One of Britain’s best rock exports are back: today (November 4th), Foals have released their new single, “Wake Me Up.”
It’s their first release since the second part of their ambitious 2019 double album Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 2, and also their first since the departure of Edwin Congreave, the band’s longtime keyboardist.
“Wake Me Up,” is a fitting title, however, since it was written in a cold, bleak, lockdown winter in the UK. “We wanted to create a contrast between the outside world and the music that we’re writing inside this small room,” says frontman and guitarist Yannis Philippakis about their writing process. “We couldn’t help but reimagine ourselves on stage and how euphoric it will be once it returns.”
Indeed, it’s the band’s energetic and cathartic live shows that have helped propel them to global stardom, and this new era of Foals feels indebted to that energy. Philippakis describes the upcoming album, due in 2022, as a “dance/disco record,” but at the same time, he believes it was time for the band to go back to its roots: “For this one, it’s back to a sweaty, late-night dance floor — a going-out record.”
To give the new single an added layer of performance, the band has released a video for “Wake Me Up” that seems to occur entirely in one take. Set in a theater, we follow the band as they perform, but the camera also tracks dancers, stage hands, set changes, and more.
The euphoric, performance-heavy aspects of both the song and the video suggest that Foals really missed gathering with people and celebrating. “This may be one of the first times in human history that there’s been very little congregation around music…” says Philippakis, “We were almost wishing it back into existence.”
In addition to working on their seventh album, Foals are also getting ready for a massive 2022 tour. Consequence caught up with Philippakis to chat about the new single, their 2019 documentary Rip Up The Road, their songwriting process, and the process of picking setlists for their shows (“It’s a nightmare”).
Check out the full Q&A below.
How does it feel to return with new music after some time off?
It feels great. I mean, this period has been obviously challenging for everybody, with the pandemic and whatnot. And in many ways, when we were writing this track, you know, it was in the depth of the pandemic winter in London, it was pretty bleak, you know, British winters, without pubs. And without anyone in the streets, it was pretty dark. And so I think the idea of things returning to normality was quite far away, which is partly what influenced the sound and the message of the song. So now that things are in the main getting better and the moment has arrived, and the song is about to come out, it’s quite unexpected, but it feels joyous.
What’s the inspiration behind “Wake Me Up”?
When we were writing that track, the idea was that, since things were so, so bleak, we wanted to create a contrast between the outside world and the music that we’re writing inside this small room. And we were kind of imagining things returning to normality and the reemergence of almost like a cartoon spring after this incredibly bleak period. And that informed all the music we were writing at that time, almost wishing the summer to arrive and wishing for things to get better, and for people to be able to get back together again.
“Wake Me Up” has a great, performance-based music video. Did you really do it all in one take?
So it was almost 90% shot in one tape — I think there are two edits. But the rest of it was all in extended chunks, or maybe even just one 00 I can’t remember now! But the challenge we wanted to set for ourselves was to see how much we can do in one take, so that the actual experience of shooting the video is like a performance and is kind of celebrating both the theater or the venue as a space and what can be done in a live capacity. So it was a really fun video to shoot.
It required us pulling together different people with different disciplines in a way that we hadn’t done before. We had a theatrical director, whose theater it was and who helped us get with a choreographer. And then we had a stage designer, and then obviously a music video director. So yeah, it was a family. It was a family project. But we’re really happy with it. And I think hopefully, it shows that joy about playing live again and shows the joy of what it is to be in these spaces, and that they shouldn’t remain empty and without people.
When you had your guitar off, I also half expected you to start breaking out into choreography as well.
I was keen, man, I was keen. Yeah, we didn’t quite get that together. Maybe I’ll bust some of that out on stage.
I’d like to go back to Rip Up The Road, the documentary film you released back in 2019. Much of the film focused on the contrast between the hectic, wild tour lives you were living, and the difficulty of adjusting back to “normal” when the tours were finished. A few months after that film premiered, your tour was cancelled and you were all on lockdown indefinitely. Did that feel fitting or ironic at all for you guys?
Yeah, I mean, it was definitely unprecedented. We were still actually touring. We were in Asia when cases started being recorded. We were kind of initially like, “Okay, yeah, this doesn’t sound good, but it’s gonna be contained in some way.” And it soon became apparent it wouldn’t. And then it was almost like, layers of disbelief being pulled away as we realized all of our plans for the next year and a half, which were basically to tour, changed. Like you saw in Rip Up the Road, it’s quite a big adjustment.
So you know, to be honest, the first lockdown was kind of good for us in certain ways. I think it was good that we slowed down, and we hadn’t been at home for a while. And there were some benefits of that. But then by the time the second lockdown came around in the UK, we were kind of like chained animals. So then that’s the point at which we decided we might as well make the best use of our time and just write some more music. But yeah, even right now the idea of touring as we used to tour does feel quite far away. Hopefully we can get back into it a bit more next year, and things will be as per, but we’ll see.