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Foals on the Ecstatic, Unified Energy of New Album Life Is Yours

"[It's] cool to make something that's just defiantly radiant," says frontman Yannis Philippakis

Foals Life Is Yours Interview
Foals, photo by Edward Cooke/Illustration by Steven Fiche
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    Back in November, days before the release of Life Is Yours‘ lead single “Wake Me Up,” Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis assured listeners that this album would be a return to a “sweaty, late-night dance floor.” He wasn’t kidding: Life Is Yours is undoubtedly the most groove-oriented, shimmering Foals album yet, destined for the peak of a wild night and smartly positioned as an antithesis to a long period of lockdown.

    If you are a Foals fan, the streamlined style of Life Is Yours is a bit of a left turn, albeit one that’s closer to the frenetic dance punk of their debut Antidotes and the introspective glow of Total Life Forever. Though a restless energy populates the dance-centric Life Is Yours, there’s very little agitation in the mix — where previous Foals jams like “Inhaler,” “What Went Down,” and “Black Bull” featured a grittier, more explosive palate, Life Is Yours is restrained, focused, and wholly indebted to disco and dance.

    According to Philippakis, Life Is Yours may be different, but it is their most “unified” album. “We didn’t want to have the kind of polarity in the songwriting. We didn’t want to have shifts,” he claims, “We wanted the record to be more like a journey — like you’re going for a walk through the same park. You’re starting somewhere, and there’s diversity and richness within the space that you’re in, but you’re in one space. You’re not getting thrown from pillar to post.”

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    It’s fitting that Foals have decided to follow up the two part album experiment — 2019’s Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Pt. 1 & 2 — with a record that feels decidedly less enormous, championing an air of levity and brightness over anguish and bitterness.

    Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost found Foals, essentially, staring at the end of the world, meditating on climate change, the Trump/Boris Johnson era, and mental health. Life Is Yours, on the other hand, seems much less concerned with making a grand political statement, and more concerned with imagination, intimacy, and the freedom of a life without a global pandemic.

    “If we were to write another record and start it tomorrow, it might be something where it’s gonna deal with Boris Johnson’s inability to do anything correctly,” says Philippakis, “but we were writing in this kind of spartan, frugal, depressed, lifeless environment. And the result was this.”

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    According to Philippakis, the heaviness of the pandemic and lockdown gave the band a different mission than ever before. “I felt repelled by anything too heavy, emotionally. I didn’t want to add to the weight of what was going on,” he says. “And then I just started to think about music as a transportive power, and also that it would be cool to make something that was just defiantly radiant. Something that shimmers, and can transport you.”

    Indeed, the songs on Life Is Yours are beacons to a pre-pandemic time, an influx of life that we’ve all taken for granted in retrospect. The radiant “Looking High” finds Philippakis searching “for where all our friends used to go,” eventually landing on the plea “I hope I’ll be there when life’s returning… I hope I’ll see the streets return.” The thumping, synth-driven “2AM” is an ode to that exact hour, the drunk, messy moment of clarity, but channeled through the perspective of someone forced to stay home and reckon with their own loneliness.

    And on the infectious and anthemic “2001,” which Philippakis claims features a chorus with “one of the most unadulterated bits of pop writing that [they’ve] ever done,” he laments, “I’ve been waiting all day inside/ Waiting for a summer sky/ When we run wild/ We’ll come up for air and go under again.”

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