Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
“Guitar music isn't dead and buried”: Best Fit speaks to Foals

“Guitar music isn't dead and buried”: Best Fit speaks to Foals

15 February 2013, 10:30
Words by Luke Grundy

“There are fewer bands than in the past. There’s less money. Bedroom producers will become the norm and bands will sink into a niche.”

So reads the somewhat distressing worldview of Jack Bevan. The Foals drummer, whose band have “hopefully reminded some people that guitar music isn’t dead and buried” since the release of debut album Antidotes in 2008 (and there’s little doubt they’ve succeeded in doing so) has a wistful philosophy about what the band have witnessed in the past five years of their lifespan. “It would be nice to undo the effect the Internet has had on the business,” he ponders, “without losing the infinite amount of exposure it’s allowed new bands.” A chilly outlook, to be sure, but one ultimately based in the grim realities of the current industry landscape: you can rack up as many YouTube hits and SoundCloud plays as you like, but that alone, as they say, won’t stick bread on the table.

Foals themselves, of course, have certainly benefitted from the popularity and present prosperity of the web: like all savvy bands, they harness it not just as a tool to access and promote, but a means of interacting with a fanbase which has grown inexorably in the past half-decade. The title of Holy Fire, the Oxford five-piece’s upcoming release, was in fact revealed by the band on Facebook in October 2012: “dig it,” posted Edwin, “or don’t. Either way it’s coming soon.”

Soon is never soon enough to some, but the five-month gap between that announcement and the record’s release date was fairly brief, especially when contrasted with the two-year-plus long breaks between each of Foals’ three studio albums to date. Does a break make for better music? “It depends, I think,” muses Bevan. “The Beatles wrote a lot of the best music of all time over 13 records in just 7 or 8 years. However, some artists take forever Dre. I’d be happy to start writing for album 4 right now.”

Indeed, this restlessness to get started on a new record seems to have been something which the group felt even after the phenomenal success of 2010′s superb sophomore album Total Life Forever. After all the tours and promotion on the album was finally done, Foals only had a break of “about a month or so. The urge to write builds throughout the touring cycle because we’re primarily performing rather than being creative.”


The way that Bevan casually reveals this fact is illuminating; what other band, coming off a Mercury Prize-nominated, critically adored and commercially successful album, would be so eager to move onto the next project? Most would surely not begrudge them at least a little laurel-resting.

From Foals’ perspective, however, that doesn’t seem to be the plan; rather, they prefer to constantly move forward rather than live off or even rest upon past glories. “I’d rather make something new and honest and have it shat on by critics than that,” says the drummer. “It’s incredibly flattering to be nominated for something as prestigious as the Mercury Prize, but dangerous to let something like that affect the way you approach writing. You don’t want to spend your career trying to recreate something you’ve already made.”

From a band still mostly in their late-20s, these are incredibly mature and sage words, sculpted by a career which has been on a steadily upward trajectory, in an industry many people – Jack Bevan amongst them – feel is on an opposite one. And at over five years, theirs is a career which has already outlasted hundreds of others: experience and industry streetsmarts are now something that must be honed in months, not years. Or to put it another way: today’s Psy could be tomorrow’s Iyaz.

The group’s endurance, in short, can be attributed to their ingenuity. Not simply musically – moving as they have from the winningly homespun electro charm of Antidotes through the more polished, but no less organic, Total Life Forever before arriving at Holy Fire – but also in their use of the music video. The unforgettably epic visual accompaniment to ‘Spanish Sahara’ has been matched this time around by the almost occult video for ‘Inhaler’, each examples of the group’s longstanding collaboration with their “sixth member”, director Dave Ma: “Videos are really important to us,” Bevan states. “They can cement the aesthetic of a song and take you away to another place. It’s escapism I guess.”

The visual component to Foals’ output naturally plays second fiddle to the audial product, but the interplay between the two is refreshingly well-thought-out and framed by an artist’s eye as their music is shaped by the ears of its dedicated and passionate creators. Based on what we’ve heard thus far, latter is something to be extremely excited about.

‘Inhaler’, the first single from Holy Fire, offered a tantalising preview of what’s to come, shot through with percussive guitar hooks riffing alongside frontman Yannis Philippakis’ sweeping, raw vocals. Second release ‘My Number’, by contrast, is less ferocious, Bevan’s swaggering backbeat providing the heartbeat for a dancefloor toe-tapper, rather than the mosh-inducing guitar rock of its predecessor.


As it happens, these two tracks not only offer an interesting musical comparison, but took a vastly different length of time to create: “’Inhaler’ only came together at the last minute, but ‘My Number’ was entirely written in a few hours,” reveals Bevan.

Has that been the case previously as well, or has the writing process gotten easier with time? “Every record has felt very different,” asserts Bevan; he could just as easily be describing the feelings of his listenership toward each album. “We weren’t as precious whilst writing this time. We didn’t spend too much time worrying about whether it was going to fit together I think the result is a much more diverse record.” Holy Fire is “more organic and warmer-sounding” than previous albums, we’re informed, but also “a lot rawer”, a product of both this newfound looseness while writing mixed with a few extra instrumental elements: “there’s a lot of Rhodes piano, which has such a beautiful timeless sound,” enthuses Bevan. The contrast between the first two full tracks we’ve heard from Holy Fire seems to set the tone for what we can expect on the album as a whole.

Bevan doubts the group will ever do a “’no-guitars’ record or start pitch-shifting vocals” but anything else in the musical lexicon appears up for grabs. The excitement about Holy Fire is tangible, the drummer especially effusive about a particular section of ‘Milk & Black Spiders’ where “the strings interact with the vocals and marimba… It’s so lush sounding”.

The enthusiasm with which Bevan speaks of the group’s third record seems to permeate every component of Foals’ career to date. The group’s restless innovation doesn’t seem to have been dulled by half a decade of almost non-stop writing, recording and touring, which is itself a minor miracle, and there’s still “a lot of stuff that didn’t make it onto Holy Fire, which we’d love to finish.”

Regardless of when that occurs, it’s almost certain that we will be listening intently.

Holy Fire is available now through Transgressive.

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