From playing chaotic house parties in their home city of Oxford to becoming major festival headliners across Europe, Foals’ trajectory has been remarkable. They’ve earned critical acclaim (NME and Q Award wins, plus Mercury Prize, Ivor Novello and BRIT Award nominations) and fan devotion in equal measure.
After more than a decade in the game, Foals again embrace that love for the unconventional with the bravest and most ambitious project of their career: not one, but two astonishing new albums: Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost. A pair of releases, separate but related, they share a title, themes and artwork. ‘PART 1’ will be released on March the 8th, with ‘PART 2’ following in Spring (UK).
“They’re two halves of the same locket,” frontman Yannis Philippakis explains. “They can be listened to and appreciated individually, but fundamentally, they are companion pieces.”
Profoundly tethered but possessing their own personalities, the two bodies capture the most compelling, ambitious and cohesive creations that Foals – completed by Jimmy Smith (guitar), Jack Bevan (drums) and Edwin Congreave (keys) – have ever produced.
Eager to break the traditional pop song structure which they felt they were becoming increasingly tapered to, the 20 tracks defy expectation. There are exploratory, progressive-tinged tracks which occasionally break the 10-minute mark alongside atmospheric segues which make the music an experience rather than a mere collection of songs. Yet the band’s renowned ability to wield relentless grooves with striking power also reaches new heights.
The albums’ lead single ‘Exit’ is a case in point, featuring Philippakis conjuring the image of a disorienting world via a contagious vocal melody. It’s a fresh anthem for Foals’ formidable arsenal, but also an ominous forecast.
“There’s a definite idea about the world being no longer habitable in the way that it was,” says Yannis. “A kind of perilousness lack of predictability and a feeling of being overwhelmed by the magnitudes of the problems we face. What’s the response? And what’s the purpose of any response that one individual can have?”
‘Exits’ signposts what to expect thematically from Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost. The title is a warning that anything – from the tiniest fleeting moment of inspiration through to the planet’s own biological diversity – can be under threat of being irrevocably erased.
It’s a theme that permeates throughout the albums’ material, as Foals mirror the public neuroses that have been provoked by our current cultural climate. Paranoia of state surveillance? Fear of environmental collapse? An overwhelming feeling of anxiety? It’s all there in these apocalyptic songs.
It’s particularly evident in the euphoric ‘In Degrees’ which imagines a future where your ability to talk to each other has been reduced to nothing. This approach is perhaps most vividly captured on ‘Syrups’, and the devastating closing pair of songs on ‘Part 1’, ‘Sunday’ and ‘I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me)’.
“Lyrically, there are resonances with what’s going on in the world at the moment,” summarises Yannis. “I just feel like, what’s the utility of being a musician these days, if you can’t engage with at least some of this stuff? These songs are white flags, or they’re SOSs, or they’re cries for help… each in a different way.”
The new albums’ journeys began as the WHAT WENT DOWN era ended. Founding bassist Walter Gervers departed on amicable terms after playing the Festival Paredes de Coura in Portugal in August 2017. Foals felt that he couldn’t be replaced – a decision that ushered in a period of recalibration, reorganisation and, ultimately, rejuvenation.
After taking a little time out, Foals reconvened with Yannis on production duties, who, together with Edwin, also covered the bass parts. They began by writing in a rehearsal space before exporting those sketches into the recording phase at 123 Studios, Peckham, with the assistance of engineer Brett Shaw.
They’d repeat the cycle between the two spaces, effectively creating an ongoing feedback loop as they sought to push every new idea to the finish line.