Foster the People talk 'Pumped Up Kicks' and hipsterdom

Categories: Interview
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For every kid who has ever left their hometown and moved to LA in search of "something more," Mark Foster is an inspiration. Originally hailing from Cleveland, Foster made a life-changing decision to change his direction at the age of 18; he headed west toward the land of opportunity, and never turned back.

This all-too-familiar story comes with many ups and downs, and for Mark it's one he can now tell with little humility and much adoration. Foster the People have gone from working retail jobs and scrubbing dishes to being one of the most popular indie-single-selling bands of 2011. Their recently released album Torches has landed in the Top 10 and their single "Pumped Up Kicks" has sold over 300,000 copies and has over 3 million hits on YouTube.

Although many may only be familiar with their hit-single "Pumped Up Kicks," Foster the People are certainly not lacking recognition. Being extolled as the "Song of the Summer," "Pumped Up Kicks" is a righteous expression of isolated youth gone mad. The single either makes you want to dance or run around with a BB gun on a hot summer night. The looping bass is reminiscent of an old Donkey Kong video game -- and if that's not enough nostalgia for your summer, then the similarly catchy Peter Bjorn and John whistling riff will.

Gimme Noise had a chance to speak with Mark Foster of Foster the People prior to their sold out show this Saturday night at the Fine Line.

Gimme Noise: Tell me about the new record...

Mark Foster: The record is really versatile; we really pulled from different influences. Hip hop and rock, electronica, to soul. It's really upbeat, the record -- it's got kind of a fun, summer vibe.

Is it true that Nylon Magazine advertised "Pumped Up Kicks" on their website, and that's how it was discovered?

Yeah, they put it up on the internet for this fashion show. Then it was found by some people and shared on blogs, and literally it just started tearing up the charts. So that was kind of our first big wave I think that came about.

To the outside world it seems that Foster the People have become famous overnight, but how long have you really been working at this?

I'm 27 now; I moved to LA when I was 18 and that was a hard time. I was working odd jobs, and like barely making rent. The whole time I was just trying to write songs, and start bands, and play shows. Just struggling, you know. There's a lot of time put into this; I've been playing music my whole life though, since I was a toddler. So like eight years, or -- well that's hard to say, we're still working on it, because our record is not even out yet.

What is "Pumped Up Kicks" about?

The song is about a teenage kid that is trapped, isolated, and basically hates his life. So he's pretty much fantasizing going on a killing spree. For me, I write in character a lot, so I like to write stories from other people's perspectives. That song in particular, I was thinking and kind of burnt by 'How often does this happen?' More kids are getting guns, and shooting people, and these things are happening younger and younger, 14 or 13 years old. It's turning into an epidemic for American youth. I wanted to infiltrate, and dig beneath the surface and get into the psychology of what's going on in a kid's mind like that.



What is Foster The People's creed?

Like what we stand for? I think it's right there in the band's name itself. I like to write songs about humanity. A lot of the songs are kind of exploding; they're kind of dark truths. But all through it there's hope at the end of the tunnel. The first couple of shows we played, we didn't really have a band name, so all the while we were trying to figure out what to call ourselves, and Foster the People came up -- it just made sense to us. We like to take a look at people in society and in more ways than just we're a band and we're playing shows. We're happy, healthy people and we're having fun doing what we love. We're not trying to be pretentious about it, or be explosive or be in control -- we're just making music for whoever wants to listen.

Who are your musical inspirations?

It would have to be the Beach Boys that was the first band I fell in love with when I was about six years old, probably my favorite band early on. Blur, that's had a big influence on me, and the Clash, and David Bowie.

Any other modern-day bands you might compare yourselves to?

Not really. I don't really think there's any other band that sounds like us. I think that there are a lot of bands right now that are getting clumped together in the same sort of genre, and I know we'll get compared to them a lot. If I had to say, a band that's kind of similar to us would be more like Blur, more electronic, it's a lot more electronic than Blur... but one thing I loved about them and one thing that I've tried to do is make a record that's versatile so it's not able to be pigeonholed. So to be able to write the difference about the music and to still have cohesion. And so the last band that I can really think of that did that is Blur. You can listen to Part Life, and the first song "Girls & Boys," and it's super electronic, kind of dance-y, but then they've got like mid-tempo, and this chilled out kind of like, hear-me-out sound. They've got great rock songs too. It all works!

Where do you see Torches taking you?

