Singer-songwriter Johnny Bramwell fronts terrific British trio I Am Kloot. Meet the man behind the music
Singer-songwriter Johnny Bramwell fronts terrific British trio I Am Kloot, whose gently melancholic and touchingly philosophical songs are finally earning the kind of attention they’ve long deserved. Their latest album, Sky at Night, is out now.
He started his career as a singer-songwriter using the alias Johnny Dangerously.
‘I did a gig supporting a band called The Faith Brothers at the old Marquee in London in the ’80s. I walked on stage, tripped over the monitor lead, fell off the stage and broke the neck of my guitar, got back on stage and the place came down – everybody went ballistic. I couldn’t play a note because I’d completely busted my guitar, so I just waved and walked off. A guy at the side of the stage just went, “Dangerous”. It was a stupid name and it kind of ended up sticking when it wasn’t supposed to.’
He has busked in Athens and been mistaken for a grieving husband.
‘I played Monastiraki underground station in Athens about 20 years ago and that was really good. I had a black top I used to wear and also a cross, not because I’m religious, but because it was a gift necklace. I used to do quite well, but then a Greek guy said to me, “You know, a lot of people will think you’re a widower, because of the top and the cross.” I was going for the sympathy vote but didn’t realise it. There was a pang of guilt – which quickly passed.’
He once co-presented a show on UK TV with Caroline Aherne. ‘I was doing a gig at the Green Room in Manchester and the power went off, so we were all stood in the dark, apart from this exit sign, so I started talking about that and it was quite funny and interesting. I went on for about 15 minutes. The next day, this guy called Bob Dickinson rang me up and asked if I wanted to present a TV show on [UK station] Granada. It was like the storyline from a Bing Crosby film! We went to different towns in the north-west of the UK and looked at their history and music scenes. It aired at 11am – kind of post-kids TV, around student getting-up time – and I was mainly doing interviews with musicians.’
He once met Aled Jones and can reveal that he’s a very funny bloke. ‘He was talking to [Elbow frontman] Guy Garvey and he’s like [adopts Welsh accent], “I’m actually going to be in Manchester and I’m doing a choral children’s matinée performance. Come along, if you want. Do you want to? Do you f***!” He’s totally on it and very funny. A great guy.’
He’s been playing guitar since he was five years old, and did his first gig when he was 11. ‘My dad lived in a seaside resort in Wales, where I used to go for the summer, and there was a local singer at this pub. I used to get up and play two songs in between his sets. I did ‘Space Oddity’ and Simon And Garfunkel’s ‘Sound of Silence’. It wasn’t too dreadful, because I’d already been playing for about six years by then.’
He always gets really nervous before he goes on stage. ‘I get really tense the day of a gig. It usually starts around midday and I get pretty quiet and just read a book. I’m all right once we’ve been out there for five minutes, but beforehand I do get nervous. I dread it, in some ways, because I suppose it matters. I don’t like to do interviews or anything the day of a gig. Even talking about it freaks me out.’
After all these years, he has no trouble keeping the faith. ‘I Am Kloot are lucky in that we’ve always been able to tour and a lot of bands lose money doing that, but we can do 100 gigs or so a year, which has given us financial independence when people haven’t been backing us. You do begin to wonder when – or if ever – you will reach a wider audience, and sometimes that gets to you, but I have to listen to what I’m saying in my own songs. Things don’t matter that much in life – the sun is still rising and the stars are still there. I’m never going to stop, no matter what. Even if it’s only 20 people in a pub, I won’t stop.’