The funkiest Greek boy to burst out of Britain since George Michael, Yannis Philippakis and his Foals band mates have taken their high-energy live show round the world this year.
Since launching their third album, Holy Fire, in February soon after playing the Big Day Out in Australia, the Oxford five-piece have played gigs in South America, Europe and the UK, plus two long tours of the US.
Chatting in the decided non-funky location of Oklahoma 12 weeks into the latest epic journey, Philippakis says the band has been jamming in concert to keep well-worn songs fresh.
“I think one of the main enemies of a touring band is complacency and repetition creeping in,” the forthright 27-year-old says.
“You start to crave doing the same set because you know it but that can really start to suck the life out of the show and out of the tour in general. It can become mechanical.”
Watching footage of their performances in the US, and particularly at European festivals, it’s clear that Foals, who kick off a seven-date Australian tour in Perth this month, are anything but complacent.
The success of Holy Fire — their third UK Top 10 album, a No. 1 in Australia and a Mercury Prize nominee this week — has taken their spring-loaded hooks further towards the top of festival bills.
Glastonbury was a highlight for the band but the pinnacle of touring in 2013 came when Foals headlined the final day of the Latitude Festival in Suffolk, England, two months ago.
“There’s a different type of energy that happens when you’re playing to more than 30,000 people,” Philippakis says. “You feel like a conjurer wielding these crazy potions over all these people.
“Playing festivals is changing the parameter of what the band is about,” he adds. “If this happened on the first record (2008’s Antidotes) I don’t think we would’ve been ready for it and I don’t think it would’ve been deserved. It wouldn’t fit. We’re at that stage now where the sound craves that environment more.
“We can still play small and sweaty clubs and have an awesome time, but maybe it’s both a sonic and psychological thing, the band just feels like it should operate in that environment.”
If you hadn’t already guessed, Foals are an ambitious band, whether playing to big crowds in English fields or enlisting top- shelf directors for their envelope-pushing videos.
The band’s last two singles, Late Night and Bad Habit, have come with eye- popping clips made with Australian- raised director Nabil Elderkin, who made his name working with Kanye West and has made videos for Frank Ocean, Bon Iver and Antony and the Johnsons.
The Karpathos-born Philippakis jokes that he convinced Elderkin with a bit of home cooking.
“I got in touch with him and bribed him with spanakopita, because he’s a total sucker for Greek food,” he says. “I fed him up on that and made him promise to do videos for us at a cheap rate.”
The clip for Bad Habit sees a dehydrated Philippakis stumbling through the desert after a beautiful girl who just happens to be completely naked. “She was all right about it,” he says of the video, shot in the Nevada dessert.
“She didn’t put any sunscreen on or anything. She’s a rapper actually. She was free-styling at me on top of these dunes while she was naked.”
While Philippakis reckons releasing four singles from Holy Fire is enough, he’s excited about a recently unveiled remix EP. The release sees Tom Vek, Friendly Fires, Hot Chip and others tackle their favourite Holy Fire track.
“We are friends with all of those people,” he says. “I’ve known Orlando (Higginbottom, aka Oxford electronic DJ/producer Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs) for 10 years plus. He used to not pass me the bottle of scotch at these house parties we used to go to together.
“He was part of the cool drum’n’bass crowd and I was one of the metal kids,” Philippakis laughs.
“We used to glare at each other across the room.”Foals play Metro City on September 22. Tickets from Oztix.