Life Is Yours

Foals

Life Is Yours

Yannis Philippakis doesn’t think that Foals will make another album like Life Is Yours. After the sprawling rock explorations of 2019’s two-part Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, their seventh album is a product of the environment in which it was made: a series of grueling lockdowns, dreaming of lost nights and nocturnal roaming, yearning to be back out on the road. It was a period in which everyone was desperate to get out of the house, but only Foals could’ve turned it into the most buoyant and danceable record of their career. “I can’t see us making a record that’s as dancy and up and energized and simple as this again,” singer and guitarist Philippakis tells Apple Music. It’s not like the London-based trio ever seems inclined to repeat a trick anyway. “Everyone always says, ‘How come the sound changes so much from album to album?’” says guitarist and keyboardist Jimmy Smith. “Well, you go through three years, musically and emotionally, and you’re not the same person.” What marks Foals out as one of the most important guitar bands of their generation is how they always sound like themselves, wherever they take their sound: whether it’s the mix of melancholy and defiance in Philippakis’ voice; the wiry, sleek guitar lines; the swarming synths; or drummer Jack Bevan’s rhythmic propulsion. The anthemic grooves of Life Is Yours were made for dancing to, but delve deeper and you’ll find Philippakis in a contemplative mood. “It’s a positive and fun record made for communal moments, but the title is quite solemn advice,” he says. “It’s meant as an antidote to depression. On every record, there’s been a balancing act that goes on between the levels of melancholy.” Here, they get the blend just right. In many ways, Life Is Yours feels like a compilation of Foals’ best bits. Philippakis and Smith take us through it, track by track. “Life Is Yours” Yannis Philippakis: “Whatever is happening in the verse between the vocal and the keyboard part and the beat and the bassline felt like the DNA for the album, the blueprint. It was the bit I liked most. The song came right out of [next track] ‘Wake Me Up’—we were jamming it and then Jimmy went into that keyboard bit. The next day I said, ‘Let’s split it.’ Lyrically, the song is set along that coast between Seattle and Vancouver, where my partner is from, conversations that happen in private in car journeys along the Pacific Northwest.” “Wake Me Up” Jimmy Smith: “There’s always a bit of choice about which song to put out first, but this had the most immediate impact.” YP: “And it’s the most bombastic. We just felt that the message and the immediacy of the grooves and the boldness of the parts would be a wake-up call. It would demarcate the new era of the band and also be the kind of song that should come out after a pandemic. It felt like it was energizing and defiant, it wasn’t introspective. Normally we throw curveballs out first, we put something out that shocks people. I guess maybe it did in some way, but it also felt like it sets you up for what’s to come.” “2am” YP: “This started off more melancholic. I messed around with a keyboard during the depths of lockdown, late at night. I was missing the pub, missing the potential that a nightlife allows—the potential to make mistakes, the potential for wrong decisions, for wild decisions, for waking up in a very different place to the one you intended when you went out, the type of infinite choice that can occur if you do a night out well. It got moved into a bigger and poppier direction when we started recording with [producer] Dan Carey.” JS: “There was a smoky late-night version, which we were all down for. But as soon as we experienced the Dan Carey version, it made the smoky version seem unbelievably slow and dull.” “2001” YP: “This is one that really benefited from working on it with [producer] A. K. Paul. It’s almost a collaboration with A. K. Paul; he plays the bass on it and he wrote the chorus bass. It reminds me of The Rapture and ‘House of Jealous Lovers.’ Lyrically, I was thinking about the frustration that people were feeling in lockdown. It made me think about being a teenager and feeling frustrated when you are cooped up and you don’t have autonomy—and how the cure for that is to run away to the seaside and have a wild weekend. It’s partly looking back at when we moved to Brighton [in 2001], the excitement of leaving Oxford and us living in a house together for the first time. We moved there and it was a really exciting time for the band and an exciting time for the music scene.” “(summer sky)” YP: “This was essentially a jam with A. K. Paul. We’d wanted to work with him for a long time. We come from two different worlds, so it was a really fruitful collaboration.” JS: “Pretty much everything he did was amazing. He had to edit out a lot of his own stuff, but it was pretty special. We just sat on a sofa, watching it happen, watching this man use his amazing brain to make the song better.” “Flutter” YP: “I was looping something on the guitar and the vocal part came very quickly. We were playing it over and over, and Jack sat back on a beat, and the riff came out of that same jam. Everything was there in the first few hours, basically. We didn’t work on it more as we wanted it to be simple, like, ‘Let this be a slice of the moment.’” “Looking High” JS: “This is one of the ones that I started. It was an experiment of very, very simple guitar playing and pop structuring, that two-chord pattern back and forth, and I had a drum machine playing a Wu-Tang beat which I copied from ‘Protect Ya Neck.’ It all slotted in really quickly, and then Yannis added the other parts of the song, the more reflective, dancier bits in the drop-downs. When I listen, it feels like that moment at a show when you lose yourself a little bit and then it snaps back into the verse and it’s completely different. I really like the to-ing and fro-ing; there’s a cleanliness to it.” “Under the Radar” JS: “It came straight out of the practice room when we were writing. There’s a few on the record that were written on the spot, like nothing brought in from the past.” YP: “Probably 30 percent of our songs come from jams, but we always jam our ideas. No one ever comes in with a complete song, as in, ‘That’s it, learn the song.’ We tried to keep this really simple. It felt quite different for us. I think it feels New Wave-y, like something we haven’t written before.” “Crest of the Wave” YP: “This goes back to a recording session we did in about 2012, with Jono Ma from Jagwar Ma. It was this syrupy, sweaty jam known as ‘Isaac,’ and we parked it because I couldn’t find the vocals, but this time I did. Something happened between the bassline changing and the vocals, and we just cracked it. To me, it feels like a companion to [2010 single] ‘Miami’ because it’s set in Saint Lucia. It’s got longing and a bittersweet feeling of rejection in it; it’s somewhere idyllic, but you’re melancholic. There’s high humidity and there’s tears.” “The Sound” YP: “We don’t normally do that uplifting, classic penultimate track. This is us at our most electronic and clubby. It’s inspired by Caribou, that slightly dusty and dirty vibe; there’s crackle and a slight wildness to it. I like the fact that there’s a slightly West African-style guitar part that contrasts with the clubbiness of the synths. I had a lot of fun with the vocals on that. I wanted to layer up lots of shards of lyrics and approach it in a slightly Karl Hyde-ian way.” “Wild Green” JS: “The album finishes in such an organic way, it almost falls apart. I love how it just drops straight into the studio ambience. It seemed to happen quite naturally.” YP: “It’s about life cycles, the cycle of spring, expectation of spring and regeneration. In the first half of the song, there’s lyrics about wanting to fold oneself in the corner of the day and wait for the spring to reemerge. Then there’s a shift. Once you get to the second half of the song, spring is passed and now it’s actually the wind-down and it’s departure and it’s death. It’s not in a dark way, but it’s passing through states. It’s about the passing of time. That’s why it felt like a good album closer, because it’s basically saying, in a veiled way, farewell to the listener.”

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