Foals (band)

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This article is about the musical group. For young equines, see foal.
Foals - Roskilde Festival 2011 - Arena Stage.jpg
Foals performing at Roskilde Festival 2011.
Background information
Origin Oxford, England
Years active 2005–present
Associated acts
Members Yannis Philippakis
Jack Bevan
Jimmy Smith
Walter Gervers
Edwin Congreave
Past members Andrew Mears

Foals are an English indie rock band from Oxford, England. They are currently signed to Warner Bros. Records.[1] They released their debut album, Antidotes, on 24 March 2008 in the United Kingdom and on 8 April 2008 in the United States.[2] The band's second album, Total Life Forever, was released on 10 May 2010. The band's first mixtape, Tapes, was released on 2 July 2012 as part of the !K7 series.[3] Their third album, Holy Fire, was released on 11 February 2013.[4] The band's fourth and latest album, What Went Down is set to be released 28 August 2015.[5]


Early history[edit]

The lead singer of the band Youthmovies, Andrew Mears, originally formed the band Foals. He was present on the band's debut 7" single, "Try This on Your Piano/Look at My Furrows of Worry", but left shortly afterwards to concentrate on Youthmovies' debut album, Good Nature.

Jack Bevan, Lina Simon and Yannis Philippakis were originally in cult math rock band The Edmund Fitzgerald. The group disbanded, claiming that things had become "too serious" and that they wanted to have more "fun making their music".[6]

Walter Gervers and Jimmy Smith were part of a small Oxford band called Face Meets Grill.[7] They met at and formed the band from members of Abingdon School, the same school that Radiohead attended. They played gigs in and around Oxford, and recorded an EP in Hull. After playing Truck Festival in 2004 they separated to follow different paths and careers.

Guitarist Jimmy Smith is the only one of the band members to have completed his degree, at Hull University:[8] each of the other band members quit their respective universities when the band signed to Transgressive Records.

The band's musical influences are varied, with the band members citing minimal techno, Arthur Russell, the Irish-based math rock band The Redneck Manifesto, Krautrock bands such as Harmonia, Talking Heads, as well For London (previously known as The Jester People) as their main sources of inspiration.[9]

In early 2007, the band released the limited edition 7" singles "Hummer" and "Mathletics", both produced by Gareth Parton.[10] "Hummer" later featured on the Channel Four teen drama Skins, and "Spanish Sahara" featured in one of their adverts on E4.


In the summer of 2007, Foals began working on their debut album in New York. It was produced by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio. However, the band decided to mix the album themselves, stating that Sitek made the first master copy of the album sound like "it was recorded in the Grand Canyon".[11] Yannis Philippakis has stated multiple times during various interviews that Foals and Dave Sitek are on good terms, even though the copy by Sitek was rejected by the band. Foals released their debut album, titled Antidotes, on 24 March 2008 in the UK and on 8 April 2008 in the US. The album was a commercial success in the UK, debuting at number 3 on the UK Albums Charts.[12] The album was a minor success in other countries, charting in Japan, France and the Netherlands. Non-UK versions of the album include the early Parton-produced singles.[13]

Total Life Forever[edit]

In August 2009, Foals started recording their second album at Svenska Grammofon Studion in Gothenburg, Sweden. The album, Total Life Forever, has been described by the band members as sounding like "tropical prog" and "like the dream of an eagle dying".[14] The band have described the album as being "a lot less funk" than they had originally planned.[15] The album was produced by Luke Smith, formerly of Clor. The album's title is named after an element of Ray Kurzweil's theory of singularity. The band's frontman, Yannis Philippakis, has professed a longtime interest in futurology, with it informing numerous songs on Total Life Forever.[16]

On 1 March 2010, the promotional single "Spanish Sahara" was first played on Zane Lowe's show Radio 1. The Foals' website was updated that night with the video for the track, directed by longtime collaborator Dave Ma, and on 6 March, the Total Life Forever site was launched. There puzzles revealed images, lyrics and sound clips of songs from the album. The last clip appeared on 12 March, with a password entry for Foals' new website. The site was opened on 13 March and presented the art concept and media including samples of songs, photos and videos. Lead single "This Orient" was released on 3 May 2010.[17] The album was finally released on 10 May 2010.

