I saw Foals at Music Hall of Williamsburg back in October during CMJ where they played to about 25 people. I’m not sure they noticed the sparse crowd — the band played in a circle facing each other, with most of their backs to the audience. I don’t think they looked at the crowd twice, let alone said anything to us. Coupled with the band’s tense, intricate sound, my initial thought was "They should be called Aspergers, not Foals." The one real interaction with the audience was when singer/guitarist Yannis Philippakis leapt from the stage onto the floor and just about knocked over my friend Erin.
Watching them play I couldn’t help but think this was how they practice — how a lot of bands practice, actually — and have never learned to all face forward. The band’s material was kind of samey (and similar to some other bands, Bloc Party most obviously), and their dour attitude pretty much turned me off.
But then a funny thing happened. Philippakis appeared on an episode of the BBC’s celebrity panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks and this person who I found utterly humorless on stage had some of the best lines of the show, including a couple good barbs at The Kooks. And themselves. On Foals upcoming debut: "We were aware of the buzz surrounding us so we made an record that’s just solid drones and no songs. It’s going to come out in March, there are all these people who have tipped us and it’s absolutely unlistenable."
The episode also features posh pop star Sophie Ellis Bextor and comedy actor James Lance.
And with that my opinion changed on Foals. Their songs are still a bit samey but I’ve warmed to their icy sound. I also like the fact that their Dave Sitek-produced debut, Antidotes, doesn’t feature their singles from last year, "Mathletics" and "Hummer." Too many bands release a string of singles and then release an album that fans have already heard most of the material.
They’re doing two shows in NYC this week and neither are sold out. They play tomorrow at Bowery Ballroom (the same night the Kooks play Music Hall of Williamsburg, let’s hope their afterparties aren’t in the same place) and on Wednesday at Silent Barn in scenic Ridgewood. Somehow I feel their style will be a better fit at Silent Barn where such behavior is encouraged, but I’m gonna hit the Bowery show. I look forward to seeing them, even if they don’t see me.
MP3: Foals – Balloons
Foals also play Chop Suey in Seattle on Saturday… free show!