Interview with I Am Kloot

I deduce by the phone code that you’re in London now, are you?
No, I think you’re calling me via the management, so I don’t know how that works, but I’m at home in Manchester. I’ve just got home; I’ve been for a haircut. It always feels nice, doesn’t it, a good haircut.

Are you looking beautiful?
Er, it’s not so bad but I suffer, myself, from a bit of alopecia, you know - where your hair falls out. I got battered by a couple of doormen a couple of years ago, which is another story, and ever since then I’ve had little episodes where me hair falls out just on the top. But the girl who cuts me hair’s really sympathetic, so I’ve got a slight comb-over! Haha…

You’re not painting the picture of an insight into the rock ‘n’ roll life that I thought you would Andy! So, you’re at home now, but a few days ago, you played a sold out gig at Manchester Cathedral – that’s an interesting venue…
It’s an unlikely venue, but I think they have put a few other bands on there, like Tindersticks have played there, and a few other bands, but obviously due to us being Mancunians, it’s a big deal. Saying that, I don’t think any of us had actually been in the Cathedral prior to the gig, so that’s even more special really.

Was there quite a sense of occasion in there?
Yeah, quite, exactly; I mean every so often we have the luxury of playing these stunning places, or a proper venue – or, such as with the Union Chapel; we did a gig there not so long ago. You just feel so honoured to be on that stage, in that place doing your thing; it’s very special.

Everything I’ve ever seen of coverage there on the telly looks mesmerising…
Good word for it, mesmerising, it was. I’d have loved to have seen us.

You’re coming to Norwich Arts Centre this month, which was a church itself.
It is, yeah. We played there a couple of times before; it’s dead cute, it’s lovely. We always get well looked after and ‘cause you’re kind of out of the way a little bit, aren’t you, Norwich, ‘casue you’re a little bit inaccessible, you always get the feeling that people are grateful that you’ve bothered!

Being a city-specific magazine, we’re kind of interested in people’s locality – their relationship with the town which they’re from. How much has being from Manchester played its influence?
Well I think it can never be underestimated really, how much Manchester does play a part in not just our music, but in all the great bands that have come out of Manchester, which is quite a lot in comparison to a lot of other cities. And it’s been discussed in great lengths, I’m sure all this, but I think the weather has got a great deal to do with it really. The fact that we can’t go out that much ‘cause the weather’s bad, and likewise I think it’s instrumental in the kind of music that comes out of the city as well. As you can imagine, happy reggae music could only have come from Jamaica, the way I see it. Manchester, as you know, is pretty rainy, pretty gloomy, and I think that sort of influences the music a little bit.

What a history to be part of though, as well…
Oh, no kidding. It’s always been a big dream of mine to be even vaguely going down in the history books as one of those Manchester bands, you know. Oh yeah, it’s a big deal; we’re in good company, we really are.

I’ve read a couple of times now people labelling you as Manchester’s best kept musical secret – how does that label go down with you?
Well, it’s flattering of course, and it was really good to have got that nomination at the Mercury’s, to bring in a bigger appeal hopefully, which is kind of what we’re after, but at the same time it’s a very nice place to be, to be people’s favourite little band. People get very passionate about our band as their own little secret, and I can relate to that, ‘cause I used to feel a bit like that, and then if the band becomes very successful, then they can get a bit funny with you, can’t they?! This is all I’ve ever wanted to do, really – it’s just about making a living doing it really. We can just about pay the mortgage and stuff, but you know, it would be nice to have a little of what Elbow have got. It gets a bit frustrating when people keep calling us this little secret thing, as if we’re underachieving. We just want a bigger audience, and we’ve only ever achieved that by playing gigs and then by people saying “eh, have a listen to this”, and I love that, you know, “have you heard this, have you heard this?” Until recently we very rarely got on the radio, so it’s just through hard graft and good will.

But Radio 2 was riddled with you earlier this year…
Oh aye, it’s amazing. Radio 6Music have always been good for us, which is what they’re there for, for small bands like us, but Radio 2 – big deal, yeah. For my wife, the fact that all her colleagues can listen to my band on the radio, that was pretty special, you know. Being a question on Pop Master with Ken Bruce… who’da thought it?! Haha… Her colleagues just think “oh, he’s in a band, he’s in a band”, as everybody thinks, but that’s fine by me.

Obviously you were nominated for the Mercury Music Prize – was that a turning point for you?
Of course, definitely, yeah; I didn’t think we had much chance of winning, but that’s not the point, I mean I don’t know what the sales are, but the record certainly went back into the charts. We haven’t really done a big tour since then, but we’re coming back this month to bigger gigs, and it’s noticeable, you know. It’s done us the world of good. I think we probably benefitted from that Mercury nomination more than anybody else nominated, I think. I wouldn’t be surprised.

You’ve been doing this for 11 years, much as in the story with Elbow, but if you’d have won, and still being a nominee, they’ll see you as an overnight success, which is the funniest thing!
Isn’t it just!

Does it bother you if people don’t recognise the depth of your history, or do you think ‘if you’re just hopping on now, welcome aboard.”
No, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest, and I think that was probably the story with Elbow, going back to them. Their last record is probably most people’s first record they’ve bought of theirs, but consequently they just get into the back catalogue. It’s quite obvious as soon as you get onto any website that this isn’t our first record; it doesn’t bother me and hopefully they’ll investigate it and find out that our first record was equally as great, if you ask me, but just different.

