I Am Kloot : an interview
I Am Kloot have been consistently making great, stripped down, emotionally charged music in the Manchester undergrowth for a few years now. Their music is raw with its heart in its sleeve but also really well crafted with great songs that have turned them into an internationally recognised cult band. It’s time they were recognised on the same sort of level as their friends and fellow travelers Elbow but maybe their music is a bit too raw for the watered down idea of what ‘indie’ is these days although their new album, Let It All In, manages the trick of being both commercial and emotionally charged and innovative at the same time…
1. Six albums in and sounding even more vital than ever- how do you keep the edge?
Like most musicians we have been playing in bands since we were kids at school. Kloot are no different. But when us three started to rehearse together we happened on a formula that worked. We found our voice. It was uniquely us. This came about by John being, at this point, essentially a solo performer and Andy and I were sensitive to colouring the songs musically to enhance the feel and message in the lyric.
There is something special about a three piece band line up.
The fourth member of the band is a use of space and dynamic range. Dynamics are used in all music but when you are as stripped down as we are the dynamics are more extreme. In the past if there was space it was often seen as space to be filled. When Kloot started we were savvy enough to use space as part of our sound. Limitations can often be the mother of invention.
We rehearsed in the cellar of a Withington terrace house so we had to be quiet. I was too tall to stand up and hence my sitting position has stayed with me from cellar to stage. We were confident enough in ourselves to be ourselves. This realisation was infectious and the change from banging on closed doors to doors opening for us at this point began to happen. As far as keeping an edge is concerned i know we are as ambitious, angry, driven, excited and as hands on as we were at the inception. We have over the past twelve years together, learned a lot about playing and recording and are now putting out some of our finest work. This is due to John being in my humble opinion a superb song writer and performer. It is vital to believe in the song, in the writer and in the performance when all these things come together profound communication can be achieved. John naturally has this as part of his character. We were inspired to play music by bands and individuals who possessed these qualities.
2. Let it all in â what’s the title saying? Kloot is a band that lets it all out- is this an ironic statement?
I am sure someone somewhere said “you’ve got to let it in if you want to let it out” or was it the other way around? Give me three choices and I will have answer for you tout suite but give me two and it will take a while. Let it all in, to me is a statement of universal non-exclusion. As John Cooper Clarke once put it beautifully “bring back hanging; for everyone”. Make your own mind up. Don’t be told. Openness. Absorb. A hunger. A curiosity. A yearning. The path of excess leads to the palace of wisdom etc. It is not an ironic statement. It is an inclusive attitude.
3. Still singing songs of drinking and disaster?
It has become our catchphrase. Sometimes songs of love and disaster, the experiences and the memories are a constant source of inspiration but life is not as turbulent as it once was.
4. Something very human about seeking wisdom at the booth of a glass- you capture this very well
Alcohol amongst other things has been an inspiration or a catalyst or a crutch for many people who create. We have always existed in a social environment. We are very social beings. I am not convinced that wisdom is a by-product of alcohol consumption but it is certainly a very human vice. Wisdom comes with experience. Kings and queens would consult the oracle at Delphi on life changing issues and she was an old woman seated in a cave inhaling sulphuress fumes from a volcano below all day that caused her to be a little hazy on detail. Maybe a little lubrication of the mind is useful to help you see things from a different perspective. Vive la difference
5. The album was produced by Guy and Craig of Elbow- tell us about your relationship back to the days of Night And Day in Manchester.
John and I worked at Night and Day booking bands for about four years from around 1995. The Elbow boys all worked at the Roadhouse. I am Kloot – Night and Day. Elbow – Roadhouse. I am Kloot was born out of the demise of a band called the Mouth that was basically I Am Kloot and Bryan Glancy. Bryan was the person that the Seldom Seen Kid album title refers to. Around this time Elbow were born out of a previous band called Soft. There were many bands around the Northern Quarter in Manchester all doing gigs at the same time, all friends, spending a lot of time together and sharing everything. We were, as they say, young men with a dream. We were all finding our feet musically. We were all skint but we were very resourceful.
