It was kind of a big deal when Walter Gervers left Foals. The bassist departed the Oxford-based indie rockers on good terms in 2017, after the band had completed touring for their 2015 fourth album, What Went Down, and before work had begun on the band’s just-released latest effort, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost — Part 1.
But as the de facto emotional leader of the until-then 5-piece, his exit was one that could’ve been potentially disastrous for the two-time Mercury Prize nominees.
“Walter had such an important role within the band,” said founding drummer Jack Bevan from a recent promotional stop in Germany. “He was the oldest member and the guy that everyone would lean on. It was like taking the foundation out of a building.
“But we worked really hard to redefine the dynamic. And now it seems like we’re stronger than ever.”
That isn’t just lip service, either. Instead of replacing Gervers, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Yannis Philippakis added some bass lines to his repertoire, and synth player Edwin Congreave contributed some on keys.
The new alchemy infused the reconfigured quartet with a fresh creative perspective and Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost — Part 1 reaped the benefits. Standout tracks like In Degrees and White Onions are among some of Foals’ best to date, and there is a newfound spirit of camaraderie within the band.
Just don’t give Gervers all the credit. His decision to leave also happened to dovetail with the group’s first legitimate stretch of time off in a decade.
“We toured really, really hard on the last album,” Bevan said. “From the beginning of the band until now, we’d pretty much just written, recorded, toured, written, recorded, toured. We’d really never taken a break. But taking some time off really got us feeling grateful for what it is that we do and enabled us to get excited again.”
So much so that, as the title suggests, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost — Part 1 is only the start. Foals already has announced that Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost — Part 2 is currently being mixed and is set for release later this fall.
Philippakis and guitarist Jimmy Smith brought so many new ideas into the studio last year that when the band was done fleshing them out, they were staring at 20 finished songs.
But instead of cherry picking a lion’s share of them for a single album, the decision was made to divide them evenly into two — something Bevan acknowledges wasn’t part of the original game plan.
“We never thought we were making two albums,” he said. “We just tried to record everything and had 20 finished songs at the end. And there was no way that we were going to agree on cutting it down. The tracks that would have been cut out were just too good not to make it onto a record.”
It also gave the band a chance to sequence each album in a way they haven’t been able to do before. Foals have always incorporated a multitude of styles into their music and previous albums have been forced to reconcile that or make cuts. This gave them the chance to do it without sacrifice.
“It was really important to make the second record as strong as the first,” said Bevan. “We wanted to make sure that both records stood up by themselves. We didn’t want the second one to be seen as the ‘b-sides.’ This is something we’ve never done before and it’s incredibly exciting to us to know that there’s this other record coming in six months.”
Up until that point, as well as far beyond it, Foals are back to the unfathomably busy schedule that has (almost) always defined the band. And after successfully navigating the first real speed bump of their careers, Bevan knows they wouldn’t want it any other way.
“We’re in a great place right now,” he said. “Knowing the rug could be pulled out from beneath us and it could come to an end, in a way, made us more determined than ever to do something really great. And getting back to being busy is a good thing. We’d be really worried if we weren’t busy at this point.”
When: 8 p.m. March 23
Where: Observatory North Park, 2891 University Ave, North Park
Cost: Sold out