"Spanish Sahara" was featured in trailers for season seven of Entourage, season four of Skins and Outcasts. It was also used in the soundtrack of the second season of the E4 drama Misfits. It was released as a full physical single in September 2010, featuring an edited remix starring the strings of London Contemporary Orchestra.

The album was nominated for the 2010 Mercury Prize.[18] In an interview with online magazine Coup de Main, Jimmy Smith said how the band members live together on and off the road – heading to Australia to record demos for their next album together. "It's just like touring with your family, it's nice".[19]

Holy Fire[edit]

Foals being interviewed live on-air by Phantom 105.2 at 2013 Longitude Festival in Dublin.

Holy Fire was released in both the UK and the US on 11 February 2013. The album's lead single, "Inhaler", received its first radio play on 5 November 2012. They played the song "My Number" for the first time on Later... with Jools Holland.

Holy Fire was produced by Flood (producer) and Alan Moulder, who have worked with many artists, including Nine Inch Nails, The Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine. The album was recorded at Assault & Battery studios in London.

Yannis Philippakis stated that the recording process had some unconventional moments: "At one point we even made these poor studio interns collect bones. We were inspired by voodoo, these Haitian rhythms. We collected some ourselves, from butchers in Willesden High Road. Mainly cows, I think often they had gristle and cartilage on them, mainly cow and occasionally sheep. We had to order these big pots because one of the shoulder blades was too big! We boiled the flesh away so we could use them as percussion! We wanted to get primitive!"

According to The Guardian: "Their producers, Flood and Alan Moulder, even tricked them by recording their rehearsal in order to capture a more uninhibited sound."[20]

In late November to mid-December, Foals toured the UK for an album preview. The tour was supported by Petite Noir (a close friend of Philippakis'). In summer 2013, they attended a number of festivals and headlined Latitude Festival in Suffolk in July. The band have recently played a World and UK tour, which ended with two sell out shows at Alexandra Palace in February. The two shows were in stark contrast compared to playing the same venue 7 years earlier to an almost empty room while supporting Bloc Party, a sentiment which lead singer Philippakis did not fail to mention during the live shows. Holy Fire was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2013. Q awarded Foals with the Best Live Act award the same year while "Inhaler" received the Best Track award from NME. Not only this, but in a reader-nominated "Best Album of 2013" poll, Holy Fire topped the list; as did single "My Number" in a "Best Song of 2013" poll, beating NME favourites Arctic Monkeys, amongst other acclaimed bands.

What Went Down[edit]

On 2 April 2014, in an interview with NME, Yannis Philippakis said "Over the next month I think we're going to start writing tentatively. We've already got some bits and bobs around some riffs and some vocal melodies. I think until May we're gonna go back to Oxford and write in the 'stinkbox' and see what happens." On 9 June 2015, Foals unveiled a short video teasing an upcoming album in 2015.

Foals shared album track 'Mountain At My Gates' on 20 June, premiering the song via BBC Radio 1 as Annie Mac's 'Hottest Record'.[21] On 29 July, the band followed up the track with an accompanying 3D video, filmed on a GoPro HERO.[22] On 6 August, Zane Lowe premiered new song 'A Knife In The Ocean' on his Beats 1 radio show on Apple Music. Foals made public a lyric video for 'A Knife In The Ocean' the same day.[23]


Foals are recognised as one of the top UK live acts, having won the 2013 Q Award for Best Live Act [24] and twice being nominated for the NME Award for Best Live Act (2011 and 2013).

The band have released several live EPs (Live At Liars Club, iTunes Live: London Festival '08 and iTunes Festival: London 2010), in addition to the full length concert film Live At The Royal Albert Hall, which was directed by Dave Ma.

Frontman Yannis Philippakis is known for jumping off balconies and crowd surfing during the extended interlude of "Electric Bloom." In October 2013, Philippakis got into a confrontation with a security guard at the Auckland Town Hall in New Zealand, as the security guard attempted to prevent him jumping into the crowd. At the end of the show, Philippakis told the crowd: "I want to say a massive thank you to you and f*** that security guy." [25]


Throughout their career, Foals have continuously worked with David Ma,[26] Leif Podhajsky [27] and Neil Krug [28] for the band's artistic direction.


