Foals on "Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1" - The Full Interview | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

Foals on “Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1” - The Full Interview

From a Different Angle

Mar 08, 2019 Issue #65 - Mitski and boygenius
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Wait four years for a new Foals album and then two come along at the same time. Almost. If 2015's What Went Down was the record that elevated the Oxford outfit to rock's major league, then the follow-up would undoubtedly provide a leg up to the next stratospheric level. 

Not that Foals have ever been a band to concern themselves with such things as world domination. They are a genuine word of mouth success story that's built through years of relentless touring while making great records to boot. Foals are here for the long haul and their outright refusal to conform to whatever scene was around at the time undeniably served them well, proving to be the catalyst for the band's longevity.

In 2019 they are releasing two albums: Everything Not Saved Will Be LostPart 1, the band's fifth album, is out today and is set to be followed before the end of the year by Everything Not Saved Will Be LostPart 2. It's a bold move in an era when the album has become an understated commodity and three-minute radio friendly tracks are encouraged instead.

The two albums were recorded after the departure of the band's bass player, Walter Gervers. Foals' singer/guitarist Yannis Philippakis and the rest of the bandJimmy Smith (guitar), Jack Bevan (drums), and Edwin Congreave (keys)convened at 123 Studios in Peckham, London. Below, Philippakis explains why they are double dipping, self-producing the album, and recording without Gervers.

Dom Gourlay (Under the Radar): When did the process begin for the new album?

Yannis Philippakis: Around 18 months ago. We had a bit of a break after touring What Went Down. I got a little room near my house with a few bits in there and started knocking a few ideas together. Then we did a few final shows with our old bass player [Walter Gervers] in the summer. After that we got full into it and went straight into a recording studio from the off. So we were recording the album from day one in a way. We didn't work in a rehearsal room or anything like that then decamp to a studio. We were capturing sounds that ended up on the album from the very beginning. We worked locally so we could just walk to the studio, and we didn't have a producer, which made us work more intensely throughout the whole process.

Was it always your intention to release two albums or did that just happen naturally over time?

It wasn't originally our intention. The intention was to go in and be as creative as possible, and to have a really liberated approach. That partly fed into why we didn't use a producer. We wanted to have time. That was a big thing when it came to making these records. We've made a lot of our other records under a lot of pressure. So this time round we wanted to explore what it would feel like having a more open ended approach. There really was no preconception of any album from the outset. We just went in with some ideas and they grew. So when we ended up completing the amount of songs we did it meant we were faced with the question of what to do with all this material. We felt all of it was vital to get out, and the way we thought was most exciting to do that was to sequence two separate records that were both of equal quality and would be complementary to each other yet also able to stand-alone. So we could release them months apart to allow all the songs breathing room. There's something a bit naff about double albums. You have to sift through however many tracks to find the best ones and we didn't want that. We thought it would be better to space them out which would also keep touring fresh for us as well. So we'd be playing fresh material a year into touring and each record could be fully digested in its own terms. That way, the songs would all have time to shine.

Which songs came first? Are both albums in chronological order?

No, not at all. The records were sequenced intuitively based on how we felt the material gelled well together. We wanted to allow each record to develop its own character, so some of the earliest material we wrote is on album two. It's more to do with how each record feels, so while both have their own distinctive characters, they also form one larger whole. 

Listening to Everything Not Saved Will Be LostPart 1, it seems quite a political record. Particularly songs like "Exits" and "I'm Done with the World (& It's Done with Me)." Did the current political climate have a big influence in what you were writing at the time?

Yeah, definitely. It can't help but be an influence. It's impossible not to be engaged with what's happening around you. We're so plugged into the flow of information and algorithms. You literally have to be living under a rock to not feel almost assaulted by the amount of information we get as news, and most of that is negative. It's negative and concerning. There's a feeling of powerlessness we feel as individuals which goes against the other messages in our lives. The ones we should pursue for individual happiness where we should treat ourselves. Life is for the individual pursuit of happiness, and yet all of these problems we face that cause us anxiety can't be solved by an individual decision. So there's this strange paradox between these two big narratives we're confronted with daily and that has definitely fed into the record. It wasn't necessarily entirely by design. It wasn't as if we set out to make a record like that, but over the months when I was writing lyrics and started to write about these themes it would have been a purposeful decision not to have it in which I felt would have been a kind of self-censorship. So, for me, the correct approach was to allow that narrative into the record.

Even the title Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost could be a reference to something like Brexit, which will drastically change people's lives and at the moment seems irreversible.

Everything that is on the agenda right now played a part in this record, whether that's Brexit, the environment or ecological concern. The album title could be equally applied to any of those. We're going through a period they're calling the fifth extinction. Everything that isn't saved will be lost. It's a truism and I like the fact that's pertinent to what's going on now because it is happening on multiple levels.

These are your first records since Walter Gervers left the band. Has the dynamic changed at all?

