Foster The People showcase their power to be the next psychedelic-pop parvenu ready to purloin the place MGMT once had with their break out “ Time To Pretend.” This time around the Los Angeles trio charmed indie music lovers with their psychedelic-power hit single “Pumped Up Kicks.” A melodious misleadingly but infectious tale of an unsupervised recluse on the verge of shooting up a school; “Better run, better run, outrun my gun”– oddly enough ample pop to make the perfect summer soundtrack. Undoubtedly, the ideal track to make their mark as indie hotshots.
MVRemix.com caught up with Mark Foster of Foster The People at when they passed through Montreal, Quebec on June 17, 2011 to perform live at Le National.
MVRemix: How does it feel to be the hottest indie band right now?
Mark Foster: Are we? I dunno it’s hard to get perspective on that. You know it’s funny when you’re on the outside. I watch other bands kind of rise and stuff I remember when I was struggling and serving coffee, I would put them up on this pedestal and be like man they’re living the life like, “Oh my god, it must be the most exciting thing ever and now we’re playing so much and we’re in a bus together it’s hard to get perspective on the outside world. But we’re having tons of fun playing music every night and traveling around the world. Those are things that I think any musician dreams of. So we’re very grateful to be where we’re at.
MVRemix: I was wondering how long it took to record “Torches” as a whole record.
Mark Foster: It took five months, but that was also because we worked with four different people. So we would go two weeks on with this guy and then there would be a week off, and then we’d go in with another guy for two weeks.
MVRemix: I know there’s a lot of inspiration for the album, is there one inspiration that came to the table when you were making the album?
Mark Foster: Not really. I mean something that I’ve always tried to do as a songwriter is pull from a lot of different things I grew up listening to and tie them together, really have them all work cohesively together. It’s a lot of different things; I pull from electronic artists, from Motown, from rock, 60’s Brit-pop and Beach Boys, you know just all these things – there wasn’t really one inspiration.
MVRemix: And is there a story behind the title?
Mark Foster: Yeah, I mean “Torches” is very visual, it creates a visual to me that represents the record. I mean this record is about shedding old skin and then walking into something brand new. I just get this picture of a torch and the guy walking with the torch. He put it behind him and sets this fire, and just torches this whole building, which kind of represents his past. But then he takes that same torch and lights the path of where he’s going next.
MVRemix: Great concept. I was wondering, I know people think you’ve been working on this for only a year but I’ve heard you mention that it’s been way more than that, so when you listen to it do you still feel that maybe I (you) could change this or tweak this?
Mark Foster: Yeah all the time. Yeah, it was hard to finish. I drove every producer crazy in the studio. They were like, “This sounds great!” “No, no, this needs to come down a db, can we pan this a little harder left?”
MVRemix: If you had to sell the album on one track which one would it be and could you tell us a little about that track?
Mark Foster: Mmmm… I’d say “Houdini”. I think “Houdini” it represents a lot of the different elements that are on the record but it’s just one song. And it has them all in just that one song. I just love that song. There’s power behind it. There’s also a lot of heart behind it and at the end when it changes it gets super soulful, Earth, Wind and Fire harmonies come in and it just feels good. There’s horns on it and just makes me dance!
MVRemix: I want to talk about your infectious hit, “Pumped Up Kicks”, maybe some teenagers can relate to the message behind the song but I was wondering if your eighteen year old self could indentify with the album and the band you are today?
Mark Foster: Yeah definitely. I think that it’s a very youthful record and I think “Pumped Up Kicks” is a really youthful sound. It’s something that you don’t need to listen to the lyrics to fall in love with the song, but if you do listen to the lyrics it’s a poem. It’s not bubble gum pop lyrics and I think it’s thought provoking. I think there’s something in that song for everybody. The older generation there’s something nostalgic about it, it’s got a 60’s feel. But then there’s something also very modern about it that I think kids, younger people relate to.
MVRemix: I know you spent a lot of time with this record and put your heart into it, so what has it meant to you on a personal level?
Mark Foster: I think the theme for the record is the underdog. I think a lot of the songs take stories from other people’s lives and some of them are autobiographical, but it’s a very adversarial record where there is always kind of something oppressing you and then you are always pushing up against it and rising above it.
MVRemix: I’ve seen one of your interviews, you were telling one of the interviewers about your past jobs and I know you did some jingles. I was wondering if you weren’t writing music and playing music what do you think you would be doing?
Mark Foster: Ahh… I dunno. [chuckles] I’ve thought about that. There’s a moment where I wanted to give up everything and just be travel around the world and play guitar on the streets for change, but I guess I’d still be doing music. Probably something artistic. I was way into photography when I was younger and I still am. And graphic arts and writing. I’m a big movie head, I love film. So something in the art field somewhere.
MVRemix: Now I know you like Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys and I was wondering is there one song out there that you wish you had written and is it one of theirs?
Mark Foster: Yeah… if there was one song that I wish I had written I’d say it would have to be “I Am The Walrus” by the Beatles and if there was a song right underneath that it would probably be “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys.
MVRemix: Is there one thing you don’t leave L.A. without when you go on tour?
Mark Foster: Uhhh … [long pause]
MVRemix: Special item? I’ve gotten hot sauce before…
Mark Foster: Cubby needs hot sauce wherever he goes. For me I’m all about baby powder. That’s my secret. I won’t tell you how to use it though…
MVRemix: What is your favourite song to play live and is there any song that you are starting to get tired of?
Mark Foster: Um no not really, we’re still having a blast. Favorite song to play live? I think “Helena Beat”. I have a lot of fun playing “Helena Beat”.
MVRemix: What would you say is the highlight of your career so far?
Mark Foster: [ponders] This might sound really small, like honestly for me to say this, but being able to travel to Europe and come here and go to Australia based on playing music, that is the biggest thing to me. I’ve been in L.A. for almost nine years now and I’m pursuing music and there’s so much time where I was like my twenties could pass me and I still haven’t seen the rest of the world because I’m here just focusing on trying to have a career in music. So to play music and have it be our vehicle to take us around the world. That is the biggest thing to me.
MVRemix: And I’ve heard you say it was surreal to play your live songs overseas…
Mark Foster: And have people know them…
MVRemix: Yeah and singing along…
Mark Foster: Yeah, yeah. We were in Amsterdam like a month and a half ago and I don’t even know if it was that long ago actually – there was like 500 kids in a room going bonkers. They knew the lyrics, they were singing along, they were crowd surfing and we’ve never been to Amsterdam. I don’t even think we play on the radio there. I’m just like how do you guys…this is just insane!
MVRemix: I know it has been a while but has it set in yet, do you feel like wow I’m up there?
Mark Foster: No it still hasn’t really. It’s funny I’m always thinking of our whole career and I want to have a long career – so I’m already thinking of the second record. I think if the second record is awesome and we’re all really proud of it and feel good about that’s when I’ll be able to relax a bit but right now I feel like we’re proving ourselves every day.
MVRemix: Are you guys going to write on tour?
Mark Foster: Yeah I brought my studio with me on this tour, yeah definitely.
MVRemix: Where do you see yourself and the band in ten years from now?
Mark Foster: In ten years from now hopefully we’re working on our forth or fifth record and having the time of our lives still loving what we’re doing and not scratching each other’s eyes out when we see each other.