At that time you could find anything you needed to get on in manchester if you were in a band. There were artists, photographers, printers, musicians, sound engineers, and promoters all under one roof. We have been friends since then. When Kloot first started Guy produced our first recordings that we put out on Guy Lovelady’s Ugly Man records and when Elbow were dropped by Island records before putting out there first albums we introduced Elbow to Lovelady who put out their first couple of singles. We both from that platform went on to sign with larger labels and proceeded from there. Guy produced our first album, Natural History, and Guy and Craig have produced our last two albums. We would have liked to record all our records with them but they have been busy with their own stuff. We have played many gigs together and helped each other out with all kinds of things. We have grown and learned a great deal from working together over the years.
We have a great deal of experience together which makes it very easy and pleasurable to record with them. They know us and often the producer relationship is nothing more than a one night stand. A producer has a good deal of influence on an album and if you know each other it saves a lot of unnecessary discussions. We were never a band to discuss things much. We like to work spontaneously. We have a great amount of trust and respect for guy and craig musically and technically, this makes recording a very rewarding creative experience. All anyone does is walk the earth for a period of time; we are lucky enough to spend that time socially and professionally with our good friends. We have a great deal of respect for this situation and do our utmost to nurture it.
6. The new album is more stripped down and back to the early Kloot- a deliberate move? Are the songs more written as a band these days?
Our last album, Sky At Night, was the first album we had a name for and a feel for howÂ all the songs were going to be before we started to record. All the songs from Sky At NightÂ were recorded with
Guy and Craig present. Our new album let it all in was recorded almost entirely by i am kloot in various studios around the north west including: moolah rouge in stockport, airtight in chorlton, modern english studio in colne and inch studio in chorlton. The songs were then taken to elbows studio in salford called blueprint and with guy and craig tracks were added or removed. The album was mixed entirely by craig at blueprint. We worked with guy and craig for around five weeksÂ at blueprint finalising the album. There are some songs on this album such as masquerade that we have had for a long time but not recorded. The song let them all in was a song we have had since the days of the mouth. Even the stars is a song that we have recorded a number of times but not captured to our satisfaction. Looking back at past songs that we thought would fit with the overall feel of the rest of the album and recording tracks ourselves gives the album a more stripped down feel as opposed to the more lush arrangements that were on sky at night. It was also important to us not repeat ourselves with this new album.Â Our writing process has not changed a great deal. John writes the lyrics and melodies on guitar then andy and i join in with john. The process is very spontaneous. On the last two albums i have written middle eights for a number of tunes and played a lot more guitar than ever before. When we are adding overdubs or string / brass arrangements in the studio every idea is tried out and we all put a lot of ideas on the table. Some work, some don’t. We are now a bit more discerning about what stays or goes nowadays. We have always worked on the composition and arrangemnt of the songs as a band but john writes the lyrics, melody and chords on guitar before any of that happens.Â John is the source and this is right because john is the front.
7. Is there a thread running through the album?
On sky at night the theme was a late night smoky boozy club with a band serenading the clientele. All the songs referred to the night, the moon, and the sky in some way. The new album is not as themed. The subject matter of the songs is varied. This is a more open and diverse body of work and has more in common with natural history our first album as opposed to the nocturnal feel of sky at night.
8. Was there a lot of songs scrapped before this album?
There were no songs scrapped for this album. We recorded some songs in various different ways to see how theyÂ fitted with the rest of the songs. Some songs that did not naturally fit with others when it came to deciding on the running order of the album were left off the album and subsequently used as b sides for vinyl singles. There is a ballad on the b side of the first single we released called send my love to you. This is a very intimate first take recording of john singing and playing guitar. On the b side of the second single to be released this january is a rocking full productionÂ composition called too late; this features denise johnson on sublime backing vocals and a superb zappaesque saxophone section by peter mcphail. The running order is a real fine art and weÂ take a lot of time over it. The relationship form one song to another is very important and when you get it right you can really feel another force at work that enhances the album as an entire listening experience. Anything that breaks the spell must stand aside. The part is sacrificed for the sake of the whole. The album is a great format and every song must stand up to each other and the running order must conduct the emotional moodÂ just right.
9. Great set at manchester food and drink festival- enjoy it?
Enjoyed it tremendously. Always great to work with Phil Jones. Look forward to working with Phil and J.C.. Clarke next year in some capacity – more on that later.