Indie-rock musicians are known for being moody, serious and so self-introspective that their social skills border ineptitude. Come across one that parlays such incredible wit and humour and you have a rarity. Come across a few more and you have the boys of Foals.
Guitarist Jimmy Smith and backing vocals/keyboard player Edwin Congreave of Foals sat down with Pop Counter // Culture before kicking off their second North American tour show at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom. In their posh British accents the gents talked about normal stuff: Creepy towns, losing shoes, and the “brotherly” dynamics between members. Oh, and then there were the unmentionables, which we still mentioned in part due to journalistic integrity, and partly due to the fact that they were simply hilarious.
Disclaimer: Comments may be offensive to Michael Bublé fans.
Pop Counter // Culture: So first off, how’s the tour going?
Jimmy Smith: Right, it’s been an overwhelming success; we’ve done one show [laughs]. No but it was good. It was in Bellingham, quite a weird little town…in a nice way. It was really picturesque old town with an unsettling air. It felt a little bit like something out of a horror show.
PCC: What was the reception like there?
Smith: Really good
Edwin Congreave: Incredibly welcoming. It was supposed to be almost like a warm-up show.
Smith: Unsettingly welcome.
Smith: A little too welcoming. They never wanted us to leave. They were doing like ‘one more song’ and it actually got a bit threatening and we had to run away.
PCC: Did you make them wait a long time for the encore performance?
Smith: No we just didn’t play anything [laughs]. We were going to, but our tech had already dismantled everything.
PCC: What’s it like playing in Vancouver?
Smith: Great, the last time we played here it was across the road in Venue, it was really good. And before that we played at Dicks on Dicks [pauses]. Which is Richards on Richards, which I believe is now…
PCC: [Laughs looking at Congreave’s face] Look at your face.
Congreave: I’m just amazed; he’s just going and speaking.
Smith: I’ll do it; I’ll go as long as this thing has its battery life [pointing to the recorder on the table].
Congreave: Keep going man, you have so much to say [laughs].
Smith: Ya, so now we’re in this lovely place the Commodore.
PCC: Bigger venue this time.
Smith: Bigger I know and sold out. And I don’t know maybe it’s [the opening band] the Freelance Whales, maybe they are bigger than us over here.
Congreave: They do have a lot more twitter followers, almost a thousand more.
Smith: And they have a tour poster. Anyway, we digress.
PCC: You guys fit in quite well with the Vancouver scene, do you find that?
Congreave: Ya, we’ve done quite well in Canada. Every show we’ve played – we’ve played three shows – and they just get progressively bigger, and that goes for Toronto and Montreal as well.
Smith: Ya, every show we’ve played apart from Dicks on Dicks was great [laughs]. No but Canadian crowds are just way better than American crowds.
Smith: Ya, blown it…
Congreave: Does this get circulated in America?
PCC: It’s on the web.
Smith: Can you get that in America [laughs]?
Congreave: What the fuck man?
Smith: No, it’s just our experience. There are good crowds in New York and other places, but I find that Canadians just seem to get it a bit more, it feels that way.
PCC: Maybe we share a northern mentality.
Smith: Yes the weather I think. We don’t get on very well with sun-blushed people, sun-baked Californians.
Congreave: Or those from Mexico.
Smith: Which unfortunately means we can never play in hot places, like Mexico or Australia.
PCC: But didn’t you guys just recently play in Australia?
Smith: We did but it was unusually cold while we were there. It was the coldest summer in a while.
PCC: How has it felt being a fast-success? Has it felt like warp-speed?
Smith: When you start thinking about everything that we’ve done, than it does feel like five years. I definitely feel five years older.
Congreave: And it’s definitely been linear. There hasn’t been one massive jump that we’ve felt a difference in depth. I think when our first album came out in the UK and it was getting a bit of hype that was weird, but that’s subsided and we’ve come back to Canada and we’ve played bigger shows and we feel like we’ve worked for it. It’s been two or three years since we first played here, and we’ve done another album that we were happy with. So all of those things support, make us feel okay to be here.
PCC: What’s the dynamic between band members?
Congreave: Dreadful, really bad.
