Oxford indie rockers Foals are taking overachieving to the next level with their new double album. For their first release since 2015, they’re dropping not one but two records this year. Titled Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Part 1 is out now and Part 2 will be ready for your eardrums come spring this year.
The quartet isn’t totally alone in this trend. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, The 1975 and Ariana Grande are just a handful of the musicians to treat fans to more than one album in under 12 months.
When Foals bassist, Walter Gervers amicably bowed out of the band in 2017, it gave Yannis Philippakis (front man and lead vocals), Jimmy Smith (guitar), Jack Bevan (drums), and Edwin Congreave (keys) the chance to regroup and re-evaluate who they wanted to be. So with the combination of a new lineup, years of pent-up creative energy, and a lack of deadlines, Foals have produced a 20-track two-part album that’s been described as one of their most ambitious creations yet.
Both records tell stories of technology consumption, surveillance paranoia, and fear of environmental collapse through a dystopian lens. While Part 1’s new wave and heavily synthesised sensibilities gives us a fresh take on the Foals’ sound, Part 2 is said to embody the rock ‘n’ roll tendencies we’re used to from the band.
Ahead of the release of Part 1, we had a chat with Jack Bevan about the fruits of creative freedom, how a new band dynamic brought the boys together and what we can expect from Part 2.
Music Feeds: Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost is your first record in almost four years and it’s a double album. Was there just too much material to leave on the cutting room floor this time?
Jack Bevan: Yeah, it was kind of exactly that. After we finished our last album, we were so tired because we’d basically played back-to-back tours of Holy Fire (2013) and What Went Down (2015). So we took a whole year off and I think when we came back, it was the first time we’d really had a break so we were rearing to go.
I think having that time off gave us a bit of a creative build up. So when we went into the studio, it just came quicker than normal. We never set out to make a double album but I think we got to a point where we had finished 20 tracks and we were like “I don’t think we can edit this down to 12 or whatever to put on a record”. We felt like we wanted to put it all out.
I think we also felt that in the past, as we only tend to make a record every three or four years, like “Great! We get to put more tracks out, the fans get to hear more music and we get to play more songs live”. It’s really satisfying for us to have that extra output.
MF: Quite a few artists have released double albums or multiple records in a short time span recently, do you think the current musical landscape helps foster that freedom as well?
JB: Yeah, I think in the current landscape you can be a band like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and put out eight records in a year. I think it’s cool how in pop and rap music, you can basically put out a record instantly with Spotify and do the physical later. I think that’s kind of freeing. It’s easier to get your music out there now. I think because of that it’s given artists the chance to re-think how they want to present their music.
MF: Let’s talk about the concepts behind the album. Rather than yin and yang, Part 1 and 2 have been described as ‘companion pieces’ that can be enjoyed individually but ultimately work together. Can you tell us a bit more about the narrative that drives them?
JB: We structured the two records so that you would get a slightly different flavour from both. We wanted them to work together but we sequenced them so that there were certain elements of the band on one side more than the other. In terms of the influences, we went more for the synth-driven new wave-y sound on the first album and then on the second one, there’s more of the band-y, rock ‘n’ roll element to it. There are common threads musically through both.
It’s hard for me to talk about the lyrics because I didn’t write them but Yannis had the kind of apocalyptic, end of the world-feeling running through both records in one way or another.
MF: The 20 tracks largely go against the traditional pop song structure, with the final tunes ranging from 10-minute epics to 40-second instrumental interludes. Did you approach the record-making process with this style in mind or did it come through naturally as you were writing and recording?
JB: When we decided that we were going to put all of the music out, we didn’t feel the need to edit ourselves. I think in the past, when we’ve tried to make concise records, we’d have too much material and we’d end up squishing it down and editing it to smaller pieces. This time we just allowed ourselves the freedom to experiment more and to let things run their course without feeling the need to chop the songs down to as short as possible. That’s been really satisfying.
On the closing track on the second album, we’d written it and we were in the studio and we basically put an improvised section in the middle and we kept it exactly the way that it was. That for me is really satisfying because it gets across the vibe of the live show and how we do a lot of spontaneous jamming. That’s one of the first times we’ve gotten something that spontaneous onto a record.
MF: You weren’t bound by a strict deadline this time, so how long did you end up working on Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost?
JB: We started it in September 2017 and I think we finished it in about November 2018. So it took over a year and it was a nice process because it was different to all of the processes we’ve had before with our records. This time we decided to do a little bit of writing and go into the studio and there wasn’t too much pressure on the speed of the recording because we were kind of doing it ourselves. So it wasn’t super expensive to the point where you’re stressing about the amount of time you’re using up. We worked without too much pressure and I think that’s one of the reasons why things felt organic because we didn’t feel like we had a clock ticking over us.
MF: It’s also the first record since Walter Gervers left the band. Do you think that contributed to the new creative process and sound as well?
JB: Yeah, it felt like there was quite a lot of change and I think Walter leaving was one of the biggest changes that the band has ever had. The change in band dynamic has been really good because we’ve bonded closer as a result. We’re all a few years older now and I think having a year off to be at home, we realised what it is that we want. So yeah, I definitely think you can hear the change in the band.
MF: The lyrics and video for the leading single ‘Exits’ are pretty epic. It’s more like an episode of Black Mirror than a rock music video. Can you talk us through the inspiration behind it?
JB: (Laughs) Well, basically we met with Albert Moya who is an amazing director and we were really excited to work with him. Yannis had a conversation with him and our influences going in were like paintings and drawings of the Labyrinth and upside down worlds. I think he (Moya) interpreted that with the lyrics as well and made this strange retro, futuristic world.
It’s such an artistic and unusual video and I love how open to interpretation it is. It was just a really exciting process for us and it’s definitely one of my favourite videos. We shot it in Budapest in December and yeah, Black Mirror is an influence for us so I’m sure that came up in the conversation as well.
MF: You’re touring the UK, US and parts of Europe this year. Do you know if we can expect an Australian tour to celebrate the album?
JB: Yeah, we’re definitely going to come over but I’m just not sure exactly when but we’ll 100% be coming to Australia at some point.
Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost is out now.