26 August 2011
Foster The People are exhausted. Sprawled languidly at the TMN offices, the L.A. trio are in the embryonic stages of their promising career; yet they look like shells of the former band members, who in February chose Australia for their first overseas jaunt.
“I miss being outside, I just want to disappear in the mountains,” says bassist and synth player Cubbie Fink. “I wanna lay on the beach somewhere for a month straight,” quips drummer Mark Pontius.
The band will have been on tour for ten months straight by the time they get a break in December - after which frontman and band visionary Mark Foster, plans to “sit in the dark.” “We’ve been on the road so much that the only gauge we have right now that we’re a successful band is the fact that we’re playing sold out shows,” he says, perking up. Although life in a tour bubble was always the plan - having just added our own Splendour In The Grass to their 12-strong festival collection - it’s been a fast train since posting Pumped Up Kicks on YouTube in February of last year. The sunny beat over a lyrically standard school shooter trope went viral, and even made 2010’s Triple J Hottest 100 list. Fink says Australia’s obsession with the song was a major player in their February showcasing.
“I don’t know why,” he says, smiling. “It was just off the charts in comparison to everywhere else in the world.”
Five months after the track hit the Internet, Foster The People signed to Columbia Records, with debut album Torches following a year later. No mean feat for a band who, seven months ago couldn’t sell out a 300-person venue in their hometown. “But we’re going back to L.A. in September and playing two shows in a row at a 2800 capacity venue, which are both sold out already,” says Foster.
Watching the three members revel over the fruits of their popularity only makes you want to back them more. They’re hardly a young Californian stereotypes, in fact, each of them experienced arduous times before Foster The People became a major project. Pontius was couch surfing his way through film school and taking the bus to each band rehearsal, while Fink was “living off 50-cent-hotdogs from the grocery store,” after the television production company he worked for shut down during the recession. Foster recalls pawning jewellery and his first electric guitar to pay rent, “I hated that guitar,” he laughs. “But I wish I had it for sentimental reasons.”
He was, however, able to earn a crust for a while, composing for advertisements. One of Foster’s more amusing compositions was for protein drink Muscle Milk, where he penned lyrics and music for a frat boy-type commercial called Spring Break It Down.
After much coercion, Foster rapped a lyric from the ad, “I was the dopest Fauxhawk of 2006, flash my bling, flex my guns and then I steal your chicks... Without seeing it, it’s out of context,” he added seriously.
As are the lyrics in second single Helena Beat when scrutinised. Take for example, part of the track’s chorus, ‘yeah it’s okay, I tie my hands up to a chair so I don’t fall that way.’ Foster may have named the track after an ex who was “partying a lot,” but he’s really embodying the attitude of Hollywood’s drug culture scene. “They’re the young, hot, up and coming, powerful people that are gonna run the world,” says Foster. “But they’re just going out and doing drugs every night. “They’re saying it with this big smile of their face like ‘I’m great, everything’s great,’ ‘but don’t you see that you’re completely out of your mind on drugs right now that you can’t even stand?’ Their whole life is fucked.”
With such an explicit standpoint on one of the major pitfalls found in the industry’s darkest bowels, we needn’t worry whether these neophytes can hold their own. Foster The People are even as accommodating and philanthropic as their name implies; next month they will embark on a North American tour with The Do Good Bus, a charity created by Pontius’ sister where the band will help local causes at each stop. As for their next charitable ambition, Foster reminds us that while Australia may be keen to adopt them, they’re no John Butler Trio, yet.
“I’m opening up my apartment to hot, wayward teenage women that need a place to stay. I’ll keep them off the streets.”
Torches is out now through Sony Music/ Columbia Records
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