A band like Foals is as clever as it is peculiar. Their songs consist of single-note guitar riffs played above the 12th fret, which are then scattered among driving hi-hat laden drumbeats. Singer/guitarist Yannis Philippakis repeats one-liners that are almost indecipherable. At times he is joined by a brass section. But despite the fact that it looks like a catastrophe on paper, you can dance to it. “I would describe it as eclectic pop,” Philippakis says.
The five-piece band from Oxford, England started in May of 2006 as what Philippakis calls a “slip and slide” project. “The Oxford music scene revolved around these avant-garde acts, and a pop band seemed alien,” he says. “There was an element of skepticism when we started out.” As a matter of fact, Philippakis dropped out of the University of Oxford after a year to pursue Foals full time. He has no regrets, “All I wanted to do was play music, and when given a chance, I wasn’t going to be a square about it.”
Consisting of Philippakis, Edwin Congreave (keyboards), Walter Gervers (bass), Jimmy Smith (guitar), and Jack Bevan (drums), Foals have already made a name for themselves overseas with two singles and the help of Transgressive Records. Their debut LP, Antidotes (Sub Pop), will be released in April. To create the album, they traveled to Brooklyn, New York to work with TV on the Radio guitarist and producer David Sitek.
“David blew apart all our preconceptions of how to make records by dismantling our brains and putting them together again.” For Antidotes, they added subtle, cross-cultural influences and included some horn members from the band Antibalas. They recorded drum tracks in an alley, and traded their synthesizer for a Rhodes. “We wanted to make the whole thing crazy, and we couldn’t have done it with anyone else,” Philippakis says.
Their eclectic vision is what they feel set them apart from the rest of the music world. “It’s weird for us,” Philippakis says. “This band pushed us a different way than we expected. I’d consider us the ugly duckling. We’re surrounded by bands that we’re not similar to.” But he’s not worried about the outcome. “I enjoy challenges,” he says. “I’m not complacent.”