A Sporting Chance
the past year establishing a reputation as one of the countrys
most promising new acts, Athlete have embarked upon their first headline
tour of these fair isles. With the release of You got the style,
Westside and Beautiful as singles last year,
they attracted favourable comments from Jo Whiley for one. The album
Vehicles and Animals is scheduled for release on 7th April.
Atomic Duster caught up with them prior to a show at Leicesters
AD: Hows the tour going?
Carey: The tour so far is going well. Its kind
of surprising how many people have turned up each night. Weve
spent all our time underground writing songs and rehearsing so to get
out and people actually come and watch us is nice.
AD: With the radio play for the singles have you noticed more familiarity
with the songs?
Steve: Yeah definitely especially with a song like Beautiful
that has been out its kind of surprising, people singing along.
They respond to those songs in a way that shows theyre familiar
Carey: El Salvadors starting to get that way. The
last few gigs people have started picking up on the lyrics and singing
AD: Its (the single El Salvador) getting a lot
of airplay isnt it?
Carey: It seems to be.
AD: Turning to the album, its got a very natural feel to it.
Were the songs structured beforehand or are they the result of someone
contributing an idea and the rest of the band picking up on it and jamming
Carey: Thats kind of how we work anyway. All of us write
together. Its very equal in terms of whats written. Its
never one person coming in with a finished songs. Its always an
evolution from starting idea to finished product. Mostly we record in
our little studio in South East London. We mostly bang something down,
take in out, jam it for a while, re-record bits and the song over time
AD: Is that your own studio?
Steve: Its a tiny little set up. Its basically a
small space and a computer with loads of little toys, loads of keyboards,
AD: That brings me on to the keyboards. Some great noises come out
and add identity to the songs. Tim joined the band after the rest of
you didnt he?
Steve: Tim was with us since we were kids, aged 16-17 but then
went away to Uni. The remaining three of us did this little band, put
a lot into it but then realised it wasnt what we actually wanted
to do. At the time we started to think of turning things around thats
when we started to think about having our own studio set up, which started
with our own little digital 12 track. We started putting down lots of
keyboards ourselves and got to the point where we asked Tim to help
us out putting down some keyboards cos at that time hed just come
back from Uni and before long he was fully integrated into the band.
AD: Its certainly a unique style. Did you choose it or has
Carey: Bit of both really. It wasnt the case that we close
to use lots of keyboards theyre probably just all of our
favourite instrument. We spent a lot of time playing with little noises
on them. Drum machines too. The programmed electronic side of what we
do is probably my favourite. It keeps all the songs interesting.
Were a live band as well. This is our roots. The two together
hopefully make a good interesting sound.
AD: The choruses are strong too. Is that something you focus on?
Steve: Melody in the songs is probably the most important thing.
If the melody is really strong then we feel that we can throw all the
other bits rhythm, keyboards, lyrics into the pot. Melody
is the most important criteria in the songs.
Quite often we write a chorus and two weeks later write another one
and replace it. By recording and keeping all the bits we can even throw
a chorus, verse or middle eight from a year ago in order to complete
You got the style came about that way. We have had five
different middle eight's for that. The final middle eight was in fact
an outro from something we recorded over a year ago!
AD: The beauty about having your own studio I suppose...
Carey: Yeah definitely. You keep all the old parts, never chuck
AD: The album came about that way then?
Steve: In a way yeah.
Carey: The album was a bit strange. Most bands write an album,
get signed, record the album and put it out. We had 4 songs finished
and a couple on the way when we got signed. Then all of a sudden we
had to write a whole album.
When we signed to Parlophone we would write a couple of songs, go out
on tour, come back, write another few songs and repeat the process till
the album was done.
So the album has been written over the space of a year that way, mainly
at two different points in the year. This gives it a flavour and adds
AD: Like a diary?
Carey: Yeah definitely.
AD: The first two tracks on the album in particular.
Carey: Yeah. El Salvador is about whats happened
to us since the band began to take off, whilst the next track (Westside)
is about what happened in our previous band.
AD: In Westside it speaks of the scene at
the time. You appear to have your own scene away
from trends. Like early Gomez and the Beta Band
Steve: Yeah. We didnt want to do anything other than our
own thing. Were happy to be compared alongside those bands.
AD: What about influences?
Carey: I supposes what inspired us to stop doing the old band
and start up Athlete were bands like Grandaddy and Pavement. They showed
that music can be much more interesting and cool than what we were doing.
Steve: Bands like the Beta Band and The Super Furries. Those
kind of bands have a slightly more creative approach.
AD: Youve had some interesting support slots. Have you picked
up much from playing with the likes of Mansun, and The Polyphonic Spree?
Steve: I think its really true that the more you play the
better you get. Its been really good to get out and do lots of
gigs and play with bands you really like. And to play to different bands
crowds, who are really into music.
AD: The Polyphonic Spree must have been an experience...
Steve: Yeah 35 people going on tour and living on two
buses. Theyre a little bit crazy mad Texans and
theyre all really outgoing but I think thats part of being
in the band, part of being recruited.
Carey: Theyre brilliant live and lovely people. Weve
kept in touch with some of them. Its one of my favourite tours.
AD: One last question. Working with Vincent Van Vugt (PJ Harvey,
Nick Cave) what was that like?
Steve: Hes an amazing bloke. On a musical level hes
been perfect. Hes quite particular. So are we quite particular
about what we want to sound like. With having our own studio, we wanted
someone to come in and make us sound even better. Thats exactly
what hes about.
AD: Did you choose him yourself?
Steve: He mixed our first EP and we found that from speaking
to him when he was doing that we connected and he picked up on what
we were looking for.
Because we worked with him over the course of a year rather than a couple
of months we found our understanding and friendship grew. It wouldnt
have been so if it were done in a 6 week period.
AD: Thanks for your time good luck tonight and with the album.
Carey: Thank you.
Steve: Nice one.
Athletes album Vehicles and Animals
has been preceded by the release of the single El Salvador
which is available now. They are presently touring the UK and a review
of the nights gig in Leicester is on-line in this issue.
Interview and transcript by Matty P