Currently, Foals are back home in the UK, taking a brief respite from their monstrous world tour before hitting the road again in 2020. Frontman Yannis Philippakis is grateful for the break – not only for the band to rest up, but to mend his picking hand.
“I was in Greece, and I had my whole right hand cut open across three fingers,” Philippakis says.
“And it’s only just healing now, so I couldn’t play the Mercury Awards last week. I got stitched up without anaesthetic in a mountain village in Greece, so that was pretty grisly. I was actually kind of worried I wouldn’t be able to play guitar again. Thankfully that didn’t cut a tendon – this was one of the worst injuries I’ve had in quite a while.”
The incident near rivals one of the singer’s most lurid wounds. Philippakis is renowned for his stage antics; occasionally diving into the crowd from amplifiers, speakers, and even scaffolding at shows. It’s not hard to imagine, considering the band initially cut their teeth on chaotic Oxford house parties.
“But my worst stage-related injury is probably when I cut my shin open in Denver on a nail or something off the side of the stage,” he continues.
“It cut me right along the shin, you know where the skin’s quite soft? I went backstage, and I said, ‘Oh man, this doesn’t look good’. And my tour manager went, ‘Nah, it looks fine’. Then Jimmy [Smith] went and got vodka and started pouring vodka on it. And then I was like, ‘I- fine’. And then lo and behold, it got super infected, and now I’ve got this big, ugly scar when I should’ve just got it stitched up. What can you do? We don’t work with that manager anymore.”
The essence of Philippakkis’ feral energy is distinctly present in the band’s latest release, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 2. It took over a year and a half to produce both albums, and for the first time in Foals’ history, Philipakkis took on the role of both songwriter and producer, lending a fresh take to the band’s vibrant discography.
“Walter’s departure meant we couldn’t actually operate in the exact same way we did in the prior records,” explains Philipakkis.
“We relied on the studio a lot more – in fact, we started recording in the studio for the album way before the songs were even written. We were essentially discovering the song while capturing them, whereas normally in the past we would’ve had relatively finished songs. We had Edwin and myself playing bass, and I produced the record. We wrote 20 songs – double the amount of stuff – and we all sat in the studio for about a year and a half. We kinda just went into the studio with no real idea of what the end product should be. We just wanted to be creative – I’d not written anything for quite a few months on purpose – so we just went in to see what would happen.”
“The whole idea of splitting the material into two came right towards the end, once almost everything was completed. I guess the thing that’s the same is obviously that it’s a Foals record. The remaining four of us making music that we feel like fits within the body of work. But in terms of approach, it was quite different.”
Even with today’s music culture of streaming and playlist-shuffling, the band aren’t afraid to construct extended narratives across the span of two companion records – especially when their themes are anything but anodyne.
“Part One is more like a conceptual record,” muses Philipakkis.
“Pretty much every song on that album is referencing the themes that I wanted the record to deal with. Societal and environmental themes and fears about the future – every song on Part One hits that. On Part Two it becomes more personal, and I feel like those songs are set in the aftermath. You know at the end of Part One – ‘Sunday’ and ‘I’m Done with the World (& it’s Done with Me)’ – they’re quite apocalyptic and the album ends with lots of fiery imagery. Part Two just takes place right after it. It’s more about picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and finding a way forward, while Part One is just being lost among the sea of problems, if that makes sense.”
While Edwin Congreave’s synthesisers dance jubilantly on the forefront of Part One, Philipakkis and Jimmy Smith’s tight guitarwork take centre stage on Part Two. It’s an undeniably heavier and more aggressive record compared to its predecessor, released earlier this year. Of particular note is the epic ten minute closer ‘Neptune’, a cinematic number that morphs into a sultry, stripped-back instrumental jam, before finally returning to what Foals do best: explosive, rowdy catharsis.
“To be honest, that song structure was loosely defined when we were in the studio,” Philipakkis says.
“We knew what the verse and chorus was, and when we were recording, we just jammed out. That whole middle section in ‘Neptune’ is unedited improv, so that’s literally just what happened in the studio. We added some synths in there, but nothing’s actually been cut from the recording. We left the bass part and we just fell in love with that passage. For a while we thought ‘Oh, we’ll edit it down later’, but we just never did, and I think the song’s better for it. It’s a proper journey, that one.”
Despite the departure of bassist Walter Gervers last year, the band – now a four piece – look to enter a new phase in their seemingly interminable career.
“We’re quite a different band now. I look back at Antidotes and that era, and it was an awesome time,” says Philipakkis.
“But musically, it was quite strict. I basically had rules – we didn’t really use any pedals, no reverb, no distortion, everything clean. All the guitar lines above a certain fret, everything just being like little pointers. That was really fun, but you have to break those rules as you go on. We came from such a narrowly defined project, and it was inevitable that we would stray quite far from that over ten years.”
Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Pt. 2 is out now via Warner Music Australia.