In this week’s NME we go backstage with Foals as they graduate to festival headliner status at Latitude. To bring you up to speed, we present 50 geeky facts about Yannis & co., starting with the fact that they started off as a ‘house-party band’ who arranged shows through MySpace. The houses they played at were often completely destroyed.
Yannis and bandmate Jack Bevan have been playing together since they were 15. They’ve described their first band Edmund Fitzgerald as being ‘heavy’, ‘technical’ and ‘mostly instrumental.’
At Magdalen College School in Oxford, Yannis had a role in an adaptation of Marguerite Duras’ ‘Moderato Cantabile’.
Yannis and Edwin dropped out of Oxford University to pursue a career in music. Walter and Jack also dropped out of university and joined Foals.
Yannis was fired from a café in Oxford for putting a toy cow in a bagel toaster. Apparently some girls had told him to do it, and he couldn’t refuse. The toy cow’s value was deducted from his pay.
The first thing Yannis purchased after being signed were two pairs of signature editions of Air Jordans.
Guitarist Jimmy was the only member to finish his degree. He took geography at the University of Hull.
Once, when asked where his dance moves came from, Yannis said, “I used to be a total weiner. I used to be in a library society and do contemporary dance. And then I discovered drugs. And guitar. And rock music.”
Not to mention that Yannis was the only boy in his contemporary dance class. He’s a veritable Billy Elliot.
Yannis is also asthmatic. Doesn’t stop his dancing though.
While recording ‘Antidotes’, the band worked from 4pm until dawn every day for 5 weeks during which their producer, TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek ‘encouraged’ them by popping off an air gun.
‘Antidotes’ was reportedly influenced by Steve Reich, Arthur Russell, Madonna, Talking Heads and Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Jack Bevan recorded some of his drums for ‘Antidotes’ in Brooklyn alleyways in the middle of the night.
Yannis once survived an earthquake in Greece. “It wasn’t very terrifying,” he commented.
Foals left ‘Hummer’ and ‘Mathletics’ off ‘Antidotes’ even though they were two of the most popular songs. “There are too many albums today where you release 5 singles before the album even comes out,” they said.
Yannis told NME he’d be willing to write about archaeopteryxes for Cage and Aviary Birds. “That’s the sort of stuff [they] should be writing about.” Exactly, Yannis. Exactly.
Foals had a guest spot on Skins in a special 10-minute webisode. In the next series, though, Dog is Dead made it onto the actual show, so not really something to be proud of.
In 2008, Foals were voted second ‘wildest’ performers by NME readers. Not bad for asthmatic mathletes.
Yannis once broke his toe when he kicked a speaker on stage. Now that is wild.
They described performing to huge audiences on an early tour with Bloc Party as “like throwing bricks into the Grand Canyon.”
On being described as the most anticipated band of 2008, they said it felt “pretty wack.”
When the band heard Dave Sitek’s final version of ‘Antidotes’, they weren’t happy with it, so they remixed it themselves. Apparently it had lots of ‘reverb’ that they ‘didn’t ask for.’
Yannis described himself as a trespasser when he was remixing ‘Antidotes’.
Foals also ditched producer Paul Epworth from ‘Total Life Forever’ at the start, taking on Luke Smith instead.
For the third they changed their tune and allowed Flood and Moulder to work their magic. ‘It was through [their] guiding hands that things came out like they did… but only because they didn’t fuck with our shit.’
Their producers, Flood and Moulder, sneakily recorded Foals’ rehearsals for a more ‘uninhibited sound’, without the band knowing.
Commenting on their past producer troubles, Yannis said, “Producers are a good outlet and are fine to have their say in the studio, but there have definitely been times where we’ve ended up losing some elements on the record that we’ve ended up re-introducing live because we missed them.”
Foals’ albums have all been recorded in different countries. ‘Antidotes’ was recorded in Brooklyn, ‘Total Life Forever’ in Gothenburg, Sweden, while ‘Holy Fire’ was recorded closer to home, in London.
Yannis was inspired by Mike Tyson’s deteriorating physical state on second album Total Life Forever. “What’s fascinating about Tyson is his awareness of it – he’s self-aware, articulate, but living in the fucking whale carcass of his own achievement.”
