Creative intent: Foals singer on ambition and protecting core beliefs
In the final Guinness film following the release of John Hammond - Intolerant Champion ad, lead singer with Foals, Yannis Philippakis, reflects on how the hunger and ambition within the music of his heroes encourages him to stick to his core beliefs
Foals are a band that have never been afraid to take risks - from their early days in Oxford they have always sought to do things their own way. It’s no surprise then that lead singer Yannis Philippakis would see connections between their world view and that of John Hammond, the 1930s jazz promoter at the centre of the latest Guinness ad. Capturing Hammond’s pursuit of inclusivity and celebration, the ad documents a life in music that broke boundaries and made a difference.
In the accompanying film featuring Yannis Philippakis and his band Foals, we see the same pursuit of meaning, a band that have always fought for their principles and that prioritised the things that matter in music. Following on from films featuring Rudimental, Lady Leshurr and Lianne La Havas, this is the fourth in a series of short documentaries that allow audiences to make connections with John Hammond that might otherwise have been overlooked.
The story Philippakis tells of ambition and belief in music, brings life to the monochrome multi-storey car park in the opening scenes, stuffing atmosphere and meaning into this bland backdrop. He speaks of music with a vigour and fluency that others struggle with. He talks about the need for a lack of cowardice - how music needs to be fearless, hungry, greedy even.
Born of a South African mother and Greek father, he’s a singer known for being unafraid of opinion. It’s refreshing still to hear him talk about his own career and that of his band mates where he takes pride in how they haven’t been led astray and that their enthusiasm hasn’t changed from their early days. Described variously as a mixture of techno, Afrobeats, post-punk and more, they have the ability to project new sounds on every album, constantly changing and absorbing their experience.
Philippakis reflects on how using that same desire to mix and match the world around him, Hammond changed 20th century culture through music and, looking wider to other musicians he admires, he can see a common thread: the core intent of songs from his favoured musicians are the same, but from record to record the presentation can be wildly different. The ambition, the hunger within that creativity is inspiring for him, he says.
In Yannis Philippakis’s opinion, that’s what matters with music - it’s not so much about the sound that comes out of the speakers, as the intent behind it. In his mind this is the defining factor that has enabled Foals to be around after so many years, he says. John Hammond would be happy to hear his sincerity around his musical lifespan since his own message stills resonates many decades later, fusing ambition and a touch of the wild long after his death. At the end of the Foals film a John Hammond quote appears: “I always want a true original, because there are not many in the world.” Little did he know that his message would still resonate all these years later.
See the Foals film and the John Hammond Guinness ad Intolerant Champion at GUINNESS.com #MadeOfMore