Throughout their career, Foals have weathered the storms of musical fads, they’ve found gaps in the industry to support their survival and more importantly they’ve remained resolutely independent, avoiding the quagmire of indie landfill in the process. Yet 2019 was their crowning glory: the release of two stellar studio albums falling either side of an incredible run of global dates that included stellar shows at Alexandra Palace and a surprise set at Glastonbury. Ben Standring explains why Foals are The Mic’s 2019 Band of the Year.
When Foals first emerged on the British indie-rock scene in 2008 with debut record Antidotes, nobody could have predicted the meteoric rise of the band who have now released six albums of sublime quality and have headlined festivals across the globe. In a well-established career to date, their instrumental complexity has been admired by musicians whilst their iconic indie-rock anthems have amassed a cult-like loyalty, with frontman Yannis Phillipakis becoming a rock icon in his own right.
The Oxford band followed 2015’s ferocious and direct riff-powered fourth record What Went Down with two kaleidoscopic records stripping the shackles of creative limitations and embracing true artistic freedom. Whilst the departure of bassist Walter Gervers in 2018 had the potential to fray dynamics within the band, 2019 was the year that Foals became British rock thoroughbreds and they made their presence known throughout the year, kicking off January with the announcement that not one but two studio albums would be being released throughout the year.
January and February saw the release of Exits, On the Luna and Sunday before Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1 captivated fans and critics alike upon release in March, gaining the band their third Mercury Prize nomination. Despite Gervers’ departure before writing began, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1 has been hailed a genre-defining screenshot of an all-too-realistic dystopian fantasy, highlighting modernity’s fragility and tendency to implode.
The following months demonstrated the destructive nature of the Foals live machine, embarking on an impressive world tour before acclaimed festival headline shows over the summer included a return to Truck Festival for their first hometown show in half a decade, whilst also delivering one of Glastonbury’s most enigmatic highlights with a surprise set that amassed one of the biggest crowds of the weekends.
Following an intense summer period, Foals released a second set of singles in promotion for their sixth studio record. Black Bull, arguably the four-piece’s most eye-watering and direct rock thrillers, matched the jagged grooves of The Runner before Into The Surf’s jarring melody acted to highlight the creative purple-patch in British rock’s current tour de force. Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 2 released in October became the band’s first record to reach No. 1 on the UK Album Chart. The remarkable gliding journey from anger, to dismay, to nostalgia, to tragedy is maintained with the restlessness and spritely determination to continue excelling whilst trying to understand the fractured state of affairs the band find themselves producing music in today.
Throughout their career, Foals have weathered the storms of musical fads, they’ve found gaps in the industry to support their survival and more importantly they’ve remained resolutely independent. There has never been a point on their journey to date in which they have looked to be collapsing into the growing quagmire of indie landfill and as they prepare for yet another list of impressive arena dates and festivals in 2020, the band’s popularity and the intensity of support looks to hold the quartet in good stead for the next decade.