Reluctant thoroughbreds of rock

Declan McKay finds his way backstage to meet Foals at Glasgow’s Barrowlands

So there I was, being led nervously through the winding and somewhat grimly clad corridors and stairways of the infamous Glasgow Barrowlands to conduct my first ever interview, with the reputable, musically acclaimed and NME endorsed (drum roll please)… Foals.

Fear sped through my veins as I approached their similarly bleak dressing room, with the infinite possibilities of failure and foolishness ransacking my mind. In at the deep-end I had truly been thrown; but in I went, to have a leisurely chat with Foals front man ‘Yannis Philippakis’ about the second album test, social networking sites, totalitarian governments and their tenuous role in the supposed ‘class war’ in British music.

After introductions and general pleasantries, Yannis (cross legged and smoking) began regaling me with the pressures of touring the world, “touring’s quite nomadic, you see very little unless you get up at like 10am and have a drive to experience every different place” he began, tenderly smoking away, “It’s very easy to get into a pattern of just waking up at 1pm, walking into sound check, getting stoned, playing the show. You know?” I didn’t really know of course, but for the sake of my image agreed sheepishly.

I felt it was time to get off the subject of class C narcotics, and enquire if Foals have begun work on the ‘dreaded’ second album, a question that sparked life into the heavy-eyed front man: “I’m not dreading it; I can’t wait to do it to be honest. I don’t believe any of that fear mongering,” he began with the look of a man possessed with just cause and honesty, “new bands get wrapped into it; it cripples you instantly if you only feel you’ve got the life span of one album. You’re brought up to believe you can’t better yourself on a second album!” A short pause descended on the table before he concluded: “I don’t believe it.”

I was convinced Foals would not fall at their next musical hurdle, but wondered if matching the commercial success of their last album ‘Antidotes’ is a factor in their current writing, “I don’t know about commercial success, but that’s not the point of any of this is it? The point of the band wasn’t to put out an album to get into the top ten, and then put out a second album to better it,” Yannis replied adamantly, loosening up from his somewhat cagey cross-legged stance, “The point of this band is to try and make progressive music, and make albums that are hopefully better than the last ones, and eventually get to a place where we feel satisfied.”

At this point in the interview I called into reference an article in The Guardian by Matt Bolton, in which he discussed the supposed ‘class war’ in contemporary British guitar music, contrasting working class bands like The Enemy with art rock bands such as Foals, whom he describes as “solidly middle class in both membership and perceived appeal.” As I described the article Yannis became increasingly edgy and distanced before eventually calling for Edwin, the band’s keyboard player, from the other side of the dressing room, explaining: “Edwin’s the good person to talk to because he’s read it.”

Edwin entered accordingly and the question was repeated, “I think it’s a pretty benign thing to say, because we kind of are middle class, a lot of people are,” Edwin begins, “I’d wager a bet that The Enemy are pretty middle class as well, people who play guitars often are, it’s meaningless.” We began to talk about the current fixation with a band’s social background (Pete Doherty being a public school boy, etc.) before Yannis surmised: “there’s an obsession in Britain about class, which is something that I feel pretty alien to seen as neither of my parents are British.”

Edwin took to his feet and before leaving, declared, “There’s absolutely no class war, because you know, we just don’t care, apparently The Enemy care,” with Yannis concluding: “They may care, but I don’t care what they think.”

Given Foals have had their MySpace blog nominated for an NME award this year, I felt the need to ask how the singer viewed the ever-increasing link between modern music and the Internet. “I’m pretty wary of social networking sights, if you use it for music, for a transparent contact with your fans, well that’s something bands have been trying to do since popular music started, it enables you to do that a lot easier.

“On a bigger level, on a social level, these are things that will change the way people in the West interact with each other. I’m pretty wary of Facebook and Google, they’re such powerful tools that if there not being exploited by people who have control and power and money in mind then they will be soon.”

Much like the current suspicion surrounding identification cards, I suggested, lost in the frantic conspiracy debate, “Yes, but it will be sweet though because John McCain and Sarah Palin will get in, and ban ‘Brave New World’ and ‘Clockwork Orange’ and ‘1984’ and people won’t be able to become informed about the idea of totalitarian states you know; there’s a nice big irony there.”


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