Walter Gervers, bassist and backing vocalist of British band Foals speaks to me down a muffled phone line in a charming accent. He seems spritely enough, so without much ado, I get straight into the nitty gritty: what’s the deal with the blue powder in the video clips from their latest album, Total Life Forever?
“When we were working on the record, a few weeks into recording we decided that the colour of the record was going to be International Klein Blue – which is the colour of the powder,” Gervers explains, apparently under the impression that everyone is a little bit synaesthetic and sees music in colours.
“I don’t know, I think with music it’s always good to have a colour in mind,” he adds casually. “When I listen to the music, especially the music that I really like, it always gives me a certain colour – it’s something that just followed through from the recording process to the videos.”
The lurid blue powder slips through lead singer Yannis’ fingers in the clip for Spanish Sahara and is blown to the hot, sweaty LA winds in Miami, among other things. It represents a strange indie mysticism that Foals are interested in. “It just felt blue, I think,” Gervers explains, in regards to why it wasn’t green or purple or any other colour. “The first tracks we put down are definitely the more blue tracks on the record. Alabaster and Black Gold were the first two that we put down and there’s kind of a sad element [to them]…” Gervis ponders, apparently totally oblivious to the irony of the fact that the two most ‘blue’ tracks are named after other colours. “…Although it’s not necessarily a sad blue,” he continues, thoughtfully. “More like a nostalgic, dark blue… I’m kind of speaking cryptically,” he chuckles.
“It just felt right.”
The video for Miami is of particular interest – surreal, slow motion, glistening and terrifying, it contrasts the icy vibes of the rest of the record. “The guy who made that video is the guy who made a lot of our other videos,” Gervers explains. “He’s an Australian guy called Dave Ma – he came to us with two different video treatments and he said, ‘Right OK, we can do this… or I’ve got this idea that’s going to be fucking mental. All I’m going to tell you is that it involves transvestites, bodybuilders and I’m going to shoot it in LA’ and we were like, ‘Oh my God, you’ve got to do it’ so we just left it up to him and he sent it to us and we were just like, ‘Oh my God, that’s insane and awesome.’
It’s a perspective on Miami that seems nightmarish – and unsurprisingly so, considering it was made by an Australian for a British band. But that’s part of the flavour of Foals’ latest offering, Total Life Forever, and one of Gervers’ favourite aspects. “I like the idea that the album is kind of un-country-specific,” he remarks. “I don’t like being able to tell where a band is from and if you can relieve that aspect a little bit I think it makes better music.”
So what does Total Life Forever even mean? The answer I get is just about as hilarious and pseudo-mystical as I’d expect, with the typical band story thrown in for good measure. “Well it kind of comes from a book called The Singularity Is Near,” Gervers explains, almost bashfully. “A lot of the book is about what is going to happen in the future and the sort of integration of artificial life.
“In our house [the band live together in a big house in Oxford] we would kind of sit around smoking weed quite a lot and pondering the future of the universe and that sort of thing, and I think Yannis just sort of came up with that out of the stuff he’d been reading – ‘Total Life Forever’ – and I was like, ‘That sounds awesome,’ and it kind of just stuck. I think we were kind of working with it as a title for a long time. With the previous record, we kind of came up with the title after we made the record.”
Another change since Foals’ debut album Antidotes is the second CD available with Total Life Forever, one which features uncut material from early recordings, re-workings of songs and basically rough and alternate versions for the hungry Foals fan. “With that CD we kind of just wanted to give away as much of the early incarnations of the tracks as possible and when we wrote the last record we were all living together,” Gervers explains.
“We set up a makeshift studio in the basement and we kind of started recording tracks with a dictaphone so we could listen to takes and decide what we liked. We were just recording everything… and we also had some loop pedals.
“A lot of the tracks on the bonus disc are sort of the direct output of the loop pedals. I don’t know; I kind of like the way they sound because with the loops because you can infinitely record at your own time, whereas at a studio you’re kind of on the spot and you need to record stuff relatively quickly, normally. There’s definitely stuff in those loops that I prefer even to some of the stuff on the actual record.”
With a focus on songwriting like that, it’s not surprising to learn that Foals are already in the guts of their next album, which they plan to record on our sunny shores this year with Jono Ma (of Sydney band Lost Valentinos), the brother of Dave Ma, their cinematographer. “We’re working on [our next album] at the moment actually,” Gervers bubbles happily. “We’re actually going to Sydney in January to record some stuff. We’re going to be in Australia for almost the whole of January so by Laneway we won’t even be jetlagged, which should be fantastic.
“We’re quite happy to go to Australia for the summer,” he says, with a genuine buzz. “We’re really excited. Hopefully we’ll hit the ground running.”
FOALS return to Australia to headline the LANEWAY FESTIVAL – alongside !!!, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Beach House, Bear In Heaven, Blonde Redhead, Cloud Control, Cut Copy, Deerhunter, Gotye, Holy Fuck, Jenny And Johnny, Les Savy Fav, Local Natives, Menomena, Pvt, Rat Vs Possum, Stornoway, The Antlers, The Holidays, Two Door Cinema Club, Violent Soho, Warpaint, World's End Press And Yeasayer. It’s at the Footscray Community Arts Centre on Saturday February 5 – and it’s sold out. They also play The Palace Theatre on Thursday February 10 – tickets from ticketek.com.au, 132 849, oztix.com.au or 1300 762 545. Their new album Total Life Forever is out now through Warner.