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Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Wednesday 10th April, 2013 2:05PM

Now one of the UK's foremost indie bands,  Foals released their third album Holy Fire earlier this year which is bringing them back to New Zealand for their first headline show in October. We caught up with guitarist Jimmy Smith while on tour in South America to discuss the bandís intimidating rise to fame and how theyíve changed because of it...

How are you?

Oh yeah, Iím alright.

That didnít sound particularly confident: have you been in interviews all morning?

No Iíve just done a few now, but Iíve been really hungover all day because I didnít get any sleep last night. But, I feel surprisingly good despite that.

Are you guys on tour at the moment?

Yeah weíre about to go to Columbia.

Have you just started or are you in the middle of a massive tour?

Weíre still at the beginning of a massive tour. Weíve done about a month-and-a-half and we donít come back until June.

And youíre obviously still in the throes of enjoying it at the moment?

Yeah Iím still enjoying it at the moment. Buenos Aires is pretty cool.

Is this the biggest tour youíve ever done?

Yeah this is by far the biggest one. Even the American tour on itís own is the biggest tour weíve ever done I think.

I guess thatís reflective of how popular your latest album, Holy Fire, has been. Tell me about writing and recording that one.

Yeah, well, it was a relatively painless experience as much as writing and recording an album can be Ė there are always moments of utter despair. I think we approached it with a clearer head than last time Ė we didnít question it too much in the early stages and just let the juices flow so-to-speak, letting whatever happens happen and deal with the intricacies afterwards in the studio.

Iíve been reading a lot of interviews online with Yannis Philippakis and he discusses his shift from writing pseudo intellectual lyrics to honest and open ones. Is that something that you discussed as a band going into this album?

Yeah totally. He wrote the lyrics while we were writing the music so some of the lyrics came before the music, and the songs took on that complete identity quite early on. I think both things influenced each other: the sonic palette of the album is a lot broader than last time and the lyrics definitely are as well.

How did you develop the sonic palette from earlier albums? Itís changed quite dramatically.

We just keep buying new guitar pedals every album. The biggest one for me was that I wrote some of the songs on a Rhodes piano so that was immediately a different sonic thing: not quite so guitar-heavy as before. Itís a lot heavier in some places and a lot lighter in other places. We were just pushing forward.

Musically it suits your live aesthetic more because youíve always been heavier live than recorded right? Is that something you thought about?

I think so, we recorded quite a lot of the album live actually. Not like it is when we play a live show, but the bare bones of the album were recorded as a band in one room which is pretty cool so I think, while there was stuff put on top, the pulsing heart of the album is a live one.

And it sounds like Ė from other interviews Ė your producers had quite a lot to do with that, right?


It was recorded by Flood and Moulder and theyíve got so much experience and history in music between them so they know all these little tricks to get the best and the worst out of musicians. Theyíve been around people like Billy Corgan and Trent Reznor so they know what theyíre doing. They must have a little list of tricks to make things better.

And the main trick they employed on you was being recorded when you didnít know you were being recorded right? Was there anything else?

Yeah that was the main one, maybe they did other ones we didnít even know about Ė probably. They like their laughs too so there are probably some pranks in there too.

It seems like being more extroverted has come at the appropriate time for the size and breadth of your audience. As it has continued to grow arguably your sound has become bigger and more stadium-like. Was that purposeful?

I donít know, I donít think it was conscious, it just kind of happened that way. We definitely didnít write these songs to be like ďmassiveĒ, but then, maybe subconsciously we were thinking that we wanted to play it to a lot more people Ė itís a weird one that I canít really put my finger on.

Iím interested in your experience being part of the modern music machine. You had a successful first album and proceeded to tour a lot, and write successive albums in-between touring. How have you found this process?

Well what happened with the first album was an absolute dream come true. I think now weíre growing a little bit wary of the Ďmachineí, so-to-speak and the whole going on tour for a year-and-a-half, going and writing a record, going back on tour two years later, et cetera. Itís all pretty laid out and it gets a little bit worrying after a while. I think we want to try and change things up but itís hard because we want to tour everywhere and that takes a lot of time. We want to take our time in the studio too so I guess weíre just stuck in the machine at the moment. But we absolutely love it Ė thereís not a lot to complain about really?

What do you think has been the hardest thing about spending the last five years touring as a band?

Not trying to kill each other. I donít know, I think the most difficult thing is to try and maintain a normal life outside of the band. Itís always a kind of push and pull thing with the band because it consumes everything Ė everythingís always about the band and itís hard to ignore it. If youíre someone who is close to the band but not in it, itís probably quite trying. I think the longer weíre in the game the better we get at it.


Foals play a one off Auckland show in October so there is plenty of time to get acquainted with their new album Holy Fire which is out now - see below for more details about the show and here is a clip from the new record.

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related gigs
Sat 5th Oct
Auckland Town Hall, Auckland

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