Football and music frequently share the same space, and with Glastonbury kicking off this week, it felt like the perfect time to reflect on that subject with Jon Beavis and Adam Devonshire, aka Jon and Dev, two members of Bristol-based five-piece IDLES, who will be rocking the South West’s music mega festival this year.

Bristol City and Newcastle United fans respectively, the pair are better placed than most to comment on similarities between beautiful sounds and the beautiful game. From their pre-gig full Eastern European warmup routines to a wardrobe of retro football shirts, IDLES have the attitude, and the image, to go from genre-dominators to mass-market megastars. Whether that’s the path they want to follow, though, is another matter entirely.

You guys have put a hell of a lot of work in to get to where you are now. What’s the journey been like over the last 10 years?

Jon: Well, first of all, I think it’s tough for me thinking about recording in the last 10 years, because it wasn’t the last 10 years, it was the last five.

Dev: It’s the 10th anniversary of our first gig in January.

Jon: True, but I think it was a bit of fun for the first couple of years. While we were still writing stuff, it was just a bit of fun, a chance for us to express ourselves.

Dev: We always believed in what we did. From the outset we always wanted to make it our [job]. It was fun to get in a room, but we always had this vision of being able to achieve something. It took us a few years to, well, get good, for one thing. I’m still not fucking great, but back in the day, me and Bowen were shit. Jon was the only guy who could play his instrument, really. So it took us quite a while to catch up, to get to a level to play with him. But we always believed in what we did, and we knew that there was something there.

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Was there a point where it flipped and became full-time?

Dev: Actual full-time happened about two years ago, after the tour of Brutalism. That’s when we went pretty much full-time. We started getting a wage for the band, and that cemented the seriousness and the level that we’d worked towards. We used to rehearse more than any other band in Bristol I think. We used to be up three times a week, eight hours on a Sunday, every week. We knew people who were in bands who had gone out and got record deals, so we took a lot of advice from them. All they told us to do, basically, was keep writing. Just write and write and write. Never stop. And we’ve had that mentality ever since. Any time that we get any downtime, we’re in a room together trying to work on stuff.

Jon: Even on the tour, we were still writing.

Dev: We’d have a two-hour soundcheck, and we’d get everything sorted for the gig, and then we’d have an hour left, and we were like, well, we should try to write something. We’re in a room together, everything’s set up, why the fuck wouldn’t you do that? It’s just the mentality we have. We’re five very hardworking people and we want to achieve bigger things. We’ve always wanted to get to … who fucking knows. But you have to work hard to get it. 

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I still watch football when we’re on the road. It makes you feel like you’re still at home”

Dev, you’re a Newcastle fan and Jon, you’re a Bristol City fan. Has football always been in your lives?

Jon: Yeah, I didn’t really have a choice. My dad hates football, my mum tolerates it, but my uncle was pushing it on me. When I was about four I had a City shirt, and I grew up watching games with him. It got to the point where as I got older, I was always working in pubs so I could watch the games on a Saturday. I’ve kept it too – I still watch football when we’re on the road. It’s one of those things that when you’re on a tour, it makes you feel like you’re still at home. I always try to find a way to watch Match of the Day. It helps me feel more normal on the tour rather than just being a bubble of “I don’t know which country I’m in”.

Dev: I used to collect football shirts. I was massively into football growing up. My grandad’s from London, and he used to referee games and be a physio for local sides, so I used to go down and watch football with him every weekend. And my stepdad used to play for Torquay United and England schoolboys, so it’s always been in my family. I used to play all the time. I used to play for my county, and I played for Plymouth Argyle for a little bit, for half a season. It’s always been there, just something that I fucking loved doing. And then you get older and you start to discover girls and drugs.

Jon: You played for Plymouth and they didn’t tell you not to tackle like that?

Dev: Nope.

Jon: You don’t want to play against Dev.

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What would you say are your top five kits? Or just ones that stand out.

