Interview: Foals

From Spanish Sahara to Sydney beaches, Foals drummer Jack Bevan is up for a sea change.


When I manage to get Foals drummer Jack Bevan on the phone he’s happy, well-rested and just a touch confused. Asked where he is currently situated his response is; “I’m not really sure, we’re kind of in the middle of nowhere in the middle of France.”

The reason behind this geographical confusion is that he is in fact mid-European tour, having conquered the UK, America and Australia earlier in the year. The Oxford five piece are not big on taking breaks when the tide is in their favour.

“I’m sure that there has been a week off at some point but it doesn’t feel like we’ve had a proper break,” says Bevan. “It’s good, we like being busy and we like not being busy, so we’d rather be completely busy or be off rather than have just a couple of days here and a couple of days there.”

“It’s been a pretty hectic year but the response has been great so we’ve been enjoying it.”

The response he speaks of is the praise being heaped upon their sophomore release, Total Life Forever, a record that blew all out of the water with its sparse sonic landscapes, a far cry from their staccato pop debut Antidotes. They arrived on our shores for the first time with Splendour In The Grass and the band couldn’t have been more surprised by the adulation they received.

“It was amazing, we came first to Adelaide and we’d literally not been to bed. We flew straight over and played the show the same day, so our body clocks were shit but we were just blown away by the crowd,” says Bevan. “It was one of the best shows I can remember all year to be honest. It was just great, we had no idea what to expect because we’d never been out there before.”

“The only downside at all was that we were there for such a short time, the jetlag was too bad for us to do anything in the daytime. The audiences were wonderful, it was awesome, and Splendour as well, a great festival.”

It seems the change from British to Australian time did quite a number on the lads, with more time spent in bed than on the streets.

“It was a real shame because we’d been so excited to go to well, basically everywhere. We’d aim to go out around 12oclock every day but we’d just always fall asleep. I literally didn’t see any of Sydney because I was asleep the whole time,” says Bevan.

Lucky for them they’ll be returning to play Laneway Festival along with a couple of sideshows, and it’s more than just another gig to Bevan.

“It’s always good to be able to play to thousands of people, and also the Laneway lineup is probably the best lineup I’ve seen all year, in terms of the kind of music that I like,” says Bevan. “It’s just an incredible festival so I’m really glad that we’re doing that as opposed to something bigger or more corporate.”

A festival set does mean compromising though, with fewer long cuts from Total Life to give way for more songs in a short space of time.

“I think when we’ve only got 45 mins or an hour, usual festival length, you try to cram in all the songs that the crowd seem to like the most,” says Bevan. “When we do our own shows we can play for an hour and a half, we can fit more of the atmospheric, more down-tempo tracks.”

“Some of the tracks we really love playing are like Two Trees and What Remains, but in a festival set you have to hold everyone’s attention because there’s a lot more casual listeners that will just leave if they’re getting bored or whatever. We generally play all the singles from both records, and then a couple of the more cerebral tracks.”

The shining example of a cerebral track is the undeniably beautiful Spanish Sahara. The centrepiece of their second record, the song is a six minute opus of spacious percussion and lead singer Yannis Philipakis’ falsetto. Though it’s a sombre yet climaxingly aggressive affair on record, Bevan has found the audience interaction to be unique to the location.

“That song gets a different reaction wherever we go,” says Bevan. “At some festivals we played this summer, people were literally sitting down at the beginning which was really nice, it was kind of a respectable thing. And then when the song kicked in they all jumped up. It was like ‘wow’, really great.”

Foals have seen their fair share of festivals this year, playing to seas of faceless people in numerous countries. However, their largest crowd was last year in a support slot for Britpop legends Blur, and Bevan is willing to admit a touch of the nerves when it came to stepping onto the Hyde Park stage.

“That was, even now, the most people we’ve ever played to. That was 65,000, so to see that many people in front of you watching is terrifying but awesome at the same time,” says Bevan “But the thing with stage fright and nerves is it’s always the build up to the show, but as soon as you crack into the first song everything goes away and it’s great and especially if you’re getting a good reaction you just start loving it. And when you’re playing to that many people it just elevates that sense of enjoyment, when it’s going well.”

The numbers may have grown from the house parties they used to play in their early days, but Bevan has also noticed a change in the sorts of faces appearing in the crowd at their concerts.

“I think we definitely have a more varied fanbase which is good, I think with Antidotes it was a predominantly young crowd, and there’s nothing wrong with that but now it feels like we’re getting more older people. Which is great because we don’t want to be seen as a band for the children. Not being funny or anything but it’s great to know different age groups and different kinds of people can be into it.

Considering Total Life’s early 2010 release, one has to wonder whether Foals will be bringing the same show down for round two or if they’ll whip out some new songs. Fans will be pleased to know the latter is more than likely.

“Actually we’re coming to Australia in the beginning of January to spend a month of writing and recording, so hopefully by the time that we play we would have recorded quite a lot. We’re looking for somewhere to live in Bondi Beach so give us a shout if you know of anywhere!”

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