Before writing Total Life Forever, Yannis explained that he wanted drugs to play a part in the album because it is “a totally valuable and enjoyable way to make music.”
After the Total Life Forever tour, Yannis got spots on his tongue, “I think from consumption of alcohol.”
When asked what Holy Fire’s lyrical inspiration was, Yannis sarcastically listed numerous disparate things (from voodoo to the decline of the bee population) before deciding a better answer would be ‘fuck you, I don’t know.’
Yannis later expanded on his bee-love. ‘There’s something sonically incredible about the way bees sound. It’s fucking great.’ If you listen carefully, you can hear bees in ‘Prelude,’ ‘Milk and Black Spiders’ and ‘Moon.’
In 2007 Foals told an interviewer that their primary concern was “making sure we don’t disappear up our own arses like grey toupee-wearing prog musicians.”
An early Foals song, ‘Cassius’, was about the fall of Rome. Fast-forward five years and single ‘My Number’ is about breaking up with someone and not calling them anymore. The band commented that the concept is “totally universal,” and demonstrates their desire to be more honest and clear with their lyrics.
Yannis has kept a journal since he was 12. He still has all of them except one he lost during a fight.
In October 2007, Yannis told the NME, ‘Hard-Fi are cocks… They’re shit and everyone knows it.’ In their January 2013 cover issue, he said, ‘I’m not going to name bands – I learned that lesson years ago.’
Still, he’s not afraid to take a pop at David Guetta now and again. ‘David Guetta is basically… it’s not even something that really makes my blood boil because it is just bullshit. It is an abomination but there needs to be bad music around. You need Jilly Cooper novels and pulp, trashy culture. Plus, some people like shit music.’
Yannis once said that the coolest dude in the world was either Prince or David Attenborough. That just about covers it.
Friend of the band Dave Ma has directed several Foals videos including ‘Spanish Sahara’ and ‘Inhaler.’ He’s the brother of Jagwar Ma’s Jono. Meanwhile Nabil has also worked with Foals more than once on their (NSFW) videos ‘Bad Habit’ and ‘Late Night.’
During the shoot for ‘Late Night’, there was a scene where one of the Romanian actors hung themselves as part of the video but almost accidently committed suicide.
Keyboardist Edwin Congreave keeps a food blog on the meals he makes and orders on tour. It’s called Tour Bar Blues.
Yannis is a gardening enthusiast. ‘My mum used to make me garden when I was younger, then I just stopped doing it. Then I got a craving to do something that felt like it was connected with the land, something that felt domestic. It was grounding for me. I started growing roses. I enjoyed the craft of it and that they’re difficult to look after; they can provide joy.’
Edwin Congreave and Jack Savidge of Friendly Fires launched Deep Shit Records in 2012 and its first release was Edwin’s debut single, ‘Heal.’
Foals have won Best Track at the NME Awards twice, for ‘Spanish Sahara’ and ‘Inhaler’.
Yannis has told interviewers that Walter Gervers is a descendent of Lord Kitchener. The internet isn’t sure whether or not he’s telling the truth, though.
In 2013, talking about the relentlessness of touring schedules and consequent lack of time to record, Yannis said, “I think I probably would have liked to be making records in the late 70s, early 80s, maybe with Quincy Jones or Nile Rodgers, and have had a year in the studio to try and build some kind of futuristic disco opus.”
Foals are friends of Orlando Higginbottom, AKA Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. They “hang out” when in Oxford and have had friends in common since their teenage years. TEED recently remixed ‘My Number’.
The artwork for ‘Antidotes’ was created by friend of the band Tinhead, who also designed their singles’ artwork in that period. The cover of “Holy Fire” was based on a shot from a National Geographic photographer, Thomas Nebbia, adapted by Leif Podhajsky, who also designs for Tame Impala, Lykke Li and Youth Lagoon.
In 2008 at the Summercase festival in Spain, several Foals members were injured in a brawl between Kele Okereke and members of The Sex Pistols’ entourage after racist comments were made. John Lydon later claimed that the incident was caused by Okereke.