Foals emerged in the late 2000s with an off-balance indie rock influenced by catchy new wave, math rock, and atmospheric post- rock. It proved a successful formula; their first album, 2008's Antidotes, reached number three in their native U.K. Over the next decade, they developed a distinctive balance between jittery dance rock and spacy atmosphere on albums such as 2013's Holy Fire, 2019's Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2, and 2022's Life Is Yours.
Formed in Oxford, England, by longtime friends Yannis Philippakis (guitar) and Jack Bevan (drums), along with Andrew Mears on vocals, guitarist Jimmy Smith, and bassist Walter Gervers, Foals whose name is a play on the etymology of Philippakis’ name began as a way to protest against the proggier sounds that were both popular in Oxford and in Philippakis and Bevan’s former band, the Edmund Fitzgerald. After releasing the single “Try This on Your Piano” in 2006, Mears left Foals in order to more fully concentrate on his other group, Youthmovies (formerly Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies), and Philippakis who had lived until he was seven in a tiny Grecian village — added the role of lead vocals to his guitar-playing duties. Edwin Congreave, a fellow Oxford student the frontman had met when they were both working at the same bar, and who introduced the group to techno, soon joined in on keyboards, despite the fact he had never played the instrument before nor ever been in a band and the full lineup of Foals was completed.
The quintet worked on perfecting its complex sound by playing house parties around the area, and soon the group was signed to Transgressive Records, which released the singles “Hummer” and “Mathletics” in April and August of 2007, respectively. Foals picked up quite a buzz in the U.K., and in June 2007 they went to New York to record their debut album under the guidance of producer and TV on the Radio guitarist Dave Sitek. The sessions went well, but the bandmembers were unhappy with the final mix, choosing instead to remix it themselves, and issuing the full-length, Antidotes — which, incidentally, included neither “Hummer” nor “Mathletics” — in March of 2008, while Sub Pop picked up the album in the U.S. and gave it an April release, adding the two neglected singles as bonus tracks.
Two years later the band returned with its sophomore album, Total Life Forever, released by Transgressive Records. After having songs appear on shows like Entourage and Misfits, the band returned in early 2013 with its third album, the expansive Holy Fire, Foals’ first record to chart outside of Western Europe, cracking the Billboard 200 in the U.S. and topping the album chart in Australia. A concert DVD/Blu-ray, Live at the Royal Albert Hall, followed that fall, and picking up where
Holy Fire left off, What Went Down arrived in the summer of 2015. They toured Europe and the U.S. in 2016, including shows with Everything Everything as support, and returned to the studio in 2017. Early the next year, the band confirmed that founding member Gervers had left the group on amicable terms. Other members filled in on bass in remaining sessions.
Foals re-emerged in 2019 with their fifth and sixth studio LPs, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Pt. 1, which arrived in March and peaked at the number two spot on the U.K. Albums chart, and Pt. 2, which was released later that October. In 2020, with touring on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Foals dug into their archives and released a two-part collection of remixes called Collected Reworks. The bright and affirming “Wake Me Up” appeared in November 2021, with “2AM” and “Looking High” arriving the following year. All three cuts appeared on the group’s seventh studio album, 2022’s Life Is Yours, which marked their first outing as a trio following the departures of Gervers in 2018 and keyboardist Edwin Congreave in 2021. ~ Marisa Brown & Marcy Donelson