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interview by William
introduced by Svetlana

Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” is the song that currently owns this year. You’ve heard that kind of song before, in different re-iterations (maybe it was called “Time to Pretend” and it was played by MGMT, maybe it was “Sleepyhead” and some kids named Passion Pit played it, maybe it was “Young Folks” and it came after your ears from Sweden) – a song so undeniable that there is no use resisting it: a perfect summer song that may get overplayed by summer, but hey, it is only April now, so who cares.

On the strength of only a 3 song EP and some super solid SXSW buzz, Foster the People arrive to DC today to play a (very much sold out) show at Red Palace for 200 of the luckiest DC kids around: the 200 people that will get bragging rights to say “Oh, I saw them back then at Red Palace” when everyone else rushes over to the  bigger venue they’re about the play (930 club in this case) next time they’re in town. As an added bonus, they seem pretty great live:

Houdini (Live In Solana Beach) from Foster The People on Vimeo.

And on that occasion, we bring you the interview with did with a young man behind it all: Mark Foster. Take a bow:

Understood you formed in October 2009. How long before you first recorded, and what was in that first tranche of recordings? When did you first play live?

I wrote/recorded Pumped Up Kicks in February 2010 and that was the first official Foster The People song. I had a bunch of other ideas floating around but they weren’t properly recorded until we started working on our record in September. We had our first show around the end of October I think.

Is this your first trip to DC (I’m pretty sure you’ve never played here yet, but what about to visit)?

I’ve been to D.C. a few times as a kid. I remember taking a trip with my mom on a train when I was in middle school and we made a stop there to check things out. It’s a really surreal place with all the monuments and stuff. It’s like a modern day Ancient Greece.

How long are you in town and will you get to see the cherry blossoms (that’s not a metaphor, btw)?

We’re only in for a day I think. Hopefully we’ll get to see them but if not I’m sure we’ll be back.

Do you have groupies yet? Are you hoping for lots of groupies? Related: did you get any advice on touring – and if so, from whom and what did they tell you? Any road horror stories yet?

We haven’t gotten much advice honestly. We’re just winging it I guess. There have been some horror stories though. This guy got kicked out of our show a few days ago and started screaming at the door guy to get back in and then took off his pants and underwear and jumped the fence, only to land on his head. Needless to say the cops came and had to ankle cuff/handcuff him and put a Hannibal Lector mask over his face because he was spitting on them. That was pretty dark, but that guy sure knows how to party.

I first heard about you in May 2010 when the Guardian named you as “New Band of the Day and NME put “Pumped up Kicks” in “ten tracks you have to hear this week.” NME named you a “Radar Band” a month later, based on the strength of “Pumped” (though, to be fair, the Guardian loved the other demo tracks you had up on your site at the time).

Yeah it was surprising to get some UK love so early on. We’re definitely going to spending a good amount of time over there this year playing festivals and club dates. Our first London show is in a couple days.

Have you started to tire of “Pumped” by now? Are you afraid it could be your milestone song that everyone wants you to play forever?

Not really. The song becomes fresh every time we play it. When there’s a crowd in front of you giving you energy, it becomes a whole new experience.

I was pleased to hear the instrumental and a cappella of “Pumped” on the 12″ single – were you trying to facilitate remixing? Have there been any remixes so far that you like (MNDR springs to.mind)? Is there anyone you’d like to remix your songs?

Yeah definitely. There’s been so many songs I’ve heard that I wish I had the a cappella of so I could do a remix. We put that on the single so people could have fun doing whatever they wanted to do to the track. Cut Copy is supposedly working on a remix right now. We’re all excited to hear that.

The reference most reviews throw out about you is MGMT (which I assume was because Congratulations was about to come out). Other references include Empire of the Sun and Peter, Bjorn and John. I hear maybe Hot Chip (great beats, falsettos). What are your influences?

I grew up listening to The Beach Boys and that’s definitely had a big influence on my songwriting. To name a few others I’d say Blur, New Order, The Clash, and Aphex Twin. It’s countless though.

Is there any band you’d like to tour with or open for, or, let’s be ambitious – any band you’d like to open for you? Are there any other bands or musicians, singers, producers, that you really want to workwith (e.g., James Murphy’s aborted session with Britney)?

It would be really fun to tour with Little Dragon. As far as working with a producer, I’d really love to do some collaborations with Kanye West. That guy’s a genius.

What about the b-sides and demos – “Chin Music for the Unsung,” “Downtown,” “Helena Beat,” “Kids,” “I Would Do Anything for You,” “Love” – will they be further developed for your album, or are you already moving past them?

Well Helena Beat, Kids and I Would Do Anything For You are all on the record. We also recorded Love but will probably release it as a bonus track. As far as the other songs, I’m not really sure yet.

You told the NME that PuK was written in three hours when you were bored at your day job – was that as a composer for TV and film ads?

Yeah, I didn’t have anything to work on at the moment. One of the best things about that job was that they gave me freedom to work on my own stuff when I was finished with everything else. That’s where a lot of the songs were written for Torches.

Are there any ditties you wrote for your day job that you’re especially proud of? Do you still do this, or are you in the band full time now?

Honestly, I’m really proud of this piece of music I did for Muscle Milk. It’s a dark choral piece with whistling and a vibraphone. It’s pretty tripped out. I would do it if I could but I haven’t had the time.

I noticed many of the dates are sold out. Are you surprised at how fast the popularity has come, or disappointed that it hasn’t come fast enough? What’s your favorite live venue so far?

We just finished playing at Lee’s Palace in Toronto and that room was pretty rad.

Do you want FtP to be an all-consuming career for you for years to come, or do you want to do it for a set period of time, then hang up your guitar and go work in an office? Or, even better, make so much money that you retire and hire people to fetch your slippers in the morning?

There are certain things that we don’t really have control over, but I can say that whether it’s Foster The People or another project, we’ll never stop.

Want more: well, we hope you have tickets to the beyond sold out Red Palace show tonight (with Grouplove and LeSands opening), but if not, they’ll be back in June @ 930 club. Tickets go on sale May 5th, we’ve heard.