FOALS – Interview

Fans lieben sie, Kritiker lieben sie, wir lieben sie: Foals haben schon 14 Jahre auf dem Buckel und erfinden sich trotzdem mit jedem ihrer Alben neu. Ihr neuester Streich Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost erfreut uns dieses Jahr als Doppelalbum. Teil 1 ist bereits erschienen, Nummer 2 wird im Herbst folgen. Da bat es sich doch direkt an, mit Frontman Yannis Philippakis am Telefon über die neuen Platten zu plaudern und warum ihre musikalische Reise als Band längst nicht vorbei ist.  

-First of all, congratulations on the great new record. It’s been almost 4 years since the last album. Why did it take you longer to record the album in comparison to the previous ones?

The touring of What Went Down was a bit longer and so we wanted to have 8 months off to connect with real life again. And we also recorded longer since we neither had a deadline nor a producer. 

-And Walter left the band in 2018. Was it difficult for you to rearrange the band and did it influence the recording process?

We definitely had to adapt the approach. But from the very beginning of working on new music we got used to the idea that we are a four piece. So we built the record in the recording studio rather than writing the songs in a separate space. And a lot of that was informed by Walter’s departure. It certainly feels new to us because it’s a different dynamic. Yet, the albums are a new chapter for us. 

-Speaking of albums in plural: “Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost” is a double-album. How did this idea come across? 

It was in response to the material we had. We didn’t really work with a particular idea of how we wanted to release the music. I had lyrical themes I wanted the album to be about and we were working on a quite diverse range of songs. So, we wanted to make an album that was cohesive, and the only way to express all the material we had was to split them into two albums. Certain songs didn’t go well together, but we felt there was a kind of symmetry to the material. So for me the album is only finished when you get to the last track of album 2.

-So what connects the two albums then?

They are connected because they are formed by the same body of work, they share the same DNA. Album 2 is kind of a response to album 1 which ends with a lot of fire imagery, the last song in particular. It kind of sings from a defeated place. Album 2 starts with a sense of get up and go in a way, so how to have meaning in this landscape album 1 has created.

-This means that album 1 shows a dark and negative side and 2 is the lighter and positive response?

(Laughing) Not really, no. You just have to hear it. I feel a little bit awkward to talk about it so far in advance. Well, all I can say is that there is a kind of advice for life and the album is also more guitar heavy. The reasons why we split up the albums were more musical, not narrative. 

-You already mentioned that your album is self-produced. Why did you come to this decision and were there any challenges in the recording process?

Yeah, there were lots of challenges. I wasn’t particularly keen to produce it ourselves, but we had a desire to see how it would sound like, if we took everything from A to Z without any interference. It allowed us to be more creative and to make mistakes which is important I think. We also had more time and no producer would have recorded with us for 1,5 years. We could only stand ourselves for that period of time.

-Your new record sounds very diverse but still captures the best vibes from your previous albums. Is that just a coincidence?

Well, we didn’t really think about it much. We followed our intuition and wanted to be excited about what we are doing. But we definitely didn’t want to have the same sound as on What Went Down. And that’s how we actually work. We are usually repelled from the record that came before. 

-So is it your biggest drive as a musician to not sound the same as on the previous record?

Well, it’s not the biggest motivation but definitely one. We always try to push ourselves and explore new spaces within the way we work. I think there is always going to be something definite like Foals on each of our records. Yet, there are differences between them because we don’t like to stay in a kind of rigged sound parlor. 

Sunday for example is a very complex track. How was it created?

The vocals and chord very always defined. The song has existed for three or four years already, but we didn’t know in which structure to dress the song. It didn’t work on What Went Down, so we managed to capture it better in the studio for the new album. The thing is, we wanted the album to have surprises and show quite drastic shifts. You don’t expect what’s coming. Sunday is one of those tracks. 

-It’s also very interesting to talk about your lyrics in detail. They are a bit darker dealing with the risks of climate change and globalization. Do you think we can still prevent the worst-case scenario? 

I hope so and I like to be optimistic about it. I wanted to write about the feeling of frustration because certain things are out of our hands and we can’t decide about them. Well, I prepare to be disappointed as well. 

-Well, at least our generation is more conscious about environmental issues. 

Yeah right. But still many people within our generation don’t care about it. We actually all know the things to do but doing them is hard. Reducing plastics, planting trees or not buying mass agricultural products.  

-Yes, you’re absolutely right. Well, you also describe negative aspects of today’s digital communication and how it changes us and relationships with other people. 

I have this nostalgic view on the time before social media, internet and smartphones. To me they are the big factors of changing the way we are human to each other. Of course they have given us a lot of advantages, by no means, but sometimes we are bit too naive about the negative sides. We are seduced by technology. I used to read more books and had more quality time to myself and enjoy the moment better. 

-Yeah, and often when you are with friends someone posts an Instagram story.

Yes, right. 

-But as a musician social media can only give you advantages, no?

Yeah, for the most part. For example, the amount of feedback we got on the new album was just a beautiful thing. And to have a direct communication with fans is nourishing because we make music to connect with others. But like I said it’s kind of addictive. 

-The title I’m done with the world and it’s done with me sounds quite negative. Are these the darkest lyrics yet?

No, I have written darker songs in the past, for example Moon on Holy Fire. But yeah, it’s melancholic. The lyrics were quickly written in a day and it felt like the perfect album closer. In a way it completed the journey of the album. I felt attracted to writing about a daughter in the future. So I’m happy with the song. 

-But don’t you think in dark times music should be more light-hearted to comfort listeners and to escape reality?

Well, the music itself is very uplifting and the songs have a lot of energy. The combination of the lyrics with the tone of the music has contrast to it and that is very interesting. The record is danceable and enjoyable to listen to. Still, I wanted the album to reflect the current climate. The feeling of fear is the reality, so I felt a responsibility to put that into the songs. 

-You really have a diverse discography, but do you still feel like being put in musical categories?

I don’t really think about it. Of course we are a rock band and we take pride in the way that we work. It’s very valuable meeting people playing different instruments, putting time and effort in studio recordings and having this kind of dynamic. I know today it’s out fashioned and younger musicians have turned to more technology. Bands working on their own with organic instruments have become really rare. 

-And you are one of the few long remaining British bands. The Maccabees or Wild Beasts for example have already split up. What would you say is the recipe for being so long in a band together?

Just being persistent and enjoying what we do. If we were bored we wouldn’t do it. We still feel the best is yet to come, there are better songs to write and better shows to do. We are friends and we sometimes have our clashes, but we are quite close. The past years have been like jumping over a fast flowing river with stepping stones in the way. And we are not on the other side but maybe 3 quarters of the way there. But when we turn around we are far away from the starting point. So until we reach the other side we won’t stop. 

-So we can expect some more albums of Foals then?

I hope so, yeah. 

Great, thank you very much.