The past few months have been hectic for Foals : after recording their debut album ‘Antidotes‘ in NYC last summer, they didn’t stop touring, building an enormous fan-base all through Europe … and in the rest of the world. We caught up with frontman Yannis Philippakis before their chaotic concert in Kingston, two weeks before the release of their single ‘Balloons’.
Mathletics and Hummer won’t be on the album – does that mean that you think Foals have got even more better songs – with more potential ?
Yannis Philippakis (vocals, guitar) : I think some of the songs are better. It depends on how you qualify, but there are some songs that are poppier, definitely. There’s like bigger pop songs. I think everything on the album is better. We didn’t want to make an album where, you know – a lot of albums are very much like a collection of songs, which don’t seem to really have a flow or a unified theme. Also, with the proliferation of iTunes, once you’ve released something, people have got it, and if they want to listen to Hummer, they can do it.
So do you feel the album will really represent Foals nowadays, even if some songs have been written a long while ago ?
Yannis : All of the songs are kind of old, to be honest. But it’s the grease of oldness I guess. The firsts songs we wrote were French Open, Balloons and 2 Steps Twice – Balloons and 2 Steps Twice are on but there is much newer material. We’ve already started writing newer stuff.
About Balloons – how did you come up with the saxophone idea on the new version ?
Yannis : It has a lot to so with Dave Sitek. We had a lot of discussions about bringing some more like afro-beat feel and a cross-cultural element, to make something that is culturally not as specific as a lot of western kind of rock bands. There’s quite a lot of brass on a lot of the record – maybe five tracks are brass to various degrees. Which is kind of weird if you’ve seen us live : when you will put on that record, it’s going to be a bit of a shock – hopefully a pleasant one. We didn’t want to make a live-sounding record. We wanted to make a record that was like a studio thing.
Will we ever know what you say in Balloons, that “what the what” thing ?
Yannis : Oh no, probably not. I can’t give it all away. I don’t really say anything, really. I like the suggestions on our forum though.
In less than a year, you’ve been discovered as a band, signed on a label, you’ve been touring a lot – how do you deal with this ?
Yannis : How do we deal with it ? I don’t know … None of this really feels real. In five years or ten years time, when it’s all over, I’ll look back and I’ll be like “Oh, that was quite weird”. When you’re in it is just too … so much stuff. We party a lot as well – that’s a way of dealing with that.
So you think that maybe in five years time you won’t be doing music anymore ?
Yannis : I think we will always be doing music but we might not be doing it as Foals. We don’t want to be the kind of band that is still playing their stuff after sixteen years.
There’s been a lot said about Foals being a band for teenagers, as you did underage concerts, that Underage Festival, and you appeared in Skins, too. Does this annoy you ?
Yannis : Not really, because I think that’s a misconception. To me, there isn’t the thing like being an underage band. I think there are bands that are very specific to that underage market but I think our crowds are far more diversed generally – at least, I like to think so.
Are you going to tour France ?
Yannis : We’re doing four shows in France in February. We’re doing Paris, Rennes, Reims (laughs at his bad pronunciation) … We’re just going to be touring a lot. We’ve only got eight British shows, in March, and then everything is all international. We’ve already booked Spain and Japan, which is more exciting at least for us to get to go somewhere new.
I interviewed young local bands and they mentioned Foals as one of their influences – Foals being pretty new in the business, how do you feel towards this ?
Yannis : It’s pretty weird. That’s cool, though. That’s pretty fast I guess.
Don’t you think it’s a risk for the new scene, being inspired by other new bands without searching influences in other kind of music ? Most of these new bands don’t seem to have the same music background than Foals has.
Yannis : You’re right, but that’s why -at least in my opinion- there aren’t many good rock bands. And the music I find the most interesting is stuff that isn’t rock-based, generally. In almost every respect I find –at least in mainstream kind of like rock music- very repetitive bands repeting what other bands have already done before. It works like fashion cycles.
I’d like to end on what a friend of mine, who is half-Greek, says about Greek music. For her, “Greece” and “Music” are two words that are not compatible. What would you like to say to her, to answer her ? Do you agree ?
Yannis : That can’t be – really ? Why does she say that ?
Apparently there are no worthy musicians in Greece, only bad music, that kind of stuff …
Yannis : Really ? That’s the craziest thing I ever heard ! In terms of pop-music, it’s terrible of course. But it’s because the idea of making commercial pop-music is not something that comes naturally out of the culture. It’s something that has been, basically, forced upon us. So all like modern sounding music from Greece is bad but all the folk music in Greece is incredible.
Would you ever consider collaborate with Greek musicians, then ?
Yannis : Yeah – I mean sometimes we start our set with an old Byzantine song – my dad used to sing it. My dad makes folk instruments in Greece. If your friend is referring to pop-music, then I agree. It’s terrible. But the folk music is incredible. It’s like the best of the dance too as well – like all the traditional Greek line-dancing. I find it kind of interesting. So well, I don’t agree with your friend at all !
For a chance to see Yannis line-dancing on stage, catch Foals on their next tour starting in February. Their debut album Antidotes will be out in March.