Cool on fame

Ox­ford band Foals have be­come the rock­ers du jour, helped by ap­pear­ances in the TV se­ries Skins and on the NME’s “cool list”. But, re­ally, the mu­sic is the most im­por­tant thing, they tell Tony Clay­ton-Lea. Re­ally

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

T’S OF­TEN the kiss of death – the ‘Next Big Thing’ ti­tle has knob­bled bet­ter bands than Foals. The Ox­ford five-piece re­alise, how­ever, that they are in an in­dus­try that pins the words “rock’n’roll saviour” onto any­one with a new hair­cut, so if they don’t show at least some deference to it, then they may as well as go back home, sit in front of the television and watch re­peats of the Chan­nel 4 drama Skins.

Skins, the se­ries that slop­pily doc­u­ments the sex/drugs/rock’n’roll go­ings on of col­lege teens is at least part of the rea­son for Foals’ suc­cess. The band ap­peared in an on­line-only episode of the drama last year.

Lead singer and gen­eral mouth­piece Yan­nis Philip­pakis is not thick enough to to­tally ig­nore such fringe ben­e­fits. “The con­nec­tion with Skins means that a lot of peo­ple, younger peo­ple, now know about us. We have no in­ten­tion of be­ing a cult band, so we’re glad peo­ple are hear­ing about us. We’re go­ing to take the money and run, we’re go­ing to use the tools of the mu­sic in­dus­try for us, as much as they use their tools for their ben­e­fit.

“We’re not rabbits in a head­light; we’re go­ing to take what we need to take. We like an­tag­o­nism, and hav­ing a polemic at­ti­tude to­wards stuff – it’s more fun. It’s good to have ex­ter­nal things to buck against, be­cause if you don’t you end up kick­ing your­self.”

Univer­sity friends in Ox­ford, Foals pooled their re­sources and pas­sions, mixed in in­flu­ences rang­ing from Pub­lic Im­age to Talk­ing Heads, and set about try­ing to gate-crash Bloc Party. Be­fore they knew what had hap­pened, NME had Philip­pakis sit­ting on their Cool List. Which brings us back to the “kiss of death” tag.

“My per­cep­tion,” stresses the gobby but ar­tic­u­late Philip­pakis, “of the word ‘cool’ is

Ithat it’s like an un­wanted mink fur. The place I’m in at the mo­ment, I take play­ing mu­sic pretty se­ri­ously, mostly be­cause it’s what I’ve al­ways wanted to do with all of my time. Now that I’ve been given the op­por­tu­nity to do that I’m go­ing to grab it.

“I think there’s a cer­tain ar­ro­gance in some bands. They think life is go­ing to be fine once they sign a record deal. We’ve seen too many friends of ours in amaz­ing bands that haven’t been signed not to feel some sort of re­spon­si­bil­ity or some weird guilt com­plex in re­gard to the part that luck has to play with suc­cess. What we’re do­ing now is what we day­dreamed about in bor­ing science lessons.

“Now that it’s hap­pened, I feel you should have the free­dom to al­low your­self to be con­sumed by mu­sic ev­ery day. It’s a rare op­por­tu­nity and it’s one that we en­joy mas­sively; it gives pur­pose to our lives, so mak­ing mu­sic and play­ing live, the art­work and so on, is some­thing that to­tally con­sumes us.”

Other parts of the job, he im­plies, are vac­u­ous and po­ten­tially cor­ro­sive.

“They are never what you think about when you pick up a gui­tar at the age of 12. The more you keep it away, the more you can re­main naive about ev­ery­thing. Is it good for a band to ap­pear on a cool list in a mag­a­zine? You can’t change it, can you? That said, it isn’t some­thing that any of us would take se­ri­ously. Does any­one?”

Ox­ford five-piece Foals: ‘We like an­tag­o­nism . . . it’s more fun’

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