Jon: The Tottenham Holsten kit, ’91. Good kit, good year. I was one. I wasn’t there for it.

Dev: FA Cup winning-kit. I actually remember that game.

Jon: DAS was always in my brain as a Bristol City kit. I like the one that I was wearing on Soccer AM [a Score Draw retro BCFC shirt] – that was nice. That’s got a real 80s vibe to it, with the stripes. The German kit is one of the best, the 1990 one. It’s just one of the best shirts. Football or otherwise, it looks amazing.

Dev: There was a Leeds one, back in the day, that looked like someone had been sick on it repeatedly. It was savage at the time, but it’s cool now. I tell you what I do love, the Mexican goalie [Jorge Campos] that wore short sleeves in the World Cup. Those kits were fucking brutal, but amazing. Pink and yellow and green, with short sleeves, when no goalkeepers had short sleeves.

Jon: I like second-tier Spanish and Italian shirts, because they’re always bold colours and with about 30 sponsors. And it just looks insane. They’ve done it well, whereas English teams this year, like, I don’t know, Everton – nice kit, but … Angry Birds. That looks shit.

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Do you still have any football shirts?

Dev: I gave a load to my cousin, which I regret now, because he just chucked them. But I still have a bagful, so I went back and a few of my old Newcastle shirts were in there, Brazil 98 World Cup shirt was in there. I had some fucking banging shirts.

A lot of people make comparisons between football and music – performing out on the stage, that sort of thing. Do you have any pre-gig routines, like you would for football? 

Jon: We’ve got a little checklist.

Dev: We’ll actually quite often do a bit of a warmup. Just to get the blood pumping, so you’re really fucking up for it, you know? Going in cold, it’s tough, because it’s quite a high-octane show that we do. It’s very fast, and we play hard.

Jon: It’s good to get it started. And we do sometimes do like, team talks, if you will. Some of the bigger shows we’ve done, we’ve had a little step back and gone, right guys, let’s go out there … keep your formation. [Laughs] We do actually do that sort of stuff.

Dev: [Laughs] You go straight down the wing.

Jon: I’ll send it back, keep it secure.

What are the gigs that stand out in that respect? Where you’ve needed a team talk?

Dev: Foo Fighters.

Jon: Kentish Town Forum. Bataclan. Just ones that are special. It can be anywhere on the tour. Because it’s a two-month, three-month process, we're always there for each other. So if you can see somebody’s going through a hard time, or is just a bit tired, you can have a little chat and be like, let’s just get through the gig, let’s get back the energy from last week. No matter how bad you’re feeling on the tour during the day, a good gig will lift you so much.

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You’re a regular on stadium playlists. What’s it like when you think about the fact that your music’s being played at football grounds?

Dev: It’s weird.

Jon: It’s a weird football fan feeling. Because it doesn’t really matter. It’s the same as it being played in a supermarket in Essex – it’s just people hearing your song, same as on the radio. But a part of me goes “Wow! I’ve played at Anfield”. It's like, I haven’t, but if I ever did...

Dev: You never know, you might get on Soccer Sixes one day. [Laughs]

Jon: Part of me though is thinking, Jurgen Klopp’s heard our music. He might like it. Cool.

Dev: Jurgen Klopp’s into metal isn’t he?

Jon: He’s the kind of guy who might like our music. Maybe he does.

What is it you think you’ve got as a group that makes you such a strong unit? 

Dev: It’s just a blind faith thing. We believe in each other and we believe in what we do. We’re friends. We’ve been in a band together for 10 years.

Jon: After this long, 10 years, there’s this pure honesty between people. Because you know what the other people can do, if they’re not doing it to 100 percent, you ask a bit more from them. Because you’re not just friends, you’re like a little family. You won’t let that person do 50 percent, 80 percent, because we all need to be doing the same amount to push forward.

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Read the full interview with IDLES in SoccerBible Magazine Issue 12, which you can get here.