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26th Aug 2015

“Our shows are drunken mania, they feed off it” – Foals chat exclusively to JOE

Lia Nicholls

Ahead of this week’s release of one of the most anticipated albums of the year, ‘What Went Down’, we met up with Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis.

Ever since Foals’ early days, when they got their first kicks from playing at boozy all-night house parties, Yannis has been launching himself into the crowd. Scratches, torn shirts and fingers in every orifice haven’t been enough to put him off. 

This extreme lack of inhibition encapsulates their gigs, with Yannis, Jack Bevan (drums), Jimmy Smith (guitar), Walter Gervers (bass) and Edwin Congreave (keys) becoming more rampant and more fevered throughout the night. Also know as pissed, going by their rider.

Whisky is a must-have for Yannis; it’s passed around off-stage and usually he stalks around with the bottle, swigging it back between songs.

But unlike other bands who get too greedy and wind up slurring the lyrics and stripping down to their dirty pants (looking at you ‘Fat White Family’), Foals manage to avoid embarrassment – opting for simply a bit of Dutch courage instead.

“Our shows wouldn’t be the same without it (booze),” declares Yannis. “Our shows feed off it, it’s sometimes slightly drunken mania but a lot of the way the show is is because there’s not an ounce of fear and that wouldn’t be the case if we were going on sober, like totally sober.”


As the whisky shots take effect, without fail 29-year-old Yannis will confidently wade into the crowd, whether its full-on surfing or scaling the rigging, often still playing his guitar.

At Tuesday’s exclusive “strictly no phones” gig at Village Underground, East London, it didn’t take long before Yannis was crowd-surfing in the tiny venue. And as sweaty, drunk fans followed his lead, he climbed on top of a speaker grabbing back our attention.

“The way we started, particularly with drinking, because we started playing house parties and stuff, I don’t know it’s just so integral to the band,” Yannis explains. “Perhaps it’s because of Dutch courage for being on stage, it feels like there’s never been a period of the band where it hasn’t been part of it and I wouldn’t want that to change.”

Have you ever thought ‘what if one day it gets out of control and it’s time for a tee-total intervention?

“I cannot see that happening. Not for a long time at least. I feel like it hasn’t…I mean stuff hasn’t got dark.” 

With a tour beckoning to promote their monstrous fourth album ‘What Went Down’, out August 28, the Oxford band have established a clear format; they know what works and how they operate, they’re used to life on the road. 

Although Yannis is keen to point out some things have changed.

“There was a time in the early days which felt like the band was precarious and I…well…but being in a band isn’t something you should take for granted, looking at our peers, it is something that could fall away quite easily, I know that.”

And if it did?

“If I weren’t in this, I feel like I wouldn’t know what else to do with myself, I feel like I meant to make music and I feel like as a group, we have a new confidence in the fact we’ve managed to make three records. 

“There’s definitely a confidence that comes with that, you’re able to try things out, you know it’s not going to be fatal. I feel like we’re feeling more and more liberated.

“I don’t think in any way is it getting stale or I’m being precious about it, I feel like we risk it all when we’re making the record, even if we’re not and that’s a good thing.”