We've had to take over bass duties, so Edwin [Congreave] our keyboard player played a lot of bass in the live room. I was playing a lot of bass in the control room so there was that. It's definitely had an effect. As a group of people that spent over a decade in each other's company there's a sadness he's not with us any more. As can be expected. He's a great guy and we're a brotherhood, basically. Musically, in some ways it was a catalyst for us to mix things up more, which is ironic because it's what we wanted to do on this record prior to knowing about Walter's departure. Then when we were faced with having to decide how to approach the record, him not being there catapulted us in having to approach it differently, which is partly why we didn't use a producer. Partly why we recorded ourselves from early on. We came at it from a different angle. So in those ways Walter's departure was for the good of our creativity. I think any change is for the good of the creative process. We had to ride it out a bit but eventually it takes you somewhere new.

It sounds like making these records was a steep learning curve from the production side. Is that something you see yourselves doing more of in the future?

I've always been interested in getting more into production. Strangely, I had some reluctance about us not working with a producer in the early stages. Maybe out of knowing that would mean more work for me. Also, we've always felt we needed an adult in the room as it were. But having got through it I think it's given us more confidence in our own abilities. We'll see about the future. We've only just finished making these records so it's too early to say just yet.

Having used so many songs to make both albums, were there any left over? If so, will they be revisited in the future?

There are a few bits and bobs but basically everything that was taken right to the finish line is now on one of the two records. There's always some material left over but the material left over on this occasion is more in sketch form. That's one of the things we were saying to ourselves about this last year and a half. That there's so muchalmost too muchto do so we may be better putting some stuff on ice for later. But then the overall working mantra was "let's try and finish everything," which is one of the reasons why we ended up with so much stuff.

Foals have been together nearly a decade and a half now. What would you say has been the key to the band's longevity? Why do you think people are still as excited at the arrival of a new Foals record in 2019 as they were back in 2008 when Antidotes came out?

I don't know! I just feel we enjoy what we do. We feel there's still merit in it. If we're excited by what we're doing then hopefully that will transfer to other people. We feel like we're still making vital records and breaking new ground. There's no element of stagnancy in what we're doing. Until it feels wrong it feels right.

If you had the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you'd change from your back catalogue or do differently?

I'm a self critical person so there's obviously things I listen back to and think I could have done that better but at the same, I wouldn't change it. Often where things fall short in our own estimations is what propels us to break new ground further on. It can be a motor in itself, that feeling of dissatisfaction. I think we've evolved a lot as well, and a lot of that is driven by internal creative dissatisfaction where we're always chasing this promised land, feeling like the best is just around the corner. That probably answers part of the last question as well because there's still something left to unlock that hasn't been fully done. So yeah, I do listen back and wonder why we recorded something the way we did but then that's also part of the beauty of it.

You've already got a busy schedule of live shows and festivals lined up with more to be announced as the year goes on. Do you still get the same buzz of excitement from playing live as you did when the band first started out?

Fundamentally, we still love playing live. We love being on stage. For many people that's where they feel they get the most out of our band. It's this whole other avenue of the band aside from being in the studio and recording. Playing live is integral to what we do so it feels good to do it. Right now we haven't played a show for well over a year so we're itching to play shows. I'm excited to get on the road. If you asked me two months into a tour how I'm feeling about it then you'd probably get a different response because by that point you start to become quite ratty and knackered. I'm as excited about playing shows right now as I've ever been in the past. It's a massive rush. It feels thrilling. There's nowhere better to play then getting to plug in and play loud on stage. Getting to throw yourself into the chaos of a live performance and the connection of the crowd. It's an irreplaceable feeling. When you're deep into a tour you start to get fatigued so sometimes lose sight of how special that is. We've just had a break so I'm rearing to go.

With so many songs to choose from and two more albums' worth to throw in the mix, how do you go about putting together a setlist?

We just pick a bit of each record and cherry pick the stuff from our back catalogue we think works well, then add in however much new material feels right for that setting. We're just about to start rehearsals about how we're going to specifically tailor this set, but in general that's how we've always done it. We felt the show was already great on the last tour. We get to draw off all of the bangers from the past, and then also get to add new ones, so it's a nice dilemma to have.

What advice would you give to a new artist or band that's just starting out?

I'm not sure to be honest because when we came through there was a different set of rules. I'd probably tell them to do something that is true to them. Don't chase the vapid, hollow stuff. Try and make something that's meaningful and fulfilling for you. Try and make it good, and work hard. Be yourself and be something new. I don't think any of those things will ever change. These days, the currency that everyone is fighting over is attention. How can you occupy people's attention? So you need to think about that if you're coming through. There's different ways of doing that. I'm not a music manager so I don't really know, but if you write great music you will be discovered. It's very unlikely that you won't have a shot.

Are there any other artists who've excited you recently?

I really rate Yak. They're great. There's this band from Ireland called The Murder Capital who I really like as well. Also Slow Thai too.

[Note: Parts of this interview were incorporated into a shorter article that originally appeared in Under the Radar's Issue 65, which is out now. This is the full Q&A of the interview.]

www.foals.co.uk

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Garpanhkot
March 19th 2019
12:15am

Garpanhkot