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Interview: Athlete

1 August 07 interview: Mike Simon

"It’s that weird thing in a band that your life is so dependent on what your next record does, in terms of where you’ll be, what you’re doing"

Is Beyond the Neighbourhood a more global album than your previous material?
Yeah, I suppose it is. The album breaks down into a couple of songs that are a bit more about us and our relationships and the rest of it is about everything beyond that, you can’t miss it these days, it’s so in your face. There are so many things people are aware of now, that two or three years ago they wouldn’t talk about. When you start writing songs, you just naturally write about what you’re thinking and what’s going through your head, so that’s all there on the album. It’s not a preachy album, it’s more of a questioning one. So are you going to be involved in campaigning about any particular issues? We’re approached quite regularly to do stuff for different charities, which we all think is brilliant, but at the same time you have to try to work out what you do. It’s become almost a cliché for bands to work with charity and its like most bands don’t really care what charity it is, it’s just the right thing for them to do. 
 
You sound skeptical. Do you think it’s become obligatory for bands to parade their ethical credentials?
I’m not having a go at bands doing what they do, because I genuinely hope that they believe in what they’re doing. I just hope that bands are naturally sympathetic and are interested in what they’re doing, not just trying to get a bit of press.Your material has appeared in adverts in the past.

Are there any brands that you wouldn’t want your music attached to?
We’ve only ever done one advert, in America, for Adidas. We spent a long time umming and ahhing about it, trying to decide whether it was a company that we actually wanted to put our name to. It turns out both them and Nike have stopped using things that aren’t fair trade. Other than that we haven’t done a lot of advertising. TV programmes have used our music but that’s about it.
 
Do you have a lot of control over that kind of thing?
Anything that’s advertising, we get to approve it. If it’s for a TV show, like Match of the Day, it just happens without you knowing about it, but with adverts we say if it’s okay or not.
 
On your first album I was a bit thrown by the song El Salvador, considering the country’s recent war torn history.
To be honest, we didn’t know much about it at all then. It was just so far removed from our own lifestyle and what we were doing that it seemed completely different. The essence of the song was just going somewhere completely different.
 
After your first album you played in the rather tight confines of the Orange Tree (home of LeftLion Presents)…
Yeah, we did and I actually really enjoyed it. We’ve got two or three small gigs coming up in the week after the record comes out. I really enjoy playing small gigs. It’s nice being that close to people and a great way to play your songs.
 
What are you aiming for in the future?
It’s that weird thing in a band that your life is so dependent on what your next record does, in terms of where you’ll be, what you’re doing. Hopefully we’ll be halfway through our next record. I’d like to live somewhere else for a few months and then come back. Everyone thinks that being in a band you’re rich, but I don’t know any bands that have paid off their debts to their record company, yet. Bands aren’t rich any more, so it’s nice to take a breather. But we start pulling our hair out if we don’t make music and that kind of works for us.

Athlete play at Rock City on Tuesday 2 October. Their new album Beyond the Neighbourhood is out now.

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