Get To Know: Foster the People by Caroline Gerrard
|Foster the People
With their addictive beats and haunting lyrics, Foster the People stand out amid a sea of bubble gum pop. The band is the brainchild of indie singer songwriter Mark Foster, who worked for years as a commercial jingle writer before joining up with friends Mark Pontius (drums) and Cubbie Fink (bass). Their single “Pumped Up Kicks” went viral within days of being posted on the web, and went on to become the summer anthem of 2010. Get to Know Mark Foster, the lead singer of one of 2012’s fastest rising bands!
Can you introduce yourselves to the girls of Miss O & Friends?
Mark: I’m Mark and I am the singer for Foster the People. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I sing and play guitar and piano in the band and I live in L.A.
How did the band get together?
Mark: I was friends with Cubbie and Mark for a few years before we started playing together. You know we were just friends in LA, we were buddies and they were playing in other bands while I was composing for commercials and writing songs and kind of doing my own thing. It was just one of those things where I was ready to start a band again and asked them to come and play with me, and they did.
How would you describe your debut album "Torches?"
Mark: I think its classic songwriting. It's done in a much more modern way. It has a lot of different identities. There’s influences from a lot of different types of music and I think we went into making this record without having boundaries.
What were you like as a child?
Mark: I was always extremely independent growing up. I was trying to get my parents to buy me an apartment. I was like, “Please, please, it will be fine. Like, you guys can stock up the fridge and I’ll be OK.” I was always talking. I was always jumping up on lunch tables. I loved attention.
Did you dream about becoming a professional singer when you were young?
Mark: I didn’t really think that was possible. It just never crossed my mind as something possible to do. I was in turmoil, and I had this conversation one morning with my dad in the kitchen where I'm like “What am I going to do?” It opened up my eyes to the possibility of doing that and following your passion you know. And after a year in LA I had this moment where I was like “Ok you know what I can do this. I have to go all in. I can’t have a backup plan and I need to commit to doing this whether I’m homeless or I’m successful.” And I knew if I had that type of attitude I’d be successful. I gave myself 10 years.
What was it like moving from your native Cleveland, Ohio to California?
Mark: Adjusting to the city, it took a long time. I moved to the LA in 2002. It all takes time, you know? I moved out to LA and wanted to learn to write. For the first two years, that was my main goal. I studied. I had some friends that were songwriters — watched them write. I think after a year something clicked and I understood it. Ever since then, I’ve been in pursuit of the best song I could write. I’ve been chasing that — chasing the perfect song.
How has your life changed since "Pumped Up Kicks" was released and Foster the People started to get attention?
Mark: Drastically. I focus on being creative all the time now. Busier than I’ve ever been in my life, but it doesn’t really feel like work because I love it. Since the band started, it’s the first time I’ve ever went to Europe, first time I’ve ever went to Australia. It’s become a catalyst for your traveling, seeing other things and seeing other cultures. Everything is different. I’m living out of a suitcase.
What is your trick for writing a song?
Mark: Usually I’ll get the vibe going with the music. It usually starts with drums and then I’ll kind of build from there. Before I put any pen to paper, I’ll think about what I want to write about or what the music is making me feel. A lot of the time, the music will put me in a place, or put me in a scenario, or put me in a character. Then I’ll just press record and start vamping. So, I just kind of freestyle it first. I’ll freestyle it all the way through … a number of times. A lot of the times the freestyle is a really clear picture of what the character is that I am and where I am. Then I’ll go in and fill in the blanks.
What instruments can you play?
Mark: I play guitar, bass, drums, piano and pretty much any sort of stringed instrument — besides violin or cello. I started out with piano when I was little. That’s, for songwriting, is my favorite instrument. That’s what I play the most now.
On your tour, you partnered with the Do Good Bus, an organization which travels around to volunteer with local charities. In the future, would you like to do more work along those lines?
Mark: We definitely have a heart for charity and helping people. That was a big reason we named the band Foster The People, because we want to do more with our lives than just music and make money off making music. We want to be able to do something to help people and go a step further, because we can. We’re still defining that vision in terms of specifics, but that’s something we’ve talked about since day one.
What do you see in store for the New Year? Do you have any resolutions or goals?
Mark: Definitely start writing on the road, I brought my studio on with us for this tour. Just want to start writing a second record as soon as possible. I'd hate to be in a position where we're tired and just want to go on vacation off of a two year tour and have to write 10 or 20 tracks for a record.