Foals have today released their much-anticipated third album Holy Fire, the follow-up to their 2010 breakthrough record Total Life Forever. Produced by music royalty Flood and Alan Moulder, the album sees Foals at their most ambitious and provides middle ground between the sounds found on Total Life Forever and their first album Antidote.
John Balfe spoke to Foals drummer Jack Bevan a couple of days ahead of the album's release about its inception, a rather curious Foals/Village People YouTube video (seriously) and their upcoming touring plans.
Your third album Holy Fire is released today. You must have been driven crazy these past few weeks waiting for the album to get out there into the world?
Yeah, I've been feeling like that for a while actually. We finished recording at around June last year and since then we've been sitting on it but it's great that it's finally about to be out there.
It's been about three or so years since Total Life Forever came out and that's three years of new experiences, touring, writing, recording. Have you had time to reflect on whether there has been any changes in the band during that time?
A lot happened between Total Life Forever and then touring it before we even started writing this record. A lot of the changes that happened went by almost unnoticed because we're so used to spending all our time together so you really only have time to reflect once you finish touring a record and before you start writing the next. A lot of stuff has changed for us over that time, we all moved houses. Yannis and Jimmy actually moved to London. Situational stuff is different but the moment that we all get out into the studio and start playing together it doesn't feel like anything has changed.
Total Life Forever was an album which drew a lot of acclaim from fans and critics alike. When you achieve success like that, does that leave some sort of high-water mark that you want to achieve again?
I guess it's incredibly flattering to get nominations for the Mercury Prize or the Ivor Novello, or whatever, but it's a bit dangerous to let that in any way influence the next music you're going to make. When we set out to make Total Life Forever we didn't have awards, or any of that kind of stuff, in mind. Antidote was a more raw first record because we didn't have the experience, so we didn't have this critical expectation on us with the second record that we possibly do for this record. At the same time, I think the five of us are pretty self critical. If one of us thinks something we are working on is a bit naff, that's more important to us than wondering if we're going to win an award.
A read an interview with Jimmy and he was talking about how wary he was of the band becoming over-exposed and therefore you made a deliberate conscious effort to stop touring and stay out of the limelight after a certain period of time. Do you intend to do the same thing this time around?
Different bands seem to do it different ways. Some bands will get their second record out as soon as they've finished touring the first and are hell-bent on maintaining momentum that they had after a first record. Obviously it can take you to the next level if you're putting out good music but I think doing it just to keep momentum going lowers the quality a bit. I think with us we'd much rather take as long as it takes - be that two years, three years, four years, or whatever - and have something which comes out in a self-contained package like a record which hopefully people will cherish, rather than tossing songs out every couple of months just to remind people that you're not broken up. I think it's more important for us to keep the quality high, even if the momentum trickles down.
How did the decision to work with Flood and Alan Moulder on Holy Fire come about?
We're fans of almost everything they've done. Together they made some of our favourite records growing up. We met Alan Moulder in 2009 when he mixed our second record. He just had a very nice, calming presence. He's almost like a doctor, or something. He's very un-egotistical. Then we met Flood and it just felt totally spot on. They two of them work so well together, Alan Moulder sits in the control room and keeps an eye on everything and Flood acts as a director. He'll be in the room, standing next to us. We'll do a take and he'll always have an idea. He's very focussed and will come straight in and hone in on exactly what's lacking in the song and give very precise instructions. It's really inspiring to work with people like that, he's so focussed and obviously talented that he spurs you on to better yourself as well.
It must be quite the compliment to receive when people like this who you hold in such high regard like what you're doing?
Not only is it complimentary, but if they've got an idea which you think is potentially a bad one you'll go with it and a lot of the time that opens doors into making something that we might necessarily have looked away from doing.
The Smashing Pumpkins album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which was produced by Flood and Alan Moulder, was a big album for me when I was growing up. Was it the same for you?
Massively. I love that record. In the studio we joked around about making a double album but that got shot down pretty quickly!
I want to ask you about the Village People video! What's the deal with that?
I'm not really sure! Basically someone sent it to us and we were like 'how does this exist? It's amazing!'. The fact that it's so well synced and the singer looks so much like Yannis, it's the icing on the cake.
You're starting your tour here in Dublin at the end of February. Are you looking forward to getting on the road?
Oh absolutely, and especially because we're playing Dublin first. Those crowds are absolutely bonkers every time. The fact that it sold out so quickly that we had to add a second show is so cool. As for festivals, we're keeping it down to 'key' festivals this year. We don't really want to be doing shitloads of festivals so we can tour more and do our own shows, then back into Europe in the Autumn and then hopefully back to Ireland - that would be rad!
Foals will play The Academy in Dublin on 28th February and 1st March. You can order Holy Fire online here.