Foals have just released the second part of their two-part album Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Yannis Philippakis talks imminent apocalypse, Brexit, and why his band are more old school rock `n' roll than people might expect

It is the day of the latest Extinction Rebellion spectacles in London and while Foals singer Yannis Philippakis is too busy with press duties to superglue himself to a passing tube train, he is in fighting form.

Will you be out marching later, I ask. "If you your keep your questions short, I will be." he fires back.  

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As one man’s eco warrior and another man’s spoiled middle class crusty take to the streets below to protest against climate change, there is another rather pressing matter engaging the UK - the Brexit nightmare is still rumbling on.

Like an orange rag to a Trump detractor, I just have to mention the B word to 32-year-old Oxford drop-out Philippakis and he’s off. 

"I feel angry and I feel deeply let down," he says. "To see Britain descend into this morass of language and hatred and tribalism. Being haunted by its own empire and the lack of clear information and the willful manipulation of facts . . . When we first toured America I came across Fox News for the first time and I remembered thinking to myself, probably quite naively, thank god that isn’t going on in Britain.

"There are standards and those standards have been shown to be figments of a prior age. I am angry and resigned that that is the reality. I wonder whether there’s a way back from that, whether it’s in the UK or the States."  

These are all themes addressed on Foals' new album, the second part of their ambitious two-part album Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost release. The first part came out last March and went top 10 in Ireland and was nominated for a Mercury Prize and heralded the return to the idea of the album as a mysterious artefact for the adventurous Oxford band with the big, big sound.

Foals

Both albums are continent-cracking, tectonic plate-shifting, epochal forces of nature but if that first part sounded like Foals were auditioning to be the house band at the end of the world, then part two shimmers with at least some kind of optimism and a sense of cleansing, some kind of hope amid the wreckage.

"Maybe," says the intense and highly-intelligent Philippakis, unwilling to commit too much. "The end of part one is quite bleak and this one is about picking yourself up amongst the wreckage and then finding a sense of perseverance or purpose and finding something that keeps you going.

"We're ravaging the planet in the full knowledge of what we are doing because we have the tools and the power to treat it with disrespect. We are challenging our own potency and that is sad and perverse."

"So in that sense it is a more optimistic album but it’s all still in the landscape, in the wreckage so I guess it becomes more of a backdrop. It’s less preoccupied with apocalyptic things."

Call if tropical prog or just good old loud rock `n’ roll but with their eco concerns and songs about human greed, hubris and idiocy, Foals could be sound tracking Extinction Rebellion’s well-meaning but flawed campaign methods.

But these are also deeply personal lyrics for Yannis. "The lyrics are these two records were definitely blotting paper for our minds," he says. "I wrote them in pubs in south London. More often I’d write in Greece so these records are more plugged into London and the perils and confusions that are here at the moment.

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"I’ve been writing about environmental issues for years and I felt it was time to express the anxieties and anger I felt about those themes in these records. These lyrics are like blotting paper for what it feels like to be alive in 2019 as a young, frustrated person."

It is also somewhat of a crossroads for Foals. 2019 marks their first decade together and these twin albums are the first they’ve recorded without founding member Walter Gervers, who amicably departed the band in 2017. It was a time of self-examination for Philippakis and his band mates Jimmy Smith, Edwin Congreave and Jack Bevan.

"Walter’s departure really shook us in some way and gave us a certain sense of wanting to overcome adversity on this record," says Philippakis. "We had to dig in a bit more but I don’t really see that in the songs as such. It was more in the mentality behind the approach.

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"A kind of `us versus them’ approach, which is why we self-produced the album. Did it in our neighbourhood and then we’d walk home together via the pub and it definitely felt like a record that was made in a batten down the hatches way."

The singer’s Greek roots and his father, who sparked his interest in music by teaching him traditional Greek songs, have always been a huge influence on Philippakis and it is present and correct on new album track Ikara, named after the Greek Island where Icarus is said to have plummeted to earth after flying too close to the sun.

Yannis also sings about delusions of grandeur on new album track Black Bull and nobody has to labour the metaphor. "The tragedy and the black humour in our predicament is that we’re an incredible species that’s able to do so much and yet we always overstep and that’s what’s so amazing about some of the myths in general, not just the ancient Greek myths.

"It makes me angry to see Britain descend this morass of language and hatred and tribalism. Being haunted by its own empire and the lack of clear information and the wilful manipulation of facts . . . "

"They teach this has been known for a long time and these qualities are ingrained in mankind and yet 3,000, 4,000 years down the line we still haven’t really learned the lessons. We could live beautifully and in harmony with nature on this incredible planet that has given us everything that we could possibly want and we’re ravaging it and we’re not ravaging it from a place of ignorance.

"We’re ravaging it in the full knowledge of what we are doing because we have the tools and the power to treat it with disrespect. We are challenging our own potency and that is sad and perverse."

But back to music. Foals are about to release a new tour film entitled Rip Up The Road - Live From Alexandra Palace. Filmed over a 12-month period as the band embarked upon a world tour, the film will be shown on Amazon Prime Video and hones in on two shows at London’s Alexandra Palace.

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Philippakis may sound rather like Atlas with the weight of the world on his shoulders but Foals are more rock `n’ roll than they seem and that’s double when it comes to touring. "It’s definitely not about discipline on the road," he says. "I’ve not seen the documentary and to be honest we’re all quite nervous about it.

"I’ve seen the footage from Alexander Palace which was filmed properly and it’s filmed beautifully and I’ve seen the trailer. The filmmakers had a lot of access to us and I think that most people who know the band know that we definitely prescribe to the hedonism of the road, I think we’re probably a little bit old school in that way. I’m excited to see the film but also a little big terrified."

Alan Corr @CorrAlan2

Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 2 is out now. Rip Up The Road - Live From Alexandra Palace is on Amazon Prime Video on Friday November 15

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