INTERVIEW: Yannis Explains How Foals' New Music Is Set To Soundtrack The World's Reopening

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  • INTERVIEW: Yannis Explains How Foals' New Music Is Set To Soundtrack The World's Reopening
    POSTED Nov 05 2021

    Foals
    Foals. Photo by Edward Cooke.

    The last two years have been tough ones for any musicians, and for UK band Foals, they've been dreaming about a return to some sense of normalcy on an endless loop. A glorious day in Athens provides the backdrop for the Zoom call with Foals' lead singer Yannis Philippakis, and it's serendipitous - their new single, Wake Me Up, was written for days like the one Yannis is currently experiencing (unfortunately, the same can't same be said for this writer in Melbourne).

    Wake Me Up is a reintroduction of sorts for the band. It's the first single they've released without keyboardist Edwin Congreave, who amicably left the band in September to focus on his economics studies. Writing about his departure on Facebook, Edwin says, "Music is a balm and a light, and so I couldn't be prouder to have called myself a musician, and to have played a part in Foals' journey from indie delinquents to bona fide rock stars. I've heard the new album - it is of course brilliant. Looking forward to next year, I'm thrilled to once again be able to watch the UK's best live band from their best angle - that is, I mean, from the crowd. See you there." Foals' origin story is deeply indebted to techno music and house parties, and it's not hard to hear their younger selves coming through on this new track. 

    Wake Me Up is a song that has been written to soundtrack the reopening of the world, and Yannis says it came about after the band decided that enough was enough - if the world wasn't going to change, then they had to mentally whisk themselves off to a different time and place. He explains, "Winters in the UK can get a little bleak, especially if all the pubs are closed and nothing's open. In the past we’ve explored more melancholic moods at times, and when we were discussing about what we wanted to write on this record we wanted to do the antithesis of that.

    "We wanted to transport ourselves out of the UK and our current time with COVID into a parallel universe where there was a party going on. We were thinking about writing music for when lockdown would be over. We were envisioning what summer would be like and so with the song specifically I'm trying to transport myself into other situations, to be in the brightest place, the finest place I’ve ever seen. I wanted to be up in the mountain dancing and just to be woken up from the crazy fever dream that was the last eighteen months. It looks like things are starting to improve, so hopefully our plan to make music for the re-emergence of the world will work out."

    It's hard to imagine such an upbeat, exciting track being created in a small, airless rehearsal room in South London town Peckham, but that's exactly what Yannis and bandmates Jimmy Smith and Jack Bevan did. The song draws heavily from disco and dance to channel the restless energy that has engulfed creatives everywhere over the last two years into something more positive than perhaps the circumstances deserved. As Yannis puts it, writing music was initially on the backburner, using the time off to recover from relentless touring over the past few years. "We had quite a few lockdowns in the UK and in the first one we didn’t do anything. That’s where I really felt there was this pressure to write your version of the great novel, it’s time to write that screenplay or it’s time to write, when actually I found there was something irksome about this feeling.

    "It was propagated through social media - you know you have to learn how to make sour dough bread - and it’s actually like 'well I just want to sit at home because I haven’t been at home for ages'. We didn’t push it, but by the time the second lockdown came around we’d been sat at home for about six months and we couldn’t travel obviously. Had we’d been able to occupy ourselves in other ways, then maybe we would have, but come second lockdown I was eager to start writing some music. I had some demos and then the guys were around so we were like ‘let's go jam it out.’"

    Before the pandemic hit, the band spent 2019 releasing Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Parts 1 & 2, two albums that gave the band to push their guitar-driven sound further than ever before. The size and scale on those albums not only encapsulated the best parts of the band's evolution over the preceding decade and a half, but also showcased the appetite for rock music is alive and well, both in the UK and worldwide. The success of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Parts 1 & 2 goes against what some people have believed for a long while - guitar music is on the way out. It's a phenomenon that's breathlessly discussed by certain sections of the music industry, and yet, it never comes to fruition. 

    The contrast between Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Parts 1 & 2 and Wake Me Up is stark, as the two albums also captured the band's simultaneous optimism and pessimism at the time. In a 2019 interview with Cool Accidents, fellow band member Jack Bevan spoke about the inspiration for the name. “When Yannis thought it up ages ago, the actual name, when it’s presented as a quit screen message on Nintendo, it’s super… unromantic and very direct. But when you take it in the context of music or art or whatever, it can take on so much more meaning. For me, I think it’s like… you can take it in a lot of different ways – there’s optimistic, or there’s a negative, pessimistic statement. You can look at it in one way to mean to cherish everything you’re living right now, but also if you take the pessimistic read, it’s kind of a warning sign that we’re all gonna die." Despite the events of the last two years, all signs point to Foals' new album being more upbeat, rather than channelling the dark clouds that have hung above us all for what feels like an eternity.

