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Jimmy Smith of Foals on brotherly love and What Went Down

The English rock band performs Oct. 28 at Voodoo



Since the August 2015 release of What Went Down, the powerful and accessible fourth album from Foals, the band from Oxford, En-gland has enjoyed 14 months of chart success, awards and touring.

  Foals' taping earlier this month for an upcoming episode of Austin City Limits is another sign of the band's expanding popularity. The group filmed its ACL appearance during a 21-date North American tour that includes an appearance Friday at the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience.

  "Yeah, we can't wait," guitarist-keyboardist Jimmy Smith said by phone from Austin a few hours before the ACL shoot. "Halloween in New Orleans is going to be quite something. We should prepare ourselves."

  The Voodoo gig is Foals' second show in New Orleans.

  "We had a really, really good time last time we were there," he says. "At one point, we were even considering recording What Went Down in New Orleans."

  Ultimately, Foals recorded What Went Down in a rural 19th-century mill in the south of France. Producer James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Flo-rence & the Machine, Mumford & Sons) helped craft an album of propulsive music. There's the passionate title song, featuring Yannis Philippakis' high chant vocals and driving, staccato, U2-meets-Joy Division instrumentation. "Mountain at My Gates," danceable in a '90s Brit-pop way, likewise is urgent and explosive. And Foals takes quite another direction with the devastating breakup song, "Give It All."

  What Went Down is the best-reviewed album of Foals' career, but Smith is reluctant to say it's the band's best album.

  "It's weird with albums," he says. "They sort of feel like offspring. If I say What Went Down is the best one, I'll start feeling sorry for the other ones. Especially the first one (2008's Antidotes). We were young and naive when we made that one, but we still love it."

  But Smith concedes What Went Down really is the best of the lot, and he sees it as a continuation of its predecessor, 2013's Holy Fire. "They're sort of like brother and sister," Smith says.

  Holy Fire, featuring the sprightly and infectious "My Number," repre-sented a major change for the band. Foals veered from intricate, irregular math-rock tendencies to a more lucid sound.

  "Holy Fire was our attempt at making an absolute modern-rock record," Smith says. "I'm terrible at describing any kind of music, let alone our own, but we pushed ourselves. We're always trying to find the balance between explorative music and music that connects with a wider audience."

  Foals is poised for more exploration.

  "Whatever we were up to with those two albums, it got us to a really good position," Smith says. "Now we can change the rule book."

  Something Foals will not do next time is step directly from the road to the studio, as it did for What Went Down. Following its late 2016 tour in the U.S. and South America and November shows in Hong Kong and Singapore, the band will take a six-month pause.

  "We really enjoyed doing another album so quickly last time, but for our sanity we need to have a more of a break, especially from the touring," Smith says.

  Remarkably, membership in Foals has remained unchanged for 10 of the band's 11 years of existence.

  "We're right and wrong for each other, really," Smith says. "It's quite odd. If I was in a room with 100 people, and these guys were there, I don't know if I would choose them as friends. But they are, obviously, now my best friends. They're my brothers and I love them all dearly. Maybe because our characters are all so different, it keeps being exciting. We learn new stuff about each other and about music every day we're on the road or in the studio."

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