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Foals interview: 'Guitar rock revival is bulls**t'

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Foals make their much-anticipated return next month.

Holy Fire will mark the Oxford band's third record, following 2010's Total Life Forever.

Digital Spy caught up with frontman Yannis Philippakis to discuss the new album, the 'return' of indie, "bulls**t" David Guetta-pop and why hip-hop isn't what it used to be...

What can we expect from Holy Fire?
"You can expect 11 new songs and a new progression in our recorded output. I don't think either of the two singles ('Inhaler' and 'My Number') are definitive of what the record sounds like. This record has the greatest internal diversity within it; there are songs where it's just Jimmy and I, no drums, and it's essentially super stripped-back, almost ambient. And then there's tracks like 'Inhaler'. There are all sorts of different spaces on the record; it's hard for me to quantify it all because my perspective on it is a bit warped. But it definitely feels like a record of many different colours."

Ever since 'Spanish Sahara', there's now a real suspense before a new Foals single emerges. Do you enjoy the uncertainty amongst your fans?
"Yeah, definitely. It's nice to have a bit of drama still; things have become predictable, especially where guitar music has evolved. It's like there's this template to it that a lot of bands follow. It's nice to curb it once in a while. We don't know how things will come across. 'Sahara' and 'Inhaler' aren't predictable moves so it's nerve-wracking for us, and it keeps it exciting as we get bored quite quickly. It's fun, isn't it?"

Yeah, there aren't enough bands around where you're so unsure as to what their new single will sound like.
"Yeah, you can peg a band quite quickly usually."



It's been three years since Total Life Forever. Do you ever worry that music has moved on too much for there to be the same level of interest as before?
"Yeah, in the same way when you put out a track, you fear people might not give a s**t. That is there in the background but it's definitely not something that keeps me up at night. It encroaches in every musician's career. Bowie just put out a track but even he'll be wondering, 'Will anyone care?' It's the chilly touch of death for a musician when the public is not bothered, and you can't even give tickets away at that point. But there needs to be that, otherwise everyone turns into a cryogenic Bono, and you don't want that!"

At the same time, though, I imagine it takes a band like Foals a while to gather their ideas and be happy with the finished product.
"It's also because we can't write on tour that easily. We like taking our time over it and we enjoy the process of making a record. It's not a job of work or, 'Let's get this record made so we can tour again'. It's more the other way round; we prefer being in the studio to touring. We can't [put out records] that quickly."

I initially thought the title 'Holy Fire' was to do with war powered by religion, but Wikipedia says it's an annual miracle within Orthodox Christianity. What does the title actually mean?
"It's neither of those things for me but that's why we liked it; they're two big words that conjure up a lot of different things for different people. I guess the idea of cleansing and something of burning intensity was what we liked. It just seemed to suit the record, but it's not a nod to orthodoxy!"



The artwork looks pretty cool. I can see camels or horses riding the ocean...
[Laughs] "They're horses, not camels! Camels, I like that. People are riding on them and they're predominantly women. I can't tell if they're clothed fully or not but they're riding into the sea. I don't really know anything about it, which is why I liked it. It was shot in 1968 in California, I know that. Maybe it's about some strange hippy death cult or as pedestrian as a riding school, but it's a beautiful shot."

You're playing London's Royal Albert Hall in March. Why did you choose this venue?
"We've played places like Brixton and there's a circuit to touring; you play the same venues as others. We wanted to do something a bit special and to be able to play in that kind of grand space is gonna be a night to remember. It's not something we'll do again. We want to play in these spaces because we can and I don't want to play on a sticky floor forever."

According to some, we're about to witness a guitar rock resurgence...
"I think that statement is bulls**t. If drum 'n' bass won't die then guitar bands ain't going nowhere. It's just something that people say to try and add interest to what is essentially a very pedestrian thing to talk about. Nothing really changes; you've just got slight vacillations of progress in music. There's always going to be guitar bands; it's whether some programmer or media hobnob in West London decides to say whether it's in or not.

"It's just to do with the transparency of it rather than how exciting it is. Often the most exciting moments in guitar music are when there's no attention on it. Burial was putting stuff out when there wasn't this supposed dubstep/electronic monopoly. When people say, 'It's the reign of the guitar band', that's when the worst records get put out."

The Foals on 'Later with Jools Holland', 13 Nov 2012 (Jimmy Smith, Walter Gervers and Yannis Philippakis)

© Rex Features / Andre Csillag



What do you make of this supposed dubstep/electronic monopoly? Or even the poppier DJs like David Guetta?
"David Guetta is basically... it's not even something that really makes my blood boil because it is just bulls**t. 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 s**t music. I don't like David Guetta and I don't like that style. What bothers me more really is that a lot of hip-hop is being played over those backing tracks, and I find that a shame because I like hip-hop a lot.

"I can't listen to current hip-hop because the MCing isn't the skill of it anymore; it's more putting it over super-garish club tracks. If you compare it to what DJ Premier was doing in the early '90s and Rza with Wu-Tang, that's got real artistry and grit. When I don't hear that, it feels like hip-hop has lost something rather than progressed."

What new bands are you liking, given it's the time for new band-tipping?
"I quite like this guy Petite Noir, and also a band from Oxford called Solid Gold Dragons. I like what I've heard of Savages and Palma Violets; I'm interested to hear their albums. And Jagwar Ma from Australia."

Foals' new album Holy Fire is released on February 11.

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