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While bands like Coldplay and Keane have received a fair amount of hype along with critical acclaim, South London quartet Athlete have been steadily building just as impressive a fan base and collecting accolades without making much noise. As they release their second album Tourist, The Record brings you an exclusive conversation with drummer Steve Roberts.

TR: Was your new album written while you were on tour?
Steve: Some of it was written when we were on tour but to be honest with you, the majority was written when we were back home. Weíve got a little studio in which we all kind of get together, and we can record little demos there, just play live together. So a lot of it was done there really, as well as in our own homes. Weíve all got kind of bedroom studios as well so we got to play around at home. Yeah, [the album] was written in a lot of different ways. It came out in the UK just about five weeks ago and itís doing quite well back home. Weíre hoping that it does well elsewhere too so that we get to travel with it.

TR: How is it different from your previous Mercury Prize nominated album Vehicles and Animals?
Steve: This new record sounds really different than the first one. The first one was more of a quirky, pop record. It was really upbeat, the melodies were really strong and had a lot of little quirky elements in it. On the new one we wanted to be a bit more subtle. On the last album a lot of the sounds included electronic bleeps and lots of cheap sounding synths so on this new one we wanted to broaden it. We used a big orchestra on a couple of songs and made sure that the sounds were more organic and beautiful sounding than the first record. The songs are a bit more downbeat, more emotive. It was a really fresh approach for us. It was enjoyable.

TR: You tend to get compared to bands like Coldplay and Keane. How do you feel about that?
Steve: Yeah, lots of people are comparing us to Coldplay at the moment and I donít know, I think to some extent I can understand it. A lot of people just try to simplify it and I suppose our album, in the grand scheme of things, is more in the same vein as Coldplay than it is like Eminem or Metallica so I understand that. At the same time I think our album doesnít really sound like the Coldplay record to us. I try not to worry about it, because itís not really going to make a difference to us. Weíve made the record we want to make. But I understand why people have to do that.

TR: The song Wires on your new album is a really personal songÖ
Steve: It was a song that Joel wrote the lyrics to. It was the story of when his daughter was born. She had a seizure in the first night she was born and Joel got a phone call asking him to make his way to the hospital. Basically itís that feeling of facing that personal tragedy and having to get to the hospital not knowing what was going on at all. Itís about the human instinct that kicks in where you just know you have to hold it together and be strong even though somehow naturally you would fall apart. And then you find youíre the most clear headed. His daughterís fine now, sheís two. So yeah, itís about that.

TR: The fans must react with a lot of feedback and stories to a powerful song like thatÖ
Steve: Thereís been a huge amount of stories that weíve been given and lots of people have been in similar situations, whether itís trouble with kids, or a situation where they could potentially lose someone they really love. So itís amazing. Quite often people come up to us at gigs and say that. It means then that when youíre at gigs playing that song, youíre kind of aware that itís got all these other stories and it makes it more powerful really.

You can read the rest of our exclusive with Athlete in the March 2005 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.

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