    I ask Yannis about what he thinks about the doomsday claims that rock music attracts, and he points to the fact that it's a natural cultural shift - and for a change, rock music isn't the top dog, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. "There's a weird inner neurosis when it comes to rock music, and to be honest I think it’s mainly with the media. I don’t think that that many bands sit around discussing if rock music is dead, but I think that things have changed. I think that there’s amazing guitar music being made, especially in the UK.

    "In the last few years there's been an awesome wave of great guitar music being released, new wave-y bands, with lots of them coming out of South London. It seems really healthy, but I think the thing is that it’s not where the cultural zeitgeist is at the current time. However, that’s not a problem, and it’s certainly not a death rattle for guitar music. It’s also good when guitar music gets to be slightly more underground and bands aren't worrying about commercial pressures. I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere anytime soon."

    Foals have recently made their return to the live stage in the UK, and the experience has made the band even more excited for 2022, which promises to be a big year of touring. As the lead singer for Foals, Yannis is the focal point of their performances - and when asked about how he's found embracing the persona of being a lead singer once again, he says that it's felt as natural as one could imagine. "I definitely think that I am two distinct people. There’s the person that’s on stage that is usually much more volatile and emotive, and having not played live I forgot that bit of me existed because I can become kind of domestic. However, as I’m saying this maybe I don’t know myself that well because I don’t know how domestic I really am at home. It didn’t feel weird, it felt super natural in a way that reaffirms the life choices of becoming a musician. I’m meant to do this, and we all feel like that in the band, so it was like putting on a second skin again."

    A new Foals album is set to be released in 2022, and they're looking to release an album that could soundtrack a night out on the town. Yannis points to their debut record, Antidotes, which leaned heavily into rhythmic elements, designed to be played at the "indie clubs" which the band considered their ecosystems. Six albums into their existence as a band, their next project is set to be influenced by the disco and '80s new wave acts they're listening to, "slightly experimental guitar new-wavey bands". They're planning to release an album full of songs that you can dance to, ones that capture the joy of a world that's been through a lot in the last two years. The album is set to be their version of a "party record" that'll lift your spirits and make you want to dance. It's sounding like what the world has been sorely missing as of late.

    READ MORE: Falls Festival Is Set To Return At The End Of 2022, But It'll Look Very Different

    Yannis's desire for 2022 is a simple one - he hopes to bring the band to Australia and reconnect with what it is to be a musician. The last two years have tested everyone's resolve, and while he says that "even if I was never to play a show again, I would probably always just think of myself as a musician, it’s sort of just a part of my DNA", there's a certain excitement that shines through when the prospect of extensive touring is brought up again. Foals have been long-considered a live behemoth, and they're starting to stir from their hibernation.

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Submitted by ben.madden on Fri, 05/11/2021 - 07:56

Foals
Foals. Photo by Edward Cooke.

The last two years have been tough ones for any musicians, and for UK band Foals, they've been dreaming about a return to some sense of normalcy on an endless loop. A glorious day in Athens provides the backdrop for the Zoom call with Foals' lead singer Yannis Philippakis, and it's serendipitous - their new single, Wake Me Up, was written for days like the one Yannis is currently experiencing (unfortunately, the same can't same be said for this writer in Melbourne).

Wake Me Up is a reintroduction of sorts for the band. It's the first single they've released without keyboardist Edwin Congreave, who amicably left the band in September to focus on his economics studies. Writing about his departure on Facebook, Edwin says, "Music is a balm and a light, and so I couldn't be prouder to have called myself a musician, and to have played a part in Foals' journey from indie delinquents to bona fide rock stars. I've heard the new album - it is of course brilliant. Looking forward to next year, I'm thrilled to once again be able to watch the UK's best live band from their best angle - that is, I mean, from the crowd. See you there." Foals' origin story is deeply indebted to techno music and house parties, and it's not hard to hear their younger selves coming through on this new track. 

Wake Me Up is a song that has been written to soundtrack the reopening of the world, and Yannis says it came about after the band decided that enough was enough - if the world wasn't going to change, then they had to mentally whisk themselves off to a different time and place. He explains, "Winters in the UK can get a little bleak, especially if all the pubs are closed and nothing's open. In the past we’ve explored more melancholic moods at times, and when we were discussing about what we wanted to write on this record we wanted to do the antithesis of that.

"We wanted to transport ourselves out of the UK and our current time with COVID into a parallel universe where there was a party going on. We were thinking about writing music for when lockdown would be over. We were envisioning what summer would be like and so with the song specifically I'm trying to transport myself into other situations, to be in the brightest place, the finest place I’ve ever seen. I wanted to be up in the mountain dancing and just to be woken up from the crazy fever dream that was the last eighteen months. It looks like things are starting to improve, so hopefully our plan to make music for the re-emergence of the world will work out."

