Years before the popular single "Wires" nearly topped the U.K. charts, Athlete was yet another Oasis-styled outfit from South London. Childhood friends Carey Willets (bass), Joel Pott (vocals, guitar), Steve Roberts (drums), and Tim Wanstall (keyboards) formed the group in early 2000, initially modeling their sound after that of the famed Gallagher brothers. Athlete eventually transformed itself into an experimental indie rock act, however, and the band's self-titled EP appeared on Regal Recordings in March 2002. The debut single "Westside" was a quick hit, garnering airplay on BBC Radio 1 and paving the way for another single, "You Got the Style," which cracked the Top 40 in June. Parlophone took notice and promptly signed the musicians, who entered the studio with producer Victor Van Vugt (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Beth Orton) in late 2002 to record their first studio LP.
Vehicles & Animals marked the band's major-label debut in April 2003, eventually spinning off four singles and garnering the band a prestigious nomination for the Mercury Music Prize. Athlete's sophomore effort, Tourist, was an even bigger success. Displaying similarities to Coldplay's reflective songwriting, the album rose to the top of the U.K. albums chart upon its release in 2005, with "Wires" peaking at number four and the follow-up single, "Half Light," reaching number 16. Tourist eventually went double platinum, and Athlete toured in support of the record until spring 2006. Upon returning home, the bandmates opted to build a personal studio and remain close to the friends and family they'd left behind on the previous tour. Sessions for Athlete's third album began in May 2006, and the self-produced, experimental Beyond the Neighborhood arrived in September 2007. Black Swan appeared two years later, with an American release following in early 2010 courtesy of Original Signal Recordings.