“[The album] becoming more dancey was an organic reaction to us feeling like we were missing that element of our lives.”
I’ve been writing lots about albums which came out this year that I really liked, and one of them is Foals’ Life Is Yours.
The Oxford, England-based alternative act released this gem back in June via Warner Records, Transgressive Records, and the Alternative Distribution Alliance and it’s fantastic. “2am” is one of my favorite singles of 2022 and other tracks including “Wake Me Up,” “Looking High,” and “Crest of the Wave” highlight an album that has vocalist, guitarist, and bassist Yannis Philippakis, guitarist and keyboardist Jimmy Smith, and drummer Jack Bevan weaving elements of new wave, disco, and progressive rock.
As part of a long run of shows in support of the new album, Foals will bring a party-like atmosphere to Roadrunner in Allston on Dec. 17. Los Angeles psychedelic band Inner Wave and Tampa synthwave act Glove will open things up.
Bevan and I spoke about the album being the first time this current lineup of Foals made music together, recording at a legendary studio, a band that both him and Philippakis were in before their current one, and being glad to play shows again.
Life Is Yours is Foals’ first album as a trio following the departure of keyboardist Edwin Congreave last year. Did this have a major effect on the songwriting process for you, Yannis, and Jimmy? Or did it take very little adjusting to craft the music for the album?
I think it freed Jimmy up, he’s been a synth and piano player for a long time and I think Edwin’s departure allowed him to be more comfortable with experimenting on the synths. When we were writing, the majority of the time we were playing with drums, keys, and Yannis playing one guitar, so I think that definitely had an impact on how we wrote.In the past, we’d have two guitarists with Edwin playing keys and me on drums so I think Jimmy moving over to the synths definitely helped shape the sound of the record.
I definitely get the synthy electronic vibes from the songs. How did you guys get connected with Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios to go make part of the album? What was the experience like recording there with John Hill as the producer? It’s a pretty legendary space.
It’s an amazing space. We’ve always kind of loved going away and putting ourselves in inspiring places to record. I think especially after making Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, both parts one and two, just down the road from where we live in London we very much wanted to take ourselves off somewhere to have a more immersive experience. To be honest, it was just one of those legendary studios that we really wanted to use, I know John Hill was excited to use it as well. It was kind of a case of us trying out this studio that we’ve always wanted to go to and John being 100% down for it.
Looking back at the album now, what are your thoughts on incorporating more of a dancey, pop-leaning disco vibe than Foals’ previous releases? Was this stylistic approach conscious during the entire process of making Life Is Yours or did it come out more organically?
To be honest, I think that kind of came from us writing it during lockdown in 2021 and we were missing out on being able to go to bars, restaurants, clubs, and that experience of live music while enjoying a night out with your friends. We definitely had a conversation early on into the writing where we set out to make more of a cohesive album that does something really well. We talked about records like The Blue Album by Weezer, Rated R by Queens Of The Stone Age, and a few others that do something really well. We didn’t know that it was going to be dancey kind of stuff at that point, but in the past we’ve made records where we’ve tried to put every single element of the band across.
Because we do a lot of different things, it can sometimes be a less cohesive feeling record so that was definitely on our mind but it becoming more dancey was an organic reaction to us feeling like we were missing that element of our lives.
Before Foals started in 2005, you and Yannis were in the math rock band the Edmund Fitzgerald. When it comes to structure and arrangements, do you see any similarities between the previous band and the one you and Yannis are currently in? Is there anything that translates to what the Edmund Fitzgerald did to what Foals does?
Not really, I mean when I think back to that band, it was wild. We would rehearse for nine hours and everything that we played in the Edmund Fitzgerald I would be counting because it was constantly changing time signatures with lots of stops and that kind of thing. We haven’t really done that so much in Foals, we’ve mostly stuck with the same time signature in each song but it definitely is one of those things where in a future record or something I’d like to try doing that kind of mathematical counting kind of thing again. It is really fun, but it’s hard to do it without being gratuitously mathy I guess.
You don’t want to go too overboard, especially when you’ve had a band previously like that and you want to have a departure from it.
This upcoming show at Roadrunner in Boston is going to be Foals’ second to last show of 2022, so what are the band’s plans going into next year? Do you just plan on doing a lot of touring or will there be any other projects in the works?
We’re going to be taking a bit of a break after this tour, which I think is much needed after doing around 100 shows this year. It’s been a lot and we’re planning on being busy with playing shows again next summer, but further on than that we haven’t really got to that point yet. It’s just been really nice to be back out on the road after COVID where for a long time it was worrying whether we’d ever be able to do this in this way ever again. Obviously, people haven’t totally moved on from it yet but it’s definitely gone to a point where gigs are starting to feel normal again.
Foals @ Roadrunner, Saturday, Dec. 17
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.