Athlete’s Steve Roberts

How’s the tour going so far?
Really, really good actually. We’ve been dipping off to Europe where we’re quite new over there, so we’re just doing a few gigs. It’s been interesting to see people’s reaction [to Tourist], to get a feel for how it’s all going over there, really. Now we’re back in the U.K. so we’re home and we’re playing for the home crowds. We’ve been playing around the U.K. for over three years now, so [we’ve] built up a good fan base and can play pretty big venues. Outside of London, it’s around 3,500, and in London we’re doing three nights at Brixton Academy, which is 5,000.

I know you toured the last album [Vehicles and Animals] for two solid years before you sat down to write Tourist. What did you learn from touring?
How to play in front of an audience is hugely important, such a massive part of things. When you record some songs and then you start playing them in front of an audience, they really start to take on a life of their own; they mean different things to different people. That’s really rewarding, when you play and you see that response, and you meet people after the gig and see what they’ve got to say. That helped us to appreciate exactly what we’ve been doing when we started writing again. Also, confidence-wise, as musicians, we really grew.

Did you road-test any of the new stuff before you sat down to record it?
Yeah, we took a few songs on tour with us, just to try out. We took “Wires” and “Tourist” and “Attraction,” the first one on the record, in kind of early versions. And they kind of developed and changed a bit, after time. I think that was important as well. When you come then to record them in the studio, it’s not the first time you ever played it.

I know you played America for the last album. How was the reception last time when you came over here?
We literally only did just one tiny little show in New York, and then we played South by Southwest. In fact, the gig we did in New York was probably the worst gig we have ever done. It was a really unfortunate night. We were jetlagged, using all hired equipment—and some of it didn’t work. But we still enjoyed ourselves. We’re really wanting to get back and show people that we’re a lot better than we were that night.

You said you wanted the album to have “soul”; what does that mean to Athlete?
We knew the new songs really had to mean something; they couldn’t be just made-up stories. We really wanted them to be real experiences, no bullshit in them—just make sure that where we were coming from was honest and true. And also, to make sure we were writing the songs with other people in mind. We didn’t want to make an album that doesn’t mean anything, an album that’s pretentious in any way; we wanted to make something people could connect with.

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