Pumped up for Manila: Q&A with Foster the People

The indie-pop trio chatted with the press before their highly energized concert last October 6.


(SPOT.ph)
As it turns out, Mark Foster, frontman of Los Angeles indie-pop trio Foster the People, is no stranger to the Philippines. During the group's press conference at EDSA Shangri-La Hotel's E's Bar on October 6, the 28-year-old singer-songwriter made it a point to share how he's the third-generation Foster to visit the country. "Let me say one more thing. I'm so excited to be here right now. My grandfather lived here for a few years in the '40s; my dad lived here a couple of years in the '70s. I'm the third-generation Foster to come here to the Philippines. It's so cool to be here with you guys," said the falsetto-singing artist. Foster even took time to read an e-mail from his father in front of the press.  He was told to visit Baguio City, where his father stayed while serving the Peace Corps, and the Hundred Islands National Park for Scuba diving.

The hit act also got good word from their friends from Maroon 5: "The guitar player from Maroon 5 texted me about a few weeks ago, and he said he saw posters of us. I guess they just played here. I asked him what the vibe was like, and he said everybody can sing on pitch, the whole crowd sings along and they all sound amazing," Foster added.

Formed in 2009 by Foster, along with bass player Cubbie Fink and drummer Mark Pontius, Foster the People released their first album titled Torches in 2011. Their first single, "Pumped Up Kicks," quickly became an international success making the band one of today's hottest acts. This year alone, they scored two Grammy nominations for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for the same single and Best Alternative Album for Torches. Foster the People also received five nominations in the 2012 Billboard Music Awards, where they won the Top Rock Song award for "Pumped Up Kicks." During the press conference, the trio received a Gold Record award from Ivory Music Philippines. Expect their new album to drop late spring or early summer.

SPOT.ph fills you in on all things Foster the People. Read on to find out about their musical influences, creative process, and more!

 

 

Who are your music influences?

We all grew up listening to a lot of different kinds of music. You know, anywhere from electronic to rock and roll, bluegrass, country. Our influence comes from all over the place. I think our favorite bands are bands are bands that didn't really stick to one genre but formed from a lot of different places. So, our influence is long and wide.

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Your songs sound upbeat, but the lyrics can be dark like in "Pumped Up Kicks." Can you tell us more about your album Torches and this song?

I like to write joyful music and melodies, but then when it comes to writing lyrics, another side comes out. They're not always connected, but I think it adds depth to songwriting. A happy song with happy lyrics is boring.

"Pumped Up Kicks" is a pretty violent song. It's about American youth and how disconnected kids have become over the last 10 years. I’ve noticed how growing up when we were kids is so different from growing up now. I remember growing up, kids being cliquish and, you know, if you’re not wearing the right brand of clothing or the right style of shoes, then you’re not cool. But I think now it’s probably times a hundred and it's even worse, because you have nine year olds walking around in Marc Jacobs. "Pumped Up Kicks" is really about a kid that’s an outcast, that doesn’t really wear the right clothes, doesn’t really fit into culture, and he starts to lose his mind. It was written from a really pathetic place, a sad place. I feel like kids these days a lot of times don’t really get to have a real childhood. They grow up so fast.


You rose to fame right after the release of "Pumped Up Kicks." How different are your lives now?

We've got a lot more friends now. (laughs) It changed in a lot of ways. In the beginning, we weren’t quite expecting everything to happen so fast. We’re happy about what we’re doing and we’re working hard, so it’s good.

 

 

To Mark Foster: You wrote a song for the Frankenweenie soundtrack. Would you say that your solo sound is different from the band's sound?

Yeah definitely. I mean there are similarities obviously, I think. It's just that my writing style is my writing style. But what we do in the band is obviously different from what we do individually. Us together in a room, we kind of create a whole different personality, like we're a whole different person.


Tell us more about the song "Houdini."

"Houdini" is really about not being afraid to do what you know you are meant to do in the world. In the stage of knowing what your calling is comes a lot of fear. It's kind of a pep talk to myself just saying to focus on my ability and for other people to focus on their abilities. If you focus on what you’re good at, that's going to get you from point A to point B. You don’t let fear get in the way. In the song there's a line, "sometimes I wanna disappear." I think the trick is to not let yourself disappear. Just keep running the race.

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How do you feel about releasing an online album?

I remember one of my favorite memories with music is going to a CD store or a record store to look, and you see on the walls when new albums will come out. You just kind of look around and see what other albums you randomly pick up, and there’s something you’re holding out. I like that, but yeah I don’t think we’re going backwards. I think that music is probably going to be all online. I don’t even know if people will buy CDs anymore. I feel like in the near future, it’s just going to be all subscriptions to whatever you want.


What goes on in your heads when you hear other musicians, like Bono of U2, say that they love your music?

I think it's really validating. It's the hardest thing especially for a new artist. When we first came out, I think we were all a little bit nervous about how people are going to receive our music. You just don't know when you're releasing a record... We were nervous, you know, in a good way. We didn't know how it was going to be received and if people were going to get it. Getting validated by people who have been in the business for a long time-saying that they love our music or they love our record or it's their favorite record of the year or whatever-is a really good feeling.


To Mark Foster: Describe your creative process when writing a song? What keeps you going and inspired?

For myself, I find that experiences in life-[I] just try to do as many different things as I can and open up my eyes whether it's traveling, meeting people, staying social, or reading the news. Just kind of being positive, letting everything around the world come in, and be in touch with everything that's happening with the world and with people. It's kind of like the artistic well if it's filled up over time. When I go to the studio to write a song, music is always the first thing that comes out before lyrics. I never really go into the studio saying, "I want to write a song about this." I have a subject, I write the music first, and I start recording and put down lyrics. A lot of times, the words are gibberish, but then every once in a while, there are certain words that will pop out. It's almost like tapping into the source, whatever it is. It's something intangible that makes its way out.

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Mark Foster and Foster the People's final message:

Let me say one more thing. I'm so excited to be here right now. My grandfather lived here for a few years in the '40s; my dad lived here a couple of years in the '70s. I'm the third-generation Foster to come here to the Philippines. It's so cool to be here with you guys. Thank you so much for having us. We have fans on Twitter and Facebook from the Philippines just writing to us all the time. It's so great to be able to finally be here and play a show...

We're stoked to be here. The guitar player from Maroon 5 texted me about a few weeks ago, and he said he saw posters of us. I guess they just played here. I asked him what the vibe was like, and he said everybody can sing on pitch, the whole crowd sings along and they all sound amazing.

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