- Posted on Mar 4th 2011 3:30PM by Mercy Heimbach
How did Foster the People get started?
It started off as a solo project. A lot of the songs that we first started playing were songs I had previously written. It's a lonely life being a solo artist. I got to the point eventually where I was writing bigger and more grandiose-type songs, more orchestral and just a lot more going on, and really needed more people to make it work. It's been amazing to work with such talented guys.
You were also writing jingles for a time, right?
I've been composing for commercials off and on for a few years. Pretty much right when I got brought on full-time as a music composer is when Foster the People started. It was great, because it was the first time in my life when I didn't have to work at a restaurant. I got to quit my coffee job. Being able to go into a studio and make music for a living was amazing. Working at [the music production company] Mophonics ... I attribute that job to a lot of the reason why the band is where we're at now.
What is 'Pumped Up Kicks' about?
'Pumped Up Kicks' is about a kid that basically is losing his mind and is plotting revenge. He's an outcast. I feel like the youth in our culture are becoming more and more isolated. It's kind of an epidemic. Instead of writing about victims and some tragedy, I wanted to get into the killer's mind, like Truman Capote did in 'In Cold Blood.' I love to write about characters. That's my style. I really like to get inside the heads of other people and try to walk in their shoes.
'Pumped Up Kicks' has a sound similar to that of MGMT, but then you also have a song like 'Love,' which is somewhat reminiscent of the Beatles. 'I Would Do Anything For You' has an almost Imogen Heap-style pop appeal. This is a band that clearly doesn't feel the need to stick with any one genre, and yet it all works together somehow. What was the idea behind 'Torches?'
I never try to write the same song twice. I hate having boundaries when it comes to writing. For a few years, when I was developing a style, it was kind of a crutch, because the stuff that I was writing back then ... [the songs] were way different than each other, and it took a few years to really hone that in and be able to write things that are still versatile and different but that still have a through-line. The record's definitely versatile, but it all works together as well, and I love that.
All my favorite bands have done that -- like Blur. I listen to those records, and I respect them because they can do what they did, whatever they want. And now Damon Albarn is doing the Gorillaz and it's a totally different side of him but you can tell it's him. When I write, I don't really try to think, "How am I going to make this fit together?" or, "I need to have this be the same style as this." I do whatever I'm being inspired by and somehow, the spirit of what's inside of me will just come out in the song, and you'll be able to tell.
What do you guys like to do during your downtime?
I've been watching a lot of movies lately. The other guys go surfing all the time. I go with them sometimes, but they're like pro surfers, so I can't even hang with them. We all just watched a documentary last night together, 'The Devil and Daniel Johnston.' It's one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. I was just totally inspired and stayed up until 4AM playing the piano afterwards.
Catch Foster the People's SXSW Set on Thursday, March 17 at Stubb's (801 Red River) 8:30PM, and Saturday, March 19 at Radio Day Stage Austin Convention Center (500 E Cesar Chavez St. Exhibit Hall D) 12PM.
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