I’ll start by making a bold statement, I Am Kloot are the best band you’ve probably never heard of.
Unfairly passed over for the Mercury prize in 2010, losing out to one hit wonders “The xx”, I Am Kloot have been steadily releasing classics since 2001. The songs ooze personality and kinship, the musical talents of Peter Jobson (bass) and Andy Hargreaves (drums) fit John Bramwell’s lyrics, vocals and guitar to a tee.
I was introduced to I Am Kloot in 2009 by an ex-girlfriend, at the now defunct Cardiff Barfly when John Bramwell played a solo gig, as he regularly does between albums. Before the gig started we were smoking outside and she pointed out to me - after he had gone back inside — that the guy who had been enjoying a fag a metre from us was he who we had come to see tonight.
I Am Kloot were the 3rd most listened to band, 2011-2013 . 2,726 listens.— Last.fm, @charmingman
Since then the band has been a staple on my iPod, Spotify and have spent many drunk nights contemplating, commiserating and crying to. It’s perhaps ironic that the music somebody introduced me to also helped me through a lot of what I went through because of the relationship with that person.
So in December ‘13 John Bramwell announces another solo tour, a few dates dotted around the country at a leisurely pace, I get my tickets for Cardiff and Bristol — Bristol in February ‘14, Cardiff in March. I look forward to them mightily.
Finally the Bristol date comes along, I get on a train and make the hour journey there, to my second city. I had never been to the venue before, The Louisiana. As I walk there from the train station it starts to piss down, I run the final 200 metres. I get to the venue and taking cover from the rain, famililarly smoking a cigarette is John Bramwell. Smiling like a goon I say “Hey!”, he says “Hello” back and retreats inside, I caught him right at the letters.
The venue is small, 200 people or less. John and his support artist have to fight through the tightly packed crowd to get to the stage. For the first half I position myself as closely to the front of the stage as I can get. Did I forget to mention I went alone. It’s too much of a personal experience to take anybody who doesn’t know the music.
The second half starts late, I know my train home is at 11pm and the gig is supposed to finish at 1030. The songs keep coming, I’m entranced, it overruns, it’s 1030, I try to decide whether it’s best to be responsible and leave or stay and be gratified futher. I choose the latter.
I’m all caught up in a one man brawl
He comes off stage at 11pm. I’ve missed my ride home, but I have options, so I decide to wait until the 130am service back to Wales. John has a big queue of people waiting to sign albums, t-shirts and have photos taken with him. I stand at the bar drinking, just watching the queue disperse, watching how he interacts with fellow fans — a lot of them have met him before, talk about previous gigs, have their photos taken and leave the venue.
I buy my fourth pint and retreat to the outside, benches on the main road, to smoke and read, just passing the time until I can get home to my bed.
It’s coming up to midnight, closing time, I buy my fifth pint of cider and smoke what must be my 400th cigarette. I’m drunk enough now to talk to other people about what a great gig it was, the venue is emptying now, only about five people left. The Louisiana finally closes and John Bramwell emerges from the main doors. He lights a cigarette and says “Hello” to the small group I’m stood talking to, consisiting of a male/female couple and a drunk Bristol uni student originally from Manchester.
John and his manager join our group and get involved in our conversation, I think we’re talking about local venues and how they’ve been strangled, John agrees and talks about some of the brilliant, tiny places he’s played over the years. I offer him a cigarette. He fumbles around with the packet for a few seconds, takes one and I offer him a light.
He starts to talk about the gig, how well it went and the rain is “so pissing depressing”. The next 45 minutes pass quickly, we’re laughing and joking, John tells anecdotes about famous rock stars and poets — some which start with a disclaimer “Don’t put this on the internet! If this ends up on the internet I know where it’s come from!” to which I put my hands up and give him my word I will not repeat.
His songs are personal to him, but resonate with me. He puts to words what I feel but could never describe, and he does so with character and style, and now we’re laughing and joking like mates.
I finally succumb to the sixth pint, but I feel like it’s okay because he’s pissed too. I say “Your music has seen me through some shit, thanks”. He replies modestly and we move on quickly, for I am embarassed and we are men. I ask one question that had been burning, “How did you film the video “Over my shoulder” to which he gave an excellent answer — “I stood on a spinning platform in front of a green screen all day, feeling like a prick”.
It was coming up to 1am, we’d been talking, smoking and drinking for nearly an hour. The rain was screaming down, the bar was closed and I was dying for a piss. But I couldn’t leave. When would I get this opportunity again? I offer him another Marlboro red, he takes one and lights it up, thanking me on passing the pack back.
The owner of The Louisiana popped his head out of the door, John shouted at him “Can we get some wine to take back to the hotel?” and who could deny him? Wine was provided.
We talked some more, about music politics, bastard record companies, asshole music press and who are some of the best and worst “stars” to come into contact with.
Since John is from “oop north” and I am a massive Morrissey/The Smiths fan I decide to bung this into the foray. To my delight he tells an excellent story of being at one of the first Morrissey solo gigs in 1988, and agrees that despite sometimes being a bit of a cock, Morrissey is true musical royalty.
It’s 120am, we’ve been chatting for too long, if I miss this train I’ll have to spend 80 quid on a hotel — reluctantly I say my goodbyes, he says he has to leave too. I step into the rain, put my hood up and run to the train station with the biggest grin that has ever graced my face and he gets into his manager’s car.
I fell asleep on the train and almost missed my stop. I didn’t care.
Stop thinking it over and stick your suitcase in the van.