If you haven’t heard of Foals, where have you been the last seventeen years? We’re of course talking about the notoriously busy and successful British rock band. We caught up with guitarist Jimmy Smith about their seventh record, Life Is Yours, and why they’ve released their most feel-good album yet.
Foals haven’t taken a break until Covid literally forced them to. Now they’re back at it, on tour with their seventh studio album, Life Is Yours - an album born from everything the band missed during lockdown; good nights out and connecting with friends. While the new record has strayed from their heavier stuff, it’s track after track of euphoric escapism. A gift to lift our spirits after the shitty years we’ve all had.
Headlining The Other Stage at Glasto this year, the band opened their set with the single, Wake Me Up, a defiant disco anthem to shake us out of the slumber of the last couple of years. While 2am, their most poppy song yet, is an ode to life pre-Covid. Each song on the album drifts seamlessly into one another, made for long nights out with people you love.
We catch up with Jimmy at the start of their tour. The band are in Zürich and are eagerly awaiting a dip in the local river on a beautifully hot day. Jimmy reassures us that life isn’t normally like this on the road, but even though being back on tour after two years is a shock to the system, they’re more ready than ever to play live. Jimmy says:
“It feels really good to be back touring. I think we were all a bit worried that maybe it would have changed or might be too overwhelming, but I honestly think we've never had a better tour and I think it's because the crowds are just so good. It's a very positive feeling every time we perform now. People are determined to have a good time.”
It’s not just the latest album which is different - Yannis, Jack and Jimmy are also adjusting to life as a three piece since the departure of keyboard player Edwin. It’s a new era for the band, but one which they’ve got their claws hooked into, intent on reigniting a fire in people after such an isolating time. Jimmy says:
“Anyone that’s used to our heavier stuff might be a bit weirded out to start with, because it’s a feel-good album. There’s no songs that you skip because they’re depressing and the flow never gets interrupted. It was what the band needed, and we figured if we need it, then other people will too.”
After a two year break, Foals are feeling ready to reconnect, with themselves, with the band and with you. Aware of how isolating and challenging Covid’s been, they want to deliver some much-needed positivity with Life Is Yours.
“The album title came from Yannis’ brain. It seemed to encapsulate that reemerging feeling. I know a lot of people have had a lot of personal problems during Covid and there’s been a lot of soul searching and quite a few people rediscovering themselves. So it felt pretty spot on for the feel of the album.
“Making it helped us because it’s an escapist album. I feel like those are my favourite kind of albums, especially if I’m not feeling that great."
It’s not going to cure any big problems but we just want you to be you when you listen to the album.”
It’s not just listeners who they want to connect with, they’re also realising how important it is to support one another on tour.
The pandemic has given Jimmy a fresh appreciation for how close the band are, not just with each other, but also with their roadies. He knows all too well the toll that touring can take on the band and their team’s mental health, which is why they’ve got each other’s backs this time around:
“It can be a real struggle. I personally find when I’m tired my mental health declines massively. I get very anxious and paranoid. It’s very easy to get into quite negative cycles of behaviour and delay the fact you’re unhappy by kicking another day down the line each time. Eventually, you come off tour and you have to reckon with yourself.
“We’re touring in a party of about 20 people and when you’re supposed to be having a really great time and you’re not, it can be a very lonely experience. We all go through that and it’s good to try to recognise when someone isn’t doing well, even if they’re just hungover. It’s about asking them to go for a walk or to check out an art museum, to connect with them if you can.”
For Jimmy, performing live is a release and helps him to process and deal with stuff he’s going through. He wants anyone coming to their shows to feel the same catharsis that the band feels when they play - to be able to press pause on difficult thoughts for an hour or two.
“The band can create as many problems as it solves, but being able to leave the house and go into a room with your best friends and create something out of nothing was pure escapism. When you’re playing music live, you can let go of a lot of anger, tension and stress. Music gives my brain a bit of time off.”
Finally, they’re keen to show that chatting about this stuff isn’t a weakness, but a part of life and something we all go through. Jimmy says:
“I think because of Covid, a lot of people have had to reckon with their mental health a lot more and confront it. You realise some things about yourself, but even if it’s negative you shouldn’t be afraid of it."
“Mental wellbeing is still a taboo issue for some people and a lot of people don’t feel comfortable enough to talk about it. It’s seen as some sort of weakness, even though everyone on the planet has had difficulties with their mental wellbeing at some point. It’s amazing that places like CALM exist, where people can talk about how they’re feeling in a safe and non-judgemental environment.”
It’s an exciting era for Foals, but not one that can be replicated any time soon. There’s a pivotal feeling to Life Is Yours and the band’s latest tour, as we reconnect with our mates and the live music we’ve missed.
If you need support, check out the CALM Guides, where you can find lots of advice on stuff you might be going through and ways to move forward.
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