Well I’m actually sitting opposite one of my lovely freelancers who actually bought your first ever single in Manchester, so how’s about that?!
Wahey, really? On vinyl?

It was indeed.
I love it, I love it. I mean, that was just an exercise in just doing it; we borrowed £1000 from a chap and then we pressed up the records in Czechoslovakia, Peter printed the brown paper bags they were on and then we just put them all in by hand, gave them to a record distributor and they went around the world. It was very exciting; that was consequently how we got our first record deal because it turned up in Rough Trade Records – the A&R guy was handed it and then they offered us a deal.

Yeah, it seemed like you picked up momentum quite quickly after forming and John poached you, is that right, from other bands?
Er… I wouldn’t believe everything you read!

It’s stuff of legend and not truth is it?
Yeah, it’s not quite true, not really.

But from the history books, it doesn’t seem like it took you too long to secure that deal?
No, it was amazingly quick; in fact we talk about it quite a lot. We used to rehearse in Peter’s cellar downstairs and the first time we ever got together, we had to play quietly because of neighbours watching Coronation St or whatever, so that’s kind of how it evolved with us playing quite delicately. We were quite excited by what we’d found, immediately. Like I said, we borrowed this money off a friend of ours, pressed them up and things got moving quite quickly.

If we look at the new album, the production has really stepped up; it’s a lot more luscious and full than your previous ones. You’ve got a lot going on there! Is it weird? Do you step out of your comfort zone by exposing yourself to other elements?
Well we certainly didn’t in this instance, because we were working with Craig [Potter] and Guy [Garvey from Elbow], and there’s nobody that really understands our band more than them two – certainly Guy. From all their experience, they’re a fantastic team of record producers. We completely trusted them, so that most of the time, we were just laughing on that record, just having a really good time. Nobody was freaking out because we were trusting in Guy and Craig that they had no axe to grind, whereas sometimes, you know, if you’re paying a producer, they’re in the pocket of the record company and the three of us can start getting a little bit stressed, but there was none of that. We were all heading towards the same goal with the same ideas, same vision of having loads of strings, making it really lush and gorgeous. You know, hopefully not too Elbow-ified! They’ve got everything you could ever want in their studio, so the world was our oyster and we did make a big, concerted effort to make a posh record, very much so.

Has it changed the way you tour? Do you have to take more people?
Yeah, yeah, as things get bigger, you might get a little bit more money, but that has to go a bit further! That was kinda one of the reasons why we were a three-piece, so that the money would go further! But now we’ve got two violins, a saxophone player, an extra guitar player, a pianist…

You should just employ a one-man band really, Andy.
Well I think that was why Johnny was always on his own for so many years, but of course we’ve got to try and recreate this record, and it’s quite nice anyway, travelling round with a few more people. We’ve had ten years of travelling round, the three of us and Richard doing our sound. It’s fun having other people around, but of course they all want paying. They all deserve to be paid, of course – it’s a lovely thing, it’s a lovely show.

So you haven’t considered getting one guy with a big drum strapped to his back, and a harmonica in his mouth, ‘cause then you’d only have to pay once.
I don’t think we could get away with that, but we always like to see that from the support band.

I was wondering, once John’s written the songs, how does he approach you with them? Are you always very open and supportive? I’m sure you are…
I think it can be a bit weird for him, ‘cause from my memory, most of the time, he’ll just casually start playing something brutal and me and Peter either start playing along with it, or we don’t – that’s often the case anyway, but it’s very rare that it’s something that we don’t want to pursue. We’ll always try and pursue a song just ‘cause it’s there. Whether it’s going to be fitting to go on an album is a different matter. But yeah, if Johnny’s gone to the trouble… he inspires me that boy, he really does.

That’s wicked – and you still feel like that after 11 years…
Yeah, it really is a rare thing. We all treasure it very much; I don’t know what I’d do otherwise, I really don’t.

Now, ‘Northern Skies’ was played a lot on the radio, but you shot the video in North Wales, interestingly with Christopher Eccleston…
Yeah, we had a great day driving around in Peter’s car, and Christopher Eccleston, what a top bloke he is. It was quite an honour.

I saw the bit where he was nicking stuff out the car and you chased after him –
Yeah, it did me in, that. I couldn’t walk the next day! It was a bit of a shock to the system with my general lack of fitness. I was suffering for my art there, you see. Falling over… It was good though, ‘cause those two feel quite uncomfortable towards being filmed and doing videos, but I thoroughly enjoy it. Especially with Eccleston being there – it made me try my best!

You’ve got some famous fans really – Christopher Eccleston himself, Pete Doherty, obviously Elbow – does it mean a lot to be recognised by your peers?
No, no, I think it’s a really big thing, when your peers like your band; it’s probably more important to me than just being liked by kids, ‘cause there’s plenty of other bands where every other member of other bands thinks “I hate them!” You’re that band that everybody else loves to hate, without naming any names! There’s a lot of successful bands that other bands don’t like. I’m glad we’re not one of them!

As you’ve been to Norwich before, I thought I’d ask you whether you have memories of our city?
My only memory really is going for a curry there, I think. Walking round the busy rounds around some of the city battlements – the city wall. I wish I had more if an endearing image!

Emma Roberts

I Am Kloot come to the Norwich Arts Centre on Tuesday 25th January. For tickets, go to www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk or call 01603 660352.

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