More than like just becoming a big band that comes and goes, I really want to ensure that we can make this into a career. This is something that will determine how fast something can explode; I mean that's out of our control. I've seen a lot of bands that their trajectory takes them straight to the moon, and then they fall straight back down to earth. My main goal is to start writing another record write away, so that we can keep making music and keep it coming out. So we can have a long career.

Do you consider yourself to be a hipster?

No, not at all! ... I'm not pretentious.

You know, Minneapolis just got dubbed the most hipster city in the U.S.

Great... that's actually damn funny.

FOSTER THE PEOPLE play with Gardens & Villa on SATURDAY, JUNE 11, at the FINE LINE MUSIC CAFE. 18+. $15. 8 p.m.

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41 comments
RossCMR
RossCMR

People on this thread need to chill out. It just music, a creative outlet. Are they sending the wrong message with this song “Coming of age” http://smarturl.it/FTPCoAVideo 

MIA LAROCQUE
MIA LAROCQUE

any one who doesnt like them sucks btw HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARK FOSTER!!!!!!!!!!!! <3 I LOVE U

Ginsoaked_barroomqueen
Ginsoaked_barroomqueen

so I love the song but I don't think that Mark captured the mindset of a kid/person who would go on a shooting spree. they are suicidal, clinically depressed, and a happy jolly lyric would not be running through their head.  but that's ok, it's just a song.  kurt cobain probably captured the mindset - severe depression, that is.

Brian Ivey
Brian Ivey

You clowns are sending the wrong message to the youth! WTF is wrong with you and who the hell would even produce this song! This has to be the most Racist band I have ever heard! It doesn't matter if you have money or if you don't! Maybe someone should have put his arms around him and said we all failed! But you do the other and write a song blaming him that he was under privileged! So how much of the money are your gonna donate to the family's who lost their child? Because you say they are Pumped up kicks! I hope the same doesn't happen to you!   

Bgivey
Bgivey

You are giving kids the wrong message! Plus you are making money off the dead kids! You are PATHETIC! 

Hxjdj
Hxjdj

Im robert i like this song

mikess
mikess

I just dont like how they said they dont sound like anyone else, When I heard this song for the first time on the radio I thought it was MGMT, they do not have their own sound in this song...

Mssweetts391
Mssweetts391

How I heard the song (pumped up kicks) it was my nephew Damien. He stood the weekend. And he played it over and over...and everytime he would play it I would start to dance the way pepole would dance back in 60's...but I started looking at my nephew and notice he would have a diffrent look everytime he played it..so I Started listen to the backround singers never could make out what they would say" but to me it sound sad..like if it made my nephew think. Or make him sad...that's when I started to make up my own words and damien stop me and told me what the course. Part said. But even after he told me"it still didn't make sences all I Knew was that it It put in a good mood...Well few weeks have gone by and today I downloaded the song. And started listening to the words..and I was tripping out on it..OMG..THIS SONG IS ABOUT KIDS or even ADULTS being FED UP...and getting a hold of Gun and shooting the ones whoTaunt them.. or even think they deserves to be shot...so wha my thing is if the band thought about message they are sending... cause for some reason I fill like its going to pump up someone to do it...and this song is deep.

turduckencockfart
turduckencockfart

I've sold plenty functioning 10 speeds to Minneapolis hipsters that just change them to singlespeed.

Brittany
Brittany

Is this song about the Von Maur shooting in Omaha Nebraska because a bunch of people at school were listening to it and teatchers were too and one of them said it was about the Von Maur shooting

Kimstercoco
Kimstercoco

-I Love You So Much!:}I Love Pumped Up Kicks,I Replay The Song Over And Over Like A Million Times,I Swear:]I Love That Song,I Love The Beat,It's Just Perfect:D

Marcelo Mars G
Marcelo Mars G

OK, I'm sure I'm not alone when I say the song has a catching beat, but then when I listen to the lyrics, talking about kids with guns and running away from bullets. It made me think about all those SAD school shootings. I now change the radio station when ever I hear the song.

This band also sounds a lot like Def Cab for Cutie and other similar bands. So at first it was hard to know who they were? Some stations have censored the Gun part from the song, but then it just sounds lame. I can't believe this song is on the radio and other songs from Hip Hop Artist mentioning guns don't even make on AIR??? Not a Fan of a Happy Song about Shooting Kids. 

poon hound
poon hound

I was into pumped up kicks before it was popular.

