Foals talk Tony Allen side-project and upcoming solo albums

Yannis has plans to finish off his long-awaited album with Allen, while guitarist Jimmy Smith reveals all about his wealth of "personal" solo material

Foals have revealed that plans are afoot for side-projects and solo albums from within the band – including frontman Yannis Philippakis’ long-awaited record with Fela Kuti icon Tony Allen.

The Oxford band were speaking to NME for this week’s Big Read cover story to launch their upcoming seventh album, ‘Life Is Yours’.

Philippakis first revealed that he had been at work on a side-project with Fela Kuti percussionist Allen back in 2017, before telling NME of his plans to finish the record in April 2020 – just weeks before the icon died.

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Yannis has now revealed that he has plans to return to Paris, where Allen was living, to finish the project later this month – as well as discussing how the drummer’s passing shaped his own creative outlook during the writing of ‘Life Is Yours’.

“In relation to Tony, it was understanding that even though he’s gone physically from the world, the music that he made will go on forever,” Philippakis told NME. “When I’m gone, the songs will hopefully live on.”

He added: “There’s an alchemy in looking at music in that way. It’s not just about what’s happening in the room; we’re building this body of work to be left behind. It’s realising that this is a full vocation.”

Foals cover interview
Foals on the cover of NME. Photography by Ed Cooke

Foals guitarist Jimmy Smith also shared that he had been writing a wealth of his own material – with plans to release a solo record in the not too distant future.

“I’ve been writing over here [in LA]. I’m trying to do traditional songwriting with my friend,” Smith told NME. “It’s fantastic. It may sound horrendous, but we just sit down with two acoustic guitars and just write. I bring in songs, we finish them together and it’s just very challenging and fun. It makes my skin crawl sometimes because I’m trying to sing, but it feels good, man. I’m kind of thriving.”

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He continued: “The reason I’ve been doing this isn’t to break away from the band, but just to release some of this music. It’s really funny doing stuff outside of the band because it’s like I’m doing it for the first time again. I’m shitting my pants any time I play anything to anybody because it’s so personal!”

NME Cover 2022 Foals
Foals (Credit: Tom Oxley)

Asked about his previously mooted solo album about “a Russian cosmonaut lost in space”, Smith replied: “It’s changed a lot. I think it’ll be an EP, or maybe an album with some filler. I really want to do that, but I think it might wait a bit.

“I don’t think that’ll be my first solo offering. That might be a bit strong for a first-off. I’ve got a slightly more conventional album in the works. I’ve been properly working on that. ”

Read our full NME Big Read cover interview with Foals here, where the band also discuss becoming a trio, the upcoming third summer of love, no longer feeling competitive with other bands, and hitting out at the UK Conservative Government’s “mass corruption“.

Last week also saw the band release their new single ‘2am‘, the second single after ‘Wake Me Up’ to be taken from their upcoming album ‘Life Is Yours’, which is due for release this summer.

The Oxford band kick off a European and UK tour in March.

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