With their new album ‘Life is Yours’ just announced, and a brand new track ‘2am’ giving a further hint at what we can expect, read this excerpt taken from Dork’s March 2022 cover feature with Foals – “leaner and meaner” than ever before. Want to read the full thing? Grab a copy of this month’s issue here.
Words: Martyn Young. Photos: Ed Cooke, Sarah Louise Bennett.
“We’re as vital as ever. It’s the most exciting record that we’ve made.”
As Foals prepare to release their seventh album, frontman and creative visionary Yannis Philippakis is as confident as ever. He has good reason to feel so cocksure, though, as the Foals that emerge into the (hopefully) post-pandemic world are a rather different beast to the band that ended their last touring cycle with an expansive multi-layered epic of a double album. This time, everything is different as they channel the spirit of their incendiary early days into a new vibrant future. Welcome to the rebirth of Foals.
The most obvious change in this new era is the band are now a trio following the departure of keyboard player Edwin Congreave, not long after they lost bass player Walter Gervers. In truth, it wasn’t particularly a shock for either member to leave, but in the case of Edwin, the writing was on the wall from the very start of the new album process. “He showed up for one rehearsal and was like, no, see you later!” laughs guitarist and now brand new keyboardist Jimmy Smith. “You could see on his face that he was just sat there thinking, I’ve made a terrible decision,” he adds. “We were happy that Edwin and Walter made the right decision. We feel a little more buoyant. We’re leaner and meaner.”
“I think it’s going to go off. It’s the right record for the summer.”Yannis Philippakis
The streamlined three-piece Foals were ready to shake things up and mess with the formula that made them one of the biggest bands in Britain since they emerged in 2008. To do that, they knew that they would each have to step up and tap into everything that makes the band so special. The result is ‘Life Is Yours’. A euphoric life-affirming record that captures the desire of a culture and society desperate for something to celebrate and a little bit of carefree abandon after two years of miserable gloom. “The absolute last thing we wanted to do was write a languished miserable lockdown album,” laughs drummer Jack Bevan. So here we are in 2022, and it’s time to party.
“I’m excited about it, particularly in the context of what’s happened in the last two years,” begins Yannis as he talks about the album. “Being able to release a record that’s fun and uplifting and joyous after the dank and dark couple of years is really exciting. It’s the most fun record we’ve released in terms of its mood and danceability. I think it’s going to go off. It’s the right record for the summer.”
The vibe and the impetus to keep things upbeat and energised are at the album’s heart. Notably, there are none of the massive riff-laden behemoths that powered their previous albums in a sign that this is a reconfigured version of the band. “I specifically said I didn’t want to write any heavy rock songs, not ever again but not right now,” explains Yannis. “We’d been in that place for a minute, and it was time to shift things up. There was very little distortion or fuzz to get away from that heavy expansive aspect of our sound that we’d previously been exploring. I got the other part of our DNA and re-emphasised that for a bit. What’s kept the band exciting for us and hopefully other people over the years is that we’ve played with that stuff, and we’ve not just stuck to one lane of sound. It was time to do that again.”
The DNA that he’s referencing is the intensely rhythmic and dance-focused side of the band that has always been part of their sonic arsenal. Perhaps their biggest ever hit, ‘My Number’ was a dancefloor-slaying monster. The tracks collected on ‘Life Is Yours’ are very much in that image; they represent the spirit of the band going right back to the start. “After the last records, because there was such a broad spectrum of stuff going on there both sonically and thematically, we wanted to just pair everything right down and make something concise and focused and direct,” says Yannis. “We wanted it to be cohesive and have one mood across the record. That’s what [debut album] ‘Antidotes’ had. In a way, it’s the long lost brother or sister of that record. It’s also got that directness and dryness. The rhythmic emphasis is most apparent in those two records. They are driven by the groove and the rhythm section.”
It wasn’t necessarily explicitly spoken about, but there was a feeling throughout making the album that the band were tapping into the guiding principles that informed the bedrock of their spirit as they looked to navigate the future without two key members. “We’re relearning the dynamic as a three-piece,” explains Jack. “It felt a bit like going back to the drawing board with this record. We were thinking about what we started off with and what were our original influences but now approaching it with more experience. It was a similar mindset to making ‘Antidotes’ but with an extra 13 years of experience.”
The ecstatic exuberance of ‘Life Is Yours’ provoked other memories of that early golden period as, forced into a tiny room with just the three of them, the band whipped up a rhythmic storm as if their lives depended on it. “That spirit is hewn into our DNA,” says Jimmy. “That party vibe is how we started.”
“The way we wrote the record in this tiny room felt like when we were playing those house parties in 2006,” adds Jack. “We were tapping into that energy. We were also quite militant in that when we were writing Yannis wasn’t using any effects on the guitar. I stripped my kit right back to a minimal set-up. It was quite a tight, dry sound. It felt like we got to a place where we rehearsed enough that it was really tight, so we didn’t want to slather effects all over it and make it woozy. It’s got the leanness of the first record.”
This is an excerpt taken from the March 2022 edition of Dork, out now. To read the full interview, order a copy of the magazine below, or join the Dork Supporters scheme, and read it in full online now.