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Friday, December 1st, 2023  

Foster the People

Parent-Approved Pop

Feb 20, 2011 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Issue #35 - Winter 2011 - Death Cab for Cutie
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“I wasn’t your typical artist-broody, hood over my face, like the star of a Simple Plan music video,” Mark Foster says, laughing. Seated in his downtown Los Angeles loft, he describes his teenage years as being filled with energetic alienation. “I was always talking. I was always jumping up on lunch tables. I loved attention.”

Despite his love of the spotlight, Foster didn’t see a future in performance. Now 26, the Foster the People frontman credits his father for seeing the career potential in his high school antics. “I was in turmoil,” says Foster, reflecting on his decision to forgo college. “I had this conversation one morning with my dad in the kitchen where I’m like ‘What am I going to do?’”

Music had always been a part of Foster’s life, so when his father encouraged him to move from Cleveland to a larger city to pursue it, this sparked an epiphany. “When he said that to me, a light bulb went off in my head,” Foster recalls. “I was so shocked, it hit me, ‘Whoa, you can do that!’ It all made sense. It was an adventure.”

The adventure took him to Los Angeles, where amidst a series of uninspiring day jobs, Foster was invited through mutual friends to collaborate with Dr. Dre, who was interested in having the fledgling musician write for his album Detox. After hearing Foster play his own compositions, Dre began perusing Foster as a recording artist instead. “They saw me as their next Eminem,” says Foster. “Like a white crossover artist. But they wanted to make a soul record.” Foster balked over the lack of creative control and ultimately was dropped from the project. “It didn’t work out, which is heartbreaking,” he says.

Things turned around, with Foster finding work as a commercial composer, and last year he began actively pursuing band life again with friends Mark Pontius (drums) and Cubby Fink (guitar, bass, keys). Disenchanted after his brush with the big leagues, Foster made their mission statement clear. He recounts: “I told the band, ‘Look guys, I don’t care about the industry or trying to get a record deal, or trying to get any of that stuff. I want to focus on the basics. Let’s make music. Because if we just do what we’re supposed to do, then everything that’s supposed to come to us will come to us.’”

On the strength of Foster the People’s first single, the earworm-riddled pop track “Pumped Up Kicks,” that’s what is beginning to happen. The band signed to StarTime International and recorded their debut full-length, due out this year, with producer Paul Epworth (Bloc Party, Friendly Fires).

Despite the irresistibly perky, Peter Bjorn and John-meets-MGMT chorus of “Pumped Up Kicks,” Foster sees its sinister theme-a bullied youth’s gun-wielding revenge-as a product of his years as an exuberant outcast. “There’s a humanity there that’s really sad to me, not only on the side of the victims,” Foster says thoughtfully of the song’s antagonist. “It will drive a person crazy if everyone around you is constantly telling you that you suck.”

Throughout the process of finding his musical footing, Foster still counts his dad as his biggest fan. “I talk to my dad almost every day on the phone,” he says, grinning. “He’s just a really good, supportive person.” (


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