in our stuff. I’ve been trying to make my language less complicated, and at the same time say more, and Pinter is obviously one of the greatest examples of that. It’s the pauses that are speaking to you a lot of the time.”
It’s interesting that he would say that about his language, because it’s precisely Bramwell’s energetic and intelligent word play that many see as being I am Kloot’s greatest strength. “I’m actually writing simpler lyrics”, he says, slightly on the defensive when I suggest that, to my ears, the lyrics are as poetic as ever [not a criticism]. “It’s a much more direct record, Gods and Monsters, with less poetic wordplay going on. I think I’m a simpler person now than I was five years ago [laughs]. It’s good for me, ’cause I don’t want to repeat myself artistically, or as a person. There was a lot of stuff in my life that I wanted to let go of, and leave behind me. That was one of the reasons I wrote Over my Shoulder on this album. It is about letting things go. It’s better creatively that way – I didn’t want to repeat myself. The recording process contributed as well. We used a lot of different instruments. We kept it sparse, not layering it up so much as adding colour.”