Interview: Foals

Currently one of the UK’s most popular indie bands, Foals is back with their highly-anticipated new album Holy Fire (listen on Spotify). The album features the lead singles “Inhaler” and “My Number” along with their latest track, “Late Night”. They’ll be playing the Electric Factory in Philly on Saturday, 5/4 with openers Surfer Blood and Blondfire. Tickets for the show are currently still available and can be purchased here. See all of their upcoming tour dates here.

Rockin’ The ‘Burbs had the opportunity to speak with Foals drummer, Jack Bevan, and we learned all about his admiration for Michael Jackson, Foals’ unique song-writing process, and his amazing feat of touring with the stomach flu. Read the full interview and watch their provocative new music video for “Late Night” (NSFW) below.

Foals (Publicity Photo) | © Steve Gullick

Foals (Publicity Photo) | © Steve Gullick

RTB: Really appreciate you taking the time to join us, Jack. First off, I know you guys just recently played Coachella – tell us a little about that experience.

JB: It was great! It was a wonderful atmosphere where everyone came out of the woodwork. Since it was close to LA, there were so many radio stations and magazines and hubs of music together all in one place. It was awesome.

RTB: Were there any new artists you learned about or any other bands you were excited to see?

JB: Unfortunately, we had to leave both of the nights we played so we didn’t get to see as much as we wanted. It was an intense weekend – arrive in the morning, lots of interviews, playing music, and a few drinks. We didn’t really get a chance to meet anyone, but back stage was cool. Getting to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Skrillex walking around was pretty exciting. When we played Coachella in 2011, we saw Katy Perry walking around and we were all in shock to see a huge star like that.

RTB: Let me ask you about your most recent music video for “Late Night” – it has a different feel from your previous videos (with some sex, blood, and a shocking ending). How involved were you in the creative process?

JB: It was an incredible collaboration between Yannis (singer) and the director, Nabil Elderkin. They each had their ideas and fleshed out the whole thing between them. It mainly conveys the circle of life. It’s definitely the darkest video we’ve done so far. We shot it in Romania in December in abandoned buildings, definitely the first video like this for us.

RTB: We noticed that in the next 20 days, you’re playing 16 shows. You guys are known for the high energy that you put into your shows – how do you maintain that?

JB: When we first started touring, we were terrified at the tour dates and the unusual life that comes with it – a “traveling circus”. We’ve pushed ourselves over the years with each tour, and we can get away with quite a lot. We played in London a month ago and did two shows in one day, each 90 minutes long. The night before I slept two and a half hours. The whole day I spent worrying if I could physically do it, but I was totally fine. For the past six days I’ve had the stomach flu I caught in Mexico. We just played in Houston and had to cut the show down by 15 minutes. But in the end it’s fun for us, we want to work hard and we will always do that.

RTB: We read that “My Number” is about Yannis not getting texts from his ex-girlfriend anymore because he changed his number. Are there any other interesting stories like this behind the songs on Holy Fire?

JB: Each track has its different meanings, but Yannis does all the lyrics. We first start with an idea in the way the song will be colored, lyrics usually come later. We start with the aesthetic and mood, and add lyrics to that.

I know there are stories behind “Late Night”, which Yannis wrote, but I don’t think I should talk about them. (Laughs)

RTB: How long does the song-writing process typically take?

JB: “Inhaler” took the longest. We started jamming for a while, playing the chorus part separately. We didn’t think to put it together until the last week we were in the studio when we finally realized it would be good together. But it didn’t write itself – normally a lot of songs tend to write themselves. “My Number” took one afternoon to write. It started as a middle section for another song, but then we ran away with it and wrote it in two hours. “Inhaler” took months because we were trying to figure out how to put it together. It was a happy surprise when it finally came together in the studio.

RTB: Are you guys planning to write any new material between tour dates?

JB: No writing songs yet. It’s such a hectic schedule. Touring is such a different lifestyle compared to writing. Writing is a creative process where you think of nothing besides writing. You make a record and go on tour – nothing creative. We love touring but it does lack the creativity of writing. After touring, we then get the itch to write. In a month we might start playing with some new ideas. We can’t just get out an acoustic guitar and write songs, it doesn’t work that way.

RTB: If you could collaborate with any musician or band, living or dead, who would it be and why?

JB: Hmmm, interesting but tough question. I’d have to say to say Off the Wall by Michael Jackson sticks out – the quality of the music, his focus, and how anal about his music he was. I’d love to work with that. Whether mystic or not, his level of focus was amazing.

RTB: The last time you played in Philadelphia was in 2011 at the TLA and now you’ll be playing back here at the Electric Factory on Saturday. Are you guys excited to be back?

JB: I remember that show – it was fun and definitely stood out on that tour. We met a lot of nice fans afterwards. We’ve never played at the Electric Factory. We’re excited to come back and play a new venue. This time we also want to experience a real Philly cheesesteak, so we’ll make sure we conquer that.

(FYI, we recommended which place they should go, but for the sake of not sparking controversy among Philadelphia cheesesteak connoisseurs, we’ll keep that suggestion between Jack and us)

RTB: Your tour ends in November, any big plans after?

JB: We are actually extending our tour until September; we just haven’t listed dates yet. I then may need to take a month to remember what it’s like to be a functioning human being. Then we will get back in the studio soon after. In a year we may make something entirely new.

RTB: Thanks, again, for joining us, Jack – get over that stomach flu already, ok? Lookin’ forward to the show (buy tickets here)!

– Serge Levin and Erika Reinsel