For the first time in nearly three years, British rockers Foals are back with new music. Titled Life Is Yours, even with the world in the tumultuous state its in, the group tries to be optimistic about their outlook. This is reflected by the strength of its lyrics and the experimental nature of the band’s sound.
With the album out now, we asked Foals singer Yannis Philippakis to give us the stories behind the songs on Life Is Yours. Here’s what he had to say.
“Life Is Yours”
“Life Is Yours” contains the sentiment of the album at large, which is about an optimistic spirit, and being in rapture at the possibilities of life. With the shadow of the pandemic and climate change, and the feeling of jeopardy that’s out there, I think that was an important sentiment to tap into. The song is set in the Pacific Northwest where I’ve spent quite a lot of time. There’s something really fresh about the boreal forests on the coast. It felt fresh, and sonically it’s fresh for us too. We’ve not touched upon that aesthetic before, or that way of putting a song together.
“Wake Me Up”
There’s a journey that the band has gone on experimenting with different palettes of sound. This time there was a desire to take it back to more of the initial idea of the band, where the rhythm, the grooves and the guitars are interlocking architecturally. We wanted to tap into the physicality of music. And we wanted it to feel good. Lyrically, I just wanted to write a song about transporting yourself to a better, idyllic situation.
Musically “2am” is one of the poppiest songs we’ve ever written. It’s about repetitive cycles of destructive behavior, which I think lots of people can relate to, and certainly it’s an expression of something that I struggle with. There’s something cathartic about expressing that feeling to this upbeat music that’s got a sense of release and the hope of
“2001” feels like a postcard from the past. It’s a very summery, disco-sounding track, and I felt the visual landscape for it should be Brighton. We moved there around that time, we were a young band, and there was the feeling of the first taste of independence. The moment you get those freedoms, you’re surrounded by temptation. The references to beachside candy and Brighton rock are symbols for drugs and hedonism. This was written in the depths of the pandemic winter, and there’s an escapist desire to break out from the feeling of being cooped up, both in terms of the pandemic and adolescence.
‘Flutter’ is one of my favourite songs on the record. I’ve always been a fan of Malian and Senegelese guitar players, and this song evolved very naturally out of a jam that came from that kind of groove. We wanted this song to just chug, we didn’t want to take it into a huge dynamic range. It’s one of the more narrative songs on the album. It’s essentially about someone fleeing and you never see them again. There’s no closure, and no neat tying up of the emotion that comes from someone departing so suddenly.
Lyrically this is looking back to a more hedonistic time in my life, and a more innocent time in society in general, pre-pandemic and before the existential threat of climate change. It takes place in an alley in Oxford with two clubs-The Cellar and The Wheatsheaf-that all of the city’s nightlife gravitated towards. It was before clubs started to close down and before our cities started to change into more corporate, arid places. There’s an element of being haunted by nightlife that’s no longer there. Jimmy wrote the demo for this, and it was originally a kind of a slower, Prince-ier creature. When we took it into the live room, the tempo accelerated. We were reveling playing live together again and feeding off each other’s energy.
“Under The Radar”
This is one of the most new wave songs we’ve ever written. It felt like a forgotten Pixies song to me, like a view of the future from the 1950s with a surreal, slightly sci-fi element to it. It’s talking about isolation and loneliness in the modern age and wanting to be transported to anywhere else other than where you are at that time. But I wanted it to keep it very playful rather than being heavy-handed, with fractured images and a collage of images in its emotions and words.
“Crest of the Wave”
A portion of it existed in 2011, and we had demoed it in Australia and just left it for years. But it was one of those songs which had always been at the back of our minds, like there was some unfinished business there. As we were
playing around with it with some of the themes on this record, we cracked it open and really revelled in adding lots of layers to it in the studio. It’s another transportive song. It’s set in St. Lucia, which has always struck me as being very powerful visually, with the mountain plummeting into the sea.
“The Sound” could’ve been played at one of the nights I was talking about in ‘Looking High’. Musically it’s interesting in how it takes from UK dance, house and garage, but then the guitar top line comes from a different world. Somehow the combination of all of those facets makes something really fresh and fun. It’s going to be a really great one to play live. Aesthetically I wanted it to be surreal and industrial, and contrast the precision of the tune with the freedom of its words.
We recorded this in Real World Studios, where we looked out at this verdant British summer scene, with dragonflies and kingfishers flying around. It’s a song that feels alive in the same way that the summer time feels alive with pollen and creatures; this tapestry of life that’s reemerging. Hopefully it mirrors the reemergence of our world coming back together out of the pandemic. It’s optimistic, but there’s a melancholy to it. However long a summer is, we know it’s ephemeral So, the second half turns into a farewell, an elegy. We knew right from the beginning that this was going to be the album closer and it’s one of my favorite songs on the record.