The Band Before… looks at the bands your NME favourites were in prior to hitting success. First up, Foals’ Yannis Phillippakis tells us about toiling in toilet venues with math-rockers The Edmund Fitzgerald…

On the back of a summer that saw Foals elevated to festival headliner status, pulling off a triumphant main stage set to some 60,000 people atop the bill at Latitude in July, it’s hard to imagine frontman Yannis Phillippakis performing to crumbling pub backrooms and empty toilet venues. But for a year and half between 2003 and 2005, that’s where he and drummer Jack Bevan laid the foundations for the Oxford art-rockers’ trademark guitars in cult three piece The Edmund Fitzgerald.

“I liked the grit of it, the hardship was invaluable. We’d pile in a van [having] booked like seven shows and there’d be no one at any of them,” Phillippakis tells NME. “But we’d come back grinning after having the best fucking time anyway. There was definitely a DIY element to it.” Completed by guitarist Lina Simon, the trio’s abrasive post-rock experiments would often wander past the 10-minute mark, smashing Fugazi guitars and Slint-style atmospherics into Don Caballero math-rock rhythmic mazes. “We wanted to make complicated, fresh-sounding music. It felt exciting and new.”

A split 12” with Leeds Jesus Lizard impressionists Bilge Pump and split 7” with Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies (whose Andrew Mears went on to front Foals for their first few months together) saw the band’s profile grow, gaining a reputation for intense noise and visceral live shows. After the group disbanded, after Bevan and Phillippakis decided their sound was “too serious” and set up a new band with an unashamed pop sheen, plans were made to release a collection of unheard recordings as an album, but were blocked by Warner Bros after Foals signed to the major label in 2008 via Transgressive. Thankfully though, you can still find various tracks dotted around the internet…

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