As is obvious in the following interview, Edwin Congreave, a former Oxford University student (Language and Literature) and current keyboardist for UK five-piece Foals, is smart, self-deprecatingly wry and what we would call a “jolly good chap”. We caught up with Congreave and talked about what “the dream of an eagle dying” sounds like, homoerotic cabin fever and London assumptions (Nobody in London dislikes the artful dodger).
What are Foals up to now? How’s the Sophomore LP coming along? Pretty slowly. The rest of the boys are still in the studio in Sweden…for one more week. Then the record gets mixed. I’m closing my eyes, clenching my toes, and waiting to hear it when I get back. It’ll either sound like the dream of an eagle dying… or the dream of our ego’s dying.
You’ve said recording feels like ‘that feeling on a ship after months at sea when you figure you may as well start having sex with each other.’ Has it come to that yet? Walter and Jimmy have a fairly close relationship. Lots of nudges and shared body odor. Walter is married now as well, so naturally he needs to find some sort of immoral release. But really, the accommodation in the studio is very ship-like, and there wasn’t much estrogen in the atmosphere, so… you know.
You studied Language and Literature at Oxford and judging from your blog posts alone you have quite a flair for the written word. Have you ever considered a career as a writer and what do you read? I have considered it, but never in a positive way. I am a lazy perfectionist, so I never finish or even really start anything.Â And the band allowed me to get away from that sort of half-assed aspiration. I mostly just read newspapers nowadays. It wasn’t their fault, but Oxford ruined my reading. Maybe one day I will go back to it with some worldly wisdom.
Sydney born Dave Ma has a lot to do with the visual representation of Foals. How did you guys meet him and what are your impressions of his work. Are film clips a collaborative process? He stalked us for a while when we were too young and naive to question it. I think he thought we were the new Shellac or something. Now we pay him enough from the corporate coffers to keep him interested. He is actually one of about two or three people who have been with us since before we got signed, and now his company is like a balm on our emotional sores… really, he’s inspirational. Compulsive positivity and creativity. His videos were collaborative to the extent that Yannis would suggest various ideas and themes and Dave would go with them, but they’re very much his own, and I think anyone can now see looking at his more recent videos (Delphic, Lost Valentinos, The Horrors) that he’s made a world all of his own.
What has been your craziest experience playing live? Various death-defying stage invasions. Once during a house party I genuinely thought the floor was going to collapse as it was beginning to buckle. Jimmy once stage-dived onto the floor from a considerable height. Yannis took to abseiling from stage rigging. I have blocked out a lot of memories from the last two years… bad times. Oh, the time Jimmy vomited all over my clothes that I’d dumped on the side of the stage. The crowd were into it, anyway.
What’s the worst and best part about touring? The worst is the all-enveloping boredom, creeping social apathy, and relentless self-abuse. the best is the feeling after playing a good show. better than any drug. that’s part of the problem actually–the institutional mood-swings.
How’d you get into Dj-ing? Was it something you did before Foals? Kind of, in a very amateur sense. Since I went to University I’ve been more into dance music than what people might consider indie music. And the band allows me to DJ more. I’ve opened up a lot since that. I used to be almost religiously into deep house and minimal, and some of the newer techy dubstep sounds, none of which goes down very well with our fans, so I’ve grown up a fair amount. the discipline of playing stuff that the kids are into is a good one and a productive one, and I’m a much more well-rounded person.
So what kind of stuff do you play when you DJ? It depends… I like a lot of disco and eighties pop, and generally most things with a house feel. As I said my heart lies in deep house. But I love playing the harder stuff. And any excuse to whip out some late nineties garage is good with me. Usually any time I play in London. Nobody in London dislikes the artful dodger.
Do you prefer Dj-ing or playing live? And for you, what are the main differences between them process wise? In the band I sit back a bit and leave the presentation to the more remarkable members of the band. I could play a show sitting down with a hat on and few people would notice. That’s not a bad thing. Sometimes I’m feel weirdly privileged just to sit in and be a part of it. that sounds awfully cheesy… but it’s true. Whereas with djing… it’s all me, even if it’s not as emotionally challenging or fulfilling and I love the music and generally the excitement of it all.
Do you have any pet peeves as a DJ concerning punter/organizers? Promoters who don’t even go to the venue when I’m playing. Punters who ask for drum and bass (which, sure, i like, but not straight after a David Bowie tune…). I’m generally pretty down on the smaller towns in the UK where people are unenthusiastic and often downright hostile to a DJ playing a tune that they didn’t first hear about five years ago. But it’s arguably my responsibility to cater to that taste, and I’m learning…
What’s your policy on playing your own tracks? If our music was more club-friendly then I’d play it more often. Most of the tempos are 140bpm+ which makes them fairly impossible to mix cleanly, and… I know most people don’t care about that, but yeah. We had a couple of remixes that I like, and I play them pretty regularly. Being precious about it doesn’t impress anyone. The new record has some more house and disco friendly tempos and will I think generally be a lot easier and more exciting to play out. I’m also keen to do some edits of my own this time round.
What track should be outlawed from all clubs? In my old age I’m becoming extremely open-minded, probably to a fault, and so… I don’t know. Anything that gets a reaction is generally fine by me. But that Soulwax remix of MGMT should be given a few decades’ rest i think. I love Soulwax, and I like MGMT, but… no, no more.Â
What’s the last Record you bought? I bought the new Flaming Lips, Health and the very best’s records before I flew out here. Actually i still haven’t listened to them. Health are the best though. And I’ve heard the Flaming Lips record is the best since the Soft Bulletin, which I’m still not bored of.
What’s the first record that blew your mind? OK Computer. Stock response for my age group I think. I’d been into Blur and a lot of hand-me-down brit pop from my sister, but Radiohead provided the first record for me to sit for hours with headphones on just getting, uh, deep. I now prefer Kid A.
Yannis has said that you never played keyboards prior to joining the band. Is that true and if so how did you learn so quickly? Does this make your songwriting process more intuitive? Hah. Good question. I think I learnt really slowly. I’m still learning, really slowly. I don’t find it at all intuitive. I have to work reactively to the real songwriters in the band, which can be hard, particularly as the options with synths are limitless but the room in the songs is often extremely limited.Â
What would you be doing if you weren’t in Foals? Well….I was just getting kegged this morning with T Sull and Dundogg down Mooloolaba, so i would have to say a salty surfing sea dog.
What was it like working with Dave Sitek? He changed our approach to music- basically making us a lot more excited, excitable, and laid-back but he wasn’t exactly a soulmate. At least not for some of us. And for a Producer he was remarkably absent from the process. But, you know, it was a time and a place. Er, that’s about as positive as I’m going to be. We had to remix what was essentially an unfinished record, and that’s the only thing that’s actually going to survive the experience – not the good times, or the awakening.
What do you do in your downtime, do you have any hobbies?Â
uh. djing? wait, no. eating. writing postcards. surfing. urban vibes. amateur astronomy.
Tonight (Friday 30th October) Brisbane and quite possibly Australia’s best club night Lickit celebrates three years of existence. The party will be held at their spiritual home, Empire Night Club, and will feature Edwin under Foals DJs as well as Feadz, Knife Machine, Mercy Arms DJs, Fashion Launches Rocket Launches (live), Last Dinosaurs (live), Jimmy 2 Sox, Ladyboy, Tim Fuchs, Wolfgang DJs, Charlie Why, Eames and Golden Girls.