Lead by the witty yet wiry-thin songwriter and synth addict Mark Foster, Foster The People are young, boisterous and responsible for the infectious track “Pumped Up Kicks,” that is now on KROQ’s Top 10 Most Played lists and fast becoming one of 2011’s summer anthems.
While KROQ’s Nicole Alvarez interviewed frontman Foster last month in the back of KROQ, we followed up with them as they kicked off their national tour – already sold out in most major cities – on March 8th at Soho in Santa Barbara.
As the live set now boasts 5 people, we chatted with the original three: Mark Foster, drummer Mark Pontius, and bassist Cubbie Fink about their much-anticipated album, Torches, due out May 24th and snapped some live shots of their energetic, gear-heavy live show.
Our main take-away? Their live-set ‘fosters’ a fun, fist-pumping dance party, (during “Pumped Up Kicks” they had the crowd singing along.) But underneath Foster The People’s jolly, synth-pop exterior, the band members have depth and wit. They’ve also managed to retain modesty and refreshing down-to-earth laid back humor despite the crazy track their lives have taken since the band formed October 2009.
So listen close to the lyrics of “Pumped Up Kicks,” and read the interview below, and you’ll realize there’s more to FTP than meets the eye….And be sure to check ’em out at SXSW, Coachella, or outside of Cali, in a city near you!
KROQ: You are soon releasing your first full-length album on May 24th. What’s your favorite track?
Mark Pontius: A track called “Call it What you Want.” It’s the one we did with Paul Epworth (producer of Bloc Party, Adele and Cee-Lo Green.)
[pullquote quote=”The music is fresh, but at the same time it has a weird familiarity.” credit=”Cubbie”]Cubbie: Me too. But the cool thing about that album is I think it really represents who we are as a band. We all have very eclectic music tastes and have spent our lives exploring different genres. In a lot of ways, the music is fresh, but at the same time it has a weird familiarity; it feels like you’ve heard it before because it’s pulling from some many different places.
KROQ: You are often compared to label-mates MGMT, Phoenix, Peter, Bjorn & John, etc. How does that feel?
Mark Foster: (slightly rolls his eyes) I mean, it’s awesome but when you are a new face, you fall under whoever was before you. But next year, people will be comparing another new band to Foster The People.
KROQ: Where there any unexpected muses then musically for the album?
Foster: Aphex Twin. A lot of my programming chops come from growing up on Aphex Twin. As for the other stuff? There’s a lot of soul, a lot of Motown. A lot of influence from Brian Wilson. I’ve lived a lifetime of listening to music. When I write songs, it’s pulling from bits and pieces of whatever is floating around
KROQ: When was the first time you heard “Pumped Up Kicks” on the radio? And how did it feel.
Foster: Two months ago, on the way to the rehearsal, we heard “Pumped Up Kicks” playing on the KROQ. It was cool because the DJ talked about it afterwards, saying “This is my favorite song on KROQ right now.” It was wild. (He grins wide.)
KROQ: The beat in “Pumped Up Kicks” is almost misleadingly uplifting – while the lyrics are surprisingly morbid. Is that a typical song-writing trait of yours?
Mark Foster. I wrote the music first. So that is probably why the music and the lyrics have their own identity. But there’s definite irony. I like to undercut the music with something that is ironically opposite. With music, you can communicate different layers of a story depending on where the music and the melody go. You put a certain melody under a certain word; you can make that word mean a million different things.
KROQ: But the lyrics about a kid with a 6-shooter gun walking into school is surprisingly dark territory……especially for a pop song. Is this an issue you feel close to?
[pullquote quote=”To me the epidemic isn’t gun violence; the epidemic is lack of family.” credit=”Foster”]FOSTER: I kind of wrote the song to bring awareness to the issue. That sort of thing keeps happening more and more in our country; it’s kind of turning into an epidemic. To me the epidemic isn’t gun violence; the epidemic is lack of family, lack of love, and isolation – kids who don’t have anywhere to go or anyone to talk to and that’s what makes them snap.
When a 13 or 14-year-old kid brings a gun to school and does something, sure, you blame them for making that choice….. But at the end of the day, he or she is still just a kid and there’s a lot of other things that led up that moment that should have changed.
KROQ: Any band you would personally like to see do a remix of your tracks? I was thinking Cut Copy for instance would be dope.
[pullquote quote=”We are going to bungee jump from a hot air balloon, then cut our own chords and drop onstage.” credit=”Foster”]Foster: Funny, actually, Cut Copy is working on a remix now! But for me, it’d be Justice or Simian Mobile Disco. Anything they do is so musical and so insane. It would be so fun to see what they do for us.
KROQ: Finally, we are all stoked to see you at Coachella. Any surprises in store? You gonna walk onstage with Kanye or something?
Foster: (laughs sarcastically) Yeah. Actually we are going to bungee jump from a hot air balloon, then cut our own chords and drop onstage. We’ve been practicing it.
No seriously, it’s gonna be amazing. We were there just last year hanging around. Now we are performing! It’s just crazy; I think about last year and it feels like a decade ago.
LIVE: FOSTER THE PEOPLE
SOHO MUSIC HALL, SANTA BARBARA, CA (March 8th, 2011)
Get more with Foster The People. Watch Nicole Alvarez’ interview.