It's hard to imagine such an upbeat, exciting track being created in a small, airless rehearsal room in South London town Peckham, but that's exactly what Yannis and bandmates Jimmy Smith and Jack Bevan did. The song draws heavily from disco and dance to channel the restless energy that has engulfed creatives everywhere over the last two years into something more positive than perhaps the circumstances deserved. As Yannis puts it, writing music was initially on the backburner, using the time off to recover from relentless touring over the past few years. "We had quite a few lockdowns in the UK and in the first one we didn’t do anything. That’s where I really felt there was this pressure to write your version of the great novel, it’s time to write that screenplay or it’s time to write, when actually I found there was something irksome about this feeling.

"It was propagated through social media - you know you have to learn how to make sour dough bread - and it’s actually like 'well I just want to sit at home because I haven’t been at home for ages'. We didn’t push it, but by the time the second lockdown came around we’d been sat at home for about six months and we couldn’t travel obviously. Had we’d been able to occupy ourselves in other ways, then maybe we would have, but come second lockdown I was eager to start writing some music. I had some demos and then the guys were around so we were like ‘let's go jam it out.’"

Before the pandemic hit, the band spent 2019 releasing Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Parts 1 & 2, two albums that gave the band to push their guitar-driven sound further than ever before. The size and scale on those albums not only encapsulated the best parts of the band's evolution over the preceding decade and a half, but also showcased the appetite for rock music is alive and well, both in the UK and worldwide. The success of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Parts 1 & 2 goes against what some people have believed for a long while - guitar music is on the way out. It's a phenomenon that's breathlessly discussed by certain sections of the music industry, and yet, it never comes to fruition. 

The contrast between Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Parts 1 & 2 and Wake Me Up is stark, as the two albums also captured the band's simultaneous optimism and pessimism at the time. In a 2019 interview with Cool Accidents, fellow band member Jack Bevan spoke about the inspiration for the name. “When Yannis thought it up ages ago, the actual name, when it’s presented as a quit screen message on Nintendo, it’s super… unromantic and very direct. But when you take it in the context of music or art or whatever, it can take on so much more meaning. For me, I think it’s like… you can take it in a lot of different ways – there’s optimistic, or there’s a negative, pessimistic statement. You can look at it in one way to mean to cherish everything you’re living right now, but also if you take the pessimistic read, it’s kind of a warning sign that we’re all gonna die." Despite the events of the last two years, all signs point to Foals' new album being more upbeat, rather than channelling the dark clouds that have hung above us all for what feels like an eternity.

I ask Yannis about what he thinks about the doomsday claims that rock music attracts, and he points to the fact that it's a natural cultural shift - and for a change, rock music isn't the top dog, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. "There's a weird inner neurosis when it comes to rock music, and to be honest I think it’s mainly with the media. I don’t think that that many bands sit around discussing if rock music is dead, but I think that things have changed. I think that there’s amazing guitar music being made, especially in the UK.

"In the last few years there's been an awesome wave of great guitar music being released, new wave-y bands, with lots of them coming out of South London. It seems really healthy, but I think the thing is that it’s not where the cultural zeitgeist is at the current time. However, that’s not a problem, and it’s certainly not a death rattle for guitar music. It’s also good when guitar music gets to be slightly more underground and bands aren't worrying about commercial pressures. I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere anytime soon."

Foals have recently made their return to the live stage in the UK, and the experience has made the band even more excited for 2022, which promises to be a big year of touring. As the lead singer for Foals, Yannis is the focal point of their performances - and when asked about how he's found embracing the persona of being a lead singer once again, he says that it's felt as natural as one could imagine. "I definitely think that I am two distinct people. There’s the person that’s on stage that is usually much more volatile and emotive, and having not played live I forgot that bit of me existed because I can become kind of domestic. However, as I’m saying this maybe I don’t know myself that well because I don’t know how domestic I really am at home. It didn’t feel weird, it felt super natural in a way that reaffirms the life choices of becoming a musician. I’m meant to do this, and we all feel like that in the band, so it was like putting on a second skin again."

A new Foals album is set to be released in 2022, and they're looking to release an album that could soundtrack a night out on the town. Yannis points to their debut record, Antidotes, which leaned heavily into rhythmic elements, designed to be played at the "indie clubs" which the band considered their ecosystems. Six albums into their existence as a band, their next project is set to be influenced by the disco and '80s new wave acts they're listening to, "slightly experimental guitar new-wavey bands". They're planning to release an album full of songs that you can dance to, ones that capture the joy of a world that's been through a lot in the last two years. The album is set to be their version of a "party record" that'll lift your spirits and make you want to dance. It's sounding like what the world has been sorely missing as of late.

READ MORE: Falls Festival Is Set To Return At The End Of 2022, But It'll Look Very Different

Yannis's desire for 2022 is a simple one - he hopes to bring the band to Australia and reconnect with what it is to be a musician. The last two years have tested everyone's resolve, and while he says that "even if I was never to play a show again, I would probably always just think of myself as a musician, it’s sort of just a part of my DNA", there's a certain excitement that shines through when the prospect of extensive touring is brought up again. Foals have been long-considered a live behemoth, and they're starting to stir from their hibernation.

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