Foster The People
Lying beneath the shimmering melody of Pumped Up Kicks is an arresting account of a deeply disturbing societal crisis. Various interpretations have been applied to Foster The People's massive hit - most of which concern a deranged homicidal teenager, sociopaths projecting themselves into imaginary notions, reckless revenge, and an attack on our trend-driven culture - but the LA synth-pop band's vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist, Mark Foster, is quick to specify the song's key message. "When I wrote that song, I was feeling burdened by how American youth have become more violent and more isolated and desensitised," Foster expresses. "I wanted to tell that story, but as an artist, the more interesting song is the story of the kid that loses his mind... like what Truman Capote did with In Cold Blood .
"Maybe deep down, I wanted to bring awareness to it in a way, too," the frontman ponders, "because I think there are some very serious things that need to be talked about, as it pertains to kids that aren't even old enough to have a license, you know. They're not even old enough to drive a car and they're making very insane decisions. There's something wrong there - I think there's a lack of love in our culture and people need to work on trying to restore that."
Pumped Up Kicks reached number 32 on Triple J's Hottest 100 - an amazing feat considering that Foster The People have only released a three-track EP in their short but burgeoning music career. "It's just amazing - if I were to show you the session of that song before it was filled out with the background vocals and the chorus, you'd be appalled," Foster declares, self-deprecatingly.
"I mean, it was so rough," he chuckles, "and out of tune. When I wrote that song as a demo, I was kind of just making it for myself and for it to be number 32 in the world's largest music poll to be voted by people and be played around the world, it's really cool, you know... I never thought that it would go that far."
Although the band formed in October of 2009, Foster had been writing and producing songs for several years. "The bass player Cubbie [Fink] used to have poker nights at his house every week and we'd play poker together and hang out," he explains of their first meetings. "We were working on different projects at the time. The drummer [Mark Pontius] and I had been playing together casually, and he was in another band as well. I think probably a year or two after we met, we quit our things and started Foster The People. We knew right away that it felt really good."
The three songs on the band's self-titled debut EP - Houdini, Pumped Up Kicks and Helena Beat - were all written in the last year.
Foster upholds Brian Wilson, Aphex Twin, New Order, David Byrne and Kurt Cobain as benchmarks in songwriting. "Brian Wilson has had a big influence on me as a songwriter," he avows. "The Beach Boys were the first band that I heard when I was a little kid that really sparked something in me. I remember just riding in the car with my parents and I Get Around came on the radio and it just resonated. And Kurt Cobain... as a songwriter, I think that's how I learned to write a song because he writes such simple songs but his melodies - just the way the song makes you feel is so profound."
With their infectious self-titled EP, Foster The People have already caught the attention of luminaries such as Mark Ronson, who expressed his love of the band through Twitter. "I never thought that I'd make music that would get on Mark Ronson's radar," Foster chuckles. "That guy's so incredibly talented. Honestly, it's really humbling - everybody in the band has gone through the grime of everyday life; struggling and just working really hard at restaurants to pay the rent and just paying our dues. It's just really cool to be given the chance to be able to make music and do what you love to do. I wished that everybody could get that chance."
Having descended on our shores to play headline shows at The Northcote Social Club, Australian fans will be one of the first to hear songs from the band's forthcoming full-length record. Foster The People are aiming to have their debut album released in June. "We spent about four months working on the record and we did it in a way that's not completely conventional," Foster explains.
"We worked with four different producers on the record and kind of delegated a couple of songs to each of them. We did some of it in London with Paul Epworth (Bloc Party, Maxïmo Park, Florence And The Machine) and we did about half of it with [The Bird And The Bee's] Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen, The Flaming Lips, Sia), and some with Rich Costey (Muse, Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, The Mars Volta) and Tony Hoffer (Beck, Phoenix, The Kooks).
"They're just guys that are really amazing at what they do," Foster asserts. "It was a really cool experience to be able to work with guys that are on that level. We got to work in studios that bands like The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra and Elvis recorded in. And we got to work with producers that were our heroes, people that were untouchable in our minds. That was super-rewarding."
Furthermore, Foster The People have become regulars at California's iconic Viper Room. "The last time we played at the Viper Room was my birthday last year," Foster enthuses, "and it was the first show that we played where a club was completely filled. That was really, really special - it was a milestone.
"We just finished these residencies in LA and Orange County," Foster relates, "and the two weeks we played in Baltimore were at capacity and there were 200/300 people in line outside. There's something so carnal about playing live in front of people. It's an ancient thing; it's like in the medieval times and even before that - you had the minstrel that would ride a horse from town to town and tour with some sort of a stringed instrument or harp. And the minstrel would go in the middle of the town and he would sing and the people in the town would come out. And I think that musicians are the modern day minstrels that are travelling around the world, bringing our music to people... there's something so cool and fulfilling about that."
FOSTER THE PEOPLE will be getting carnal twice at The Northcote Social Club this week - tonight Wednesday February 16 (sold out) and Thursday February 17 (tickets from 9486 1677, The Corner box office and northcotesocialclub.com). Their Foster The People EP is out now.