Chatting with Foals singer Yannis Philippakis about his band’s two 2019 albums, Vegas and more

Yannis Philippakis (second from right) and his Foals bandmates headline Brooklyn Bowl on March 27.
Photo: Alex Knowles / Courtesy

Since 2008, English band Foals has climbed the indie ladder from raucous math-rock to anthemic stadium-pop. We caught up with frontman Yannis Philippakis just days ahead of the band’s six-month tour and just after the release of new album Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost—Part 1. (Part 2 comes out in the fall).

What do you have to do to get into the right mindset for a six-month tour? I try and be relatively healthy and take every day, day by day. There’s an element of trepidation when it’s that long, but we’re excited to play the shows as well.

Your longtime bassist, Walter Gervers, left the band right before you got into the studio and recorded two albums worth of material. Explain that burst of creativity. We felt like if we were going to continue to make music, we should be ambitious and try to make the best music possible. The process of making the album was very creative, very open-ended. We had a long time to make it, so we ended up with this wealth of material that we felt was necessary to put out.

Thematically and sonically, how are these two albums similar or different? They weren’t conceived of as different records when we were writing. We were just making music. And then when we finished them we decided to carve them into two for a whole host of reasons. We felt there were kind of two threads through the material—the record have their own distinct characteristics. Album two is more driven by the guitars, more of a rock record I’d say, and it kind of acts as a response to album one. The note that album one ends on, album two sort of rises out of the ashes of that and starts with a lot of energy and has its own kind of color scheme to it. It just has a different vibe as an album.

There’s a lot of talk about how guitar-rock is kind of dead and that Foals is one of the genre’s last successful holdovers. How has the band managed to stay relevant while also stay true to itself? I think we feel like what we’re doing is fulfilling; we wouldn’t continue to do it if we felt what we’re doing is dying. We feel like, creatively, in many ways, we’re at our peak, and some of our best songs are still to be written. And it’s meaningful. It’s important to make music with guitars with your friends in a room. I don’t care whether it’s out of date or passé according to somebody, because I know what it feels like and I know the connection we have with the outside world, and it’s important. On a personal level, I think the reason why we’ve continued is because we find it fulfilling and we get on with each other. We feel like the best is yet to come.

Why was it important for you to get political on this record? It’s a response to the climate. I think the issues that we’re facing are more pressing now than they were 10 or 20 years ago. On a personal level, I just felt that it was the responsibility almost, from an artistic point of view, to engage in what’s going on right now, and also unavoidable. It would’ve been a conscious decision to try and shy away from it, and not the right one.

You’ve talked in previous interviews about how you guys go kind of hard while you’re on tour. What’s it been like in the past when you play Vegas? I had my 30th birthday in Vegas, and I’m still trying to rehydrate now. … We went to a shooting range with a bunch of pasty Brits, you can imagine. We went out and just did Vegas, and then we had a show the next day. And this is saying something—that was probably one of the most-hungover shows we’ve ever played, and it was also one of the best. There was something about the vibe in the room that night, I don’t know, it was almost like an out-of-body experience.

What can people expect from this tour? We’re going to be adding some songs [from the new album], and playing with the same intensity that everybody knows us for; playing some deeper cuts off the back catalog and some old favorites from all four records. It’s going to be a great show.

FOALS with Bear Hands, Kiev. March 27, 7 p.m., $34-$39. Brooklyn Bowl, 702-862-2695.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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