Echoing the sentiment of artists like David Byrne [29] and Thom Yorke,[30] Yannis Philippakis has stated his disapproval of the streaming service Spotify: "I'd rather somebody stole the record on vinyl than bought it or streamed it on Spotify. Because I think you should listen to music on vinyl, and I think basically anything's better than that (Spotify)." Philippakis contends that the royalties earned from streaming services are an "insulting pittance" and that "It's like going to a restaurant when the chef and all the waiting staff have worked their asses off, and you leave coppers as a tip, and you don't even pay the bill. That's basically what Spotify's like, I think." [31]

While accepting the 2013 Q Award for Best Live Band, Yannis Philippakis seemingly took a jab at Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys: "It shows you don't need a backing track, you don't need affectation, you don't need Elvis Presley impersonations." [32]

During the 2013 NME Awards, Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari tweeted that Foals' performance had put him in a "deep sleep," to which Yannis Philippakis replied: "Enter Shikari can go f*** themselves, trampoline jumping twats." [33]

In January 2013, Yannis Philippakis asserted his disapproval of David Guetta: "[Guetta's music] is just bullshit. It is an abomination."[34]


Current members
  • Yannis Philippakis – lead vocals, lead guitar, drums (2005–present)
  • Jack Bevan – drums, percussion (2005–present)
  • Jimmy Smith – rhythm guitar, rhodes, synthesizer, backing vocals (2005–present)
  • Walter Gervers – bass, sampler, percussion, backing vocals (2005–present)
  • Edwin Congreave – keyboards, synthesizer, backing vocals (2005–present)
Former members
  • Andrew Mears – lead vocals, guitar (2005–2006)


Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
US Heat.
Antidotes 3 84 20 99 28
Total Life Forever 8 68 72 38 48 25 62 30
Holy Fire 2 1 39 25 22 31 7 41 15 72 15 86
What Went Down
"—" denotes album that did not chart or was not released


Title Album details
Live at the Royal Albert Hall
  • Released: 28 October 2013
  • Studio: Warner Bros.
  • Format: DVD & Blu-ray, LP

Extended plays[edit]

Title Album details
Live at Liars Club
iTunes Live: London Festival '08
Gold Gold Gold
  • Released: 9 September 2008
  • Label: Sub Pop Records
  • Format: Digital download
UK B-sides
iTunes Festival: London 2010
Metropolis Session


Year Title Peak chart positions Album
US Alt.
2006 "Try This on Your Piano/Look at My Furrows of Worry" Non-album single
2007 "Hummer"[A] 167
"Mathletics"[A] 109
"Balloons" 39 Antidotes
2008 "Cassius" 26
"Red Socks Pugie" 89
"Olympic Airways" 160
2010 "Spanish Sahara" 123 Total Life Forever
"This Orient" 97
"Miami" 127
"Blue Blood"
2012 "Inhaler" 90 20 Holy Fire
"My Number" 23 45 38 51 83 25 20
2013 "Late Night" 146
"Bad Habit" 139
"Out of the Woods" 73
2015 "What Went Down" 41 What Went Down
"Mountain at My Gates" 121 192 25
"Give It All"
"—" denotes single that did not chart or was not released
  • A – The singles were originally released without an album, but were later added as bonus tracks on the album Antidotes.


Total Life Forever was nominated for the Mercury Prize in July 2010, losing to The xx's xx on 7 September that year.[18] The album was tested again the following year for Best Album in addition to a nomination for Best Cover Artwork at the NME Awards. The single "Spanish Sahara" was nominated by the same group for Best Track on top of being named all-around Best Band and Best Live Act.[51] In July, the MOJO honour awards also nominated Foals alongside Canadian band Arcade Fire for the calibre of their live performances.[52]

Mercury Prize
Year Recipient / Nominated work Award Result
2010 Total Life Forever Best Album Nominated
2013 Holy Fire Best Album Nominated
Ivor Novello Awards
Year Recipient / Nominated work Award Result
2010 "Spanish Sahara" Best Song Musically and Lyrically Nominated
NME Awards
Year Recipient / Nominated work Award Result
2011 Foals Best British Band Nominated
Foals Best Live Act Nominated
Total Life Forever Best British Album Nominated
Total Life Forever Best Artwork Nominated
"Spanish Sahara" Best Track Won
2013 Foals Best Live Band Nominated
"Inhaler" Best Track Won
2014 Foals Best British Band Nominated
Q Awards
Year Recipient / Nominated work Award Result
2013 Holy Fire Best Album Nominated
Foals Best Act in the World Today Nominated
Foals Best Live Act Won


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External links[edit]