Athlete are the sort of pop group you wished for and more. If you put them through our special Pop DNA Analysis machine you will find Sly And The Family Stone and Prince amongst their list of influences and with a healthy disregard for the current Pop Idol trash they go against the grain with a touch of "anti-pop freakiness" as they like to call it. We caught up with cheeky chappy vocalist and guitarist Joel who explains why Athlete will always be more long distance runners than sprinters.

Q: You started off the year with your very first national tour alongside Minuteman (who are very good) and the Crescent (who the worst band imaginable). And you ended the year supporting the 25 strong Polyphonic Spree and have an album ready for release. How's 2002 been for you?
A: It's been pretty exciting and looking back at it i'd say it's been pretty mad. We've had to write an album basically because there's only 3 track on the album which we wrote before the beginning of this year. In-between all the touring we've been trying to write and record so it's been a mish mash of everything really and we suddenly realized why a lot of bands sign a record deal once they've got an albums worth of material ready.

Q: A bit of cheesy question, but cheese is acceptable on certain occasions. Athlete - more long distance runners than sprinters?
A: It's cheesy, but it's true. We've never wanted to be a band that was just thrown at people to see whether it hit the mark or not. We just wanted to build it up slowly and that's why we signed with Parlaphone because they were obviously a label that stick with bands for a long period of time and keep building them. Were definitely in it for the long run.

Q: As I said earlier to you were doing our Best of 2002 round-up and were happy to tell you that you're in our Top 3 New Bands of the Year with Kinesis and The Darkness. What do you think of your peers in the New Band Category and what have you thought of music generally this year?
A: I've heard a little bit of Kinesis and I'm well into that. It's because they are doing something slightly different to what's in at the moment. The stuff that I've been listening to is there's a lot of good British Hip Hop coming up and a lot of people aren't realizing that. And we've just been on tour with Simian and they're a really good band who haven't received much recognition. It would be good to see bands like that get a little more recognition in the press really.

Q: I think one of the main reasons Athlete stand out is that in a world of rock band, Athlete are a celebration of all things pop. Where do you see the band yourself?
A: I feel that were somewhere in-between really. We do set out to write tunes that will stick in people's heads and tunes that can get into charts. There's so much shit in the charts, so why not try and get something decent in there and the only way you're going to do these day that is write really catch tunes.

At the same were really into our weird little sounds, so I think what we want to do is mix pop sensibilities with a little bit of freakiness. In terms of creativity we were listening to Pavement, Granddaddy and The Flaming Lips and finding it so interesting and creative. We were just so inspired by these things and when Tim came in on keyboards it came our reality that we could mess around with old synths.

When you listen to the album our anti-pop ethics suit the mood of the album and it's not just straight in pop tunes and we like to throw in things every so often that are anti-pop. I suppose you draw people in through good tunes and then you freak em out a little bit.

Q: So if in an alternative world there was such a thing as a Pop Music DNA machine where we could play Athlete through a filter what would discover at the heart of the Athlete make up?
A: Sly & the Family Stone just because I grew up on that. Beck has been well influential on me. Prince. Beastie Boys because you have to include them. And De La Soul.

A lot of people will be "well, I can't actually hear that in your music" and they're probably not obvious. But those people have probably influenced other people that have influenced us. People say we sound a bit like Steely Dan and I don't get that because I've never listened to Steely Dan in my life - but you can explain that by saying maybe they've influenced someone else that has in turn influenced us.

"Westside" is out February 17th on Parlaphone
Athlete's tour throughout Feb / March with the debut album following in April
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