PCC: Why and how does that influence the sound?
Smith: Adds a lot of tension to the music.
Congreave: The dynamics definitely haven’t changed in the five years. The same arguments happen again and again and they haven’t proven to be threatening to the band, which we definitely thought they could have been at one point. But it’s the same people acting the same way, it’s not like anyone of us has changed, so it’s kinda comforting in a way.
PCC: Do you think the tension makes your sound?
Smith: Ya, it would be awful if we agreed all the time. We would become the world’s most boring band. We’d become… what’s a good example, we’d become Maroon 5 or Michael Bublé, though he’s just one person.
Smith: Soulless pap.
Congreave: A very successful soulless pap [laughs].
PCC: I heard that there was a theme of futurology with this last album. I don’t know if Yannis can speak towards that, he’s not here.
Smith: Where is he?
PCC: Any truth that coming from his perspective?
Congreave: Definitely truth in that. He went through a time of reading a couple books about futurology and he has got a kind of fairly obsessive intellect, and he’ll fixate on one thing and then everything within a short period of time will be influenced by that. So a couple of songs on the record are influenced by that. It’s not the sort of thing that delves into the theories of futurology but it colors the lyrics. I have not read these books and am not qualified to speak on the subject [laughs].
Smith: I wikipedia’d it. I didn’t even read the whole thing, it was really long. I just read the abstract. It’s quite interesting…
Congreave: We’re so intellectual.
Smith: But not interesting enough to read a whole book. I don’t think Yannis has read the whole book.
Congreave: No, he definitely hasn’t.
Smith: Wikipedia is great, it’s fun.
Congreave: I love the nature of wikipedia. It’s never that threatening. It’s like there’s some mischievous little goblin somewhere who’s changing things for a laugh, but it doesn’t destroy the website.
PCC: Do you think touring changes the sound of your songs?
Smith: Yes weirdly, they’re supposed to get tighter but I think they get more ramshackled. It just gets looser, dreading saying ‘jam band.’
Congreave: I think some of them get better and some of them over time get a bit looser.
Smith: It’s hard to tell when you are playing them every night. Some songs you still love and enjoy and some songs you could do with never playing again.
Congreave: There was a noticeable shift with Antidotes. All the songs we started playing in a different way – without really realizing what we were doing – and someone said it was more of a cohesive whole. Because we are on stage playing with the same instruments, so it’s not like we think back to how we did something four years ago and recreate it. I don’t think I actually said anything in that sentence [laughs].
Smith: Just stuff.
PCC: What kind mentality goes in right before you play a show?
Smith: Just total enjoyment and hopefully fulfillment.
PCC: What’s the craziest thing someone has done at one of your shows because I’ve heard that crowds get quite rambunctious?
Smith: They like to throw things at us, which is apparently a show of affection. It’s nice to get a pint all over your face or a shoe.
Congreave: People will often throw their shoes at us and then leave a message on our Facebook saying ‘Can I have my shoe back.’ Yannis has been known to go into the crowd when he’s having a good time, he’ll just wander to the back of the venue and hang out with people. And he’ll often get stripped, people just steal things. He’s had jewelry stolen, he’s had a shirt ripped off, he’s lost his shoes.
Smith: One time he was pulled in both directions so hard that he got this tear mark, tearing him in half.
Congreave: He’s now two inches taller than he used to be [laughs]. There are a lot of people that go on Facebook and are like ‘I’ve got Yannis’ shoe. This is so exciting,’ but I don’t think they know that there are actually a hundred people around the world each with one of Yannis’ shoes. There was a period in the summer on the UK tour that he had to get new shoes four days in a row because he kept losing them.
PCC: Coming off the success of the first two albums what’s next?
Smith: I don’t know. I think trying to compliment that last record. It would be nice to keep on progressing. I don’t know which way we are going to go. I think we’re going to do this tour and then some limited editions and then that’s it for the rest of the year. I think we’re going to go into the studio when we are ready, which is a luxury until the money runs out.
PCC: Yes, then you won’t be able to buy shoes anymore…
Smith/Congreave: Yes, quite [laughs].