Jeffthemom
Jeffthemom

It's "Park Life," not "Part Life." 

Really?  You guys can't even get the seminal album that's a huge inspiration for this dude correct?  Doofi.

Vikki Cg
Vikki Cg

pumped up kick was written from a real story or not?

Chissy Nneka
Chissy Nneka

love this article, it's great. FTP is one of my favorite bands, i can't wait to see them on the 14th here in columbus. so soon!

kevin robert
kevin robert

This Song is good and sang it very clearly love this way of they sing.well I must say i enjoyed reading it.Thanks for taking the time to share your view with us. You seem to be more practicable! keep up the good work!http://www.essaysale.com

william_of_ockham
william_of_ockham

they will be famous in two or three years , mark my words.  i dont even like that style of music very much but i was in awe of the  musical talent i saw from mark foster at the kroq weenie roast .

ToDdE
ToDdE

Cindal you ROCK!! =)

Jeff
Jeff

terrible band.

Mojo Marshall
Mojo Marshall

The song is called "Pumped Up Kicks" not "Pumped Up Kids" as you have have in the headline and question below that.

silencedogood
silencedogood

I'm sorry perhaps you don't know what racist means it means to judge people based on their race, also known as the color of someones skin or ethnicity . This song is not telling kids to go on a shooting spree because they are fed up with life and all its problems. Its basically telling a story about bad things that are happening which people have been doing since the beginning of time.

King
King

The song is about a teenage kid that is trapped, isolated, and basically hates his life. So he's pretty much fantasizing going on a killing spree. For me, I write in character a lot, so I like to write stories from other people's perspectives. That song in particular, I was thinking and kind of burnt by 'How often does this happen?' More kids are getting guns, and shooting people, and these things are happening younger and younger, 14 or 13 years old. It's turning into an epidemic for American youth. I wanted to infiltrate, and dig beneath the surface and get into the psychology of what's going on in a kid's mind like that.

Tgats what it means if you actually read

Chase
Chase

Or it could be about the countless high school and college shootings, those two places are a little more traumatic to a kid the others classify as bottom of the rank kind of person than a mall don't you think? Yes the Van Maur thing sad but how many times have countless kids been taken from the youth and the prime of their life because some kid couldn't handle their peers. Now which of the two makes more sense? Think.

Sweet_leilani777
Sweet_leilani777

I agree with you, I can't believe a song about a kid wanting to go on a killing spree could be so popular.  And to have it be such a catchy happy tune too, you know a lot of kids listen to this song, I heard of a 14 year old posting a comment on Pumped up Kicks music video on Youtube that he was going to go on a shooting spree at his school the next day unless someone called the police. He got arrested and there was a sawed off shotgun in his house. Do we really want to have this song playing over and over in young impressionable minds???

horta
horta

Ignorance is bliss to you...

dontgetmemad
dontgetmemad

ok this is an awesome band any of u that say its not your fucked up

King
King

Ok jealous much you idiot

Not2bfkwit
Not2bfkwit

IF THE SONG WAS GARBAGE, YOU WOULD NOT BE ONLINE TYPING COMMENTS ABOUT IT. THE PROBLEM WITH AMERICANS IS THAT THEY ARE SO OPINIONATED, THEY CAN'T EVEN APPRECIATE THE FACT THAT THE SONG IS DOPE, TRUE ARTISTIC GENIUS, AND CROSSES ALL GENRE & COLOR LINES.I THANK MARK & FOSTER THE PEOPLE FOR CREATING IT. GREAT STUFF MAN. from your most unlikely fan..... in Asia. We love this song   ITS A SONG. ALL OF YOU HATERS & POLITICALLY CORRECT NERDS....GET OVER IT AND DOWNLOAD THE SONG. YOU KNOW YOU LIKE IT.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jsjsare
Jsjsare

It is about the 2007 Von maur shooting at westroads mall in Omaha, nebraska.. The shooter was Robert Hawkins hence why u hear the name "Robert" in the song..

matilda
matilda

are you guys serious?! Mark wrote it as a statement of how fucked up america is and wanted a catchy tune so it wouldn't be to depressing to listen to.AND if a person even thinks of killing another human being it's because something is fucking wrong in their head NOT because of FTP!

Sam
Sam

I 100% agree. Plenty of school and college shootings have happened before this song (hence the inspiration) and no sane person would decide to kill people solely because of a song, they obviously already had some major problems.

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