Interview: Athlete’ Joel Pott on New Album ‘Black Swan’
by Daniel Haim
Since bouncing to prominence seven years ago with the spirited, electro-tinged, indie-pop of their Mercury-nominated debut, ‘Vehicles And Animals’, Athlete have established themselves among the UK’s finest songsmiths. The south east Londoners have sold more than a million copies of their three hit albums (the other two being 2005’s ‘Tourist’ and 2007’s ‘Beyond The Neighbourhood’); packed out venues across the land; picked up an Ivor Novello award; and topped both the UK’s album and airplay charts.
‘Black Swan’, their fourth album, is a musical summary of everything Athlete have been through; the good, the bad and the ugly. But although its songs burn with literate emotion, this certainly isn’t a downbeat record. In fact, the album begins with the hurtling FM rush of glorious first single, ‘Superhuman Touch’, which catapults the album into life with the opening line, “I’m on fire and nothing’s gonna hold me back”.
The album reaches its climax with ‘The Awkward Goodbye’, an intensely personal tale of love slipping away; the snappy ‘Magical Mistakes’, a giddy gush of proud, parental love; and ‘Rubik’s Cube’ which, according to Joel, “Sums everything up. It’s about puzzling through life, working it out as you go along and having to deal with its uncertainties. That’s the magic of life, really.”
One of my favorites on the album is – The Getaway it’s that type of a Winter radio hit that you listen to after a very long night in a car during a rainy night as it’s drifting melody sucking you in to singing it’s lyrics as loud as you possibly can.
Daniel: Where do you draw your inspiration for music? and better yet, what keeps you motivated to continue making music?
Inspiration comes from just keeping my eyes wide open. Stuff happens around us every day and there are magical moments where you hear, see or experience something that sparks the beginning of an idea. Making music is an impulse, I can’t stop! It’s an endless journey I guess cause there’s still so much to discover and create. Having other people around who enjoy life and enjoy music also helps!
Daniel: What has been your most memorable experience as an artist so far?
There was a show we played in Glasgow a few years ago. The crowd were so mental it was amazing. I felt like I experienced what it was like to be in the Beatles for a night.
Daniel: How has the music industry changed since you began doing what you’re doing and how has your perspective about it changed?
When we first signed to a major label it was a place where people seemed excited about music. As soon as those people started worrying about whether or not they would still have a job the next day that all changed. It’s a shame that money seems to be THE motivating factor for some of these folks fighting for the scraps of what was once a booming industry. Fortunately, there are still some people around who are motivated to create and promote music regardless of whether they get rich quick or not.
Daniel: What part of the music life and your music career do you like the most?
We’ve always said that for us we can’t make a record if you’re not going to then play live so both have always been equally important and enjoyable. It’s probably fair to say that when you’ve been in a dark studio for months and you find yourselves having intense discussions about how much modulation there should be on that moog synth part, it’s definitely time to get out, see the outside world and play some shows.
Daniel: The album is just about to drop, what are the hopes for it.
We hope to have the biggest selling album of all time so we can be rich and have a Metallica style band therapist.
Daniel: I know there’s a really great story and thought behind it’s title. How did you come up with the name and could you share with us the story, in your own words.
We sometimes describe the songs on the album as black swans or that they are inspired by black swan events. What am I on about? Ok, well it was always believed that swans were only white until someone discovered a black swan in Australia. No one had ever imagined that a black swan existed and this changed the way people thought about them. This went onto become a metaphor for something that you never expected or an event that you could not predict. It’s usually those things in life that you didn’t know were going to happen or you couldn’t control that end up effecting you the most. Somebody being born or someone dying. Getting fired or breaking your leg. Earthquakes or winning the lottery. falling in love or falling ill. The invention of the internet or the economic crisis in the western world. You get the picture…
Daniel: Any tours on the way? If so, which cities would you be most excited to visit?
We are hoping to announce a tour very soon, maybe our own or maybe a support tour. There have been various conversations happening very recently so hopefully it’ll get sorted soon.
Daniel: In your own words, can you describe to us the feeling listeners will get when they take a listen to Black Swan?
With this album being pretty personal I hope whoever listens finds themselves feeling a mix of punching the air, high fives and teary eyes, down on your knees.