Yannis Philippakis has paid close attention to how British media has characterized his brainy Oxford ensemble Foals, from its humble 2005 inception to arena-headlining, award-winning juggernaut (on tour promoting the new fourth album “What Went Down”). He’s found the coverage wanting: “In our early days, the press presented us as nerdy math-rockers, whereas now, I’m some ‘hard-partying rock animal’ just because I’ve said certain things in interviews. They seem to forget that they were calling you a nerd only a couple of years ago.”
You have grown as a performer, to the point where you’re pretty much fearless now.
Yeah. And I think the difference between who I am at home and who I am onstage has increased over the years. But all the performers I like are the ones who transform onstage, whether it’s aided by a persona, a way of dressing, or just being in your own skin, visually.
And you have pre-concert rituals for achieving this, like vodka and Red Bull?
Yeah. Essentially just drinking, which allows for this sort of British bit of my personality to go away – this reserved, slightly self-conscious aspect of me sort of fades into the background, and the exclamation point of my personality comes into the foreground. So obviously, alcohol helps me to achieve that.
That’s when your compulsion to stage dive kicks in?
Yeah. But the thing that keeps the band exciting is the fact that we chase this moment onstage where – when you get it, and it’s entirely electric – you forget everything, even the co-ordinates of your body. So I end up stage diving and balcony jumping, because it takes the show to a heightened level of unpredictability and volatility.
In Charlotte, N.C. on your last U.S. tour, you wound up getting into a friendly bare-knuckled boxing match with a stranger outside a bar.
It wasn’t like an aggro chippie fight. I feel a lot more masculine onstage than I do just walking down the street. So the Charlotte thing was not really being able to switch off after the show, then needing to release that energy in a fun way. It felt like something stupid that Hemingway would do, so I don’t feel guilty about it.
How long does it take you to decompress and curl up with a good book?
A week or so after touring. And I can’t read until I’m back home in London. I’m at home at the moment, and I’ve been reading a bit. But I’ve also been scrubbing the bathtub with bleach. And I don’t even recognize who that person is, but I’m enjoying doing all these domestic things, you know?
IF YOU GO
Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 26