Foster the People return with Supermodel

The band Foster The People are in Toronto, Ont. to promote there new album Supermodel on Friday...

The band Foster The People are in Toronto, Ont. to promote there new album Supermodel on Friday March 21, 2014. (Dave Thomas/QMI Agency)

Jane Stevenson, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:13 PM ET

Mark Foster, frontman of L.A. psych-electro-pop band Foster the People, says he never sets out to write upbeat songs about dark subjects.

It just kind of happens, in a rebellious sort of way.

After breaking through with the 2010 viral dance hit Pumped Up Kicks - an upbeat song about a homicidal teenager with a gun - FTP has returned with yet another dance-floor mindbender, the catchy Best Friend, about watching your friend suffer through drug addiction. The track is from FTP’S just-released sophomore disc, Supermodel, and follows the LP’s first single, Coming of Age.

“I don’t really know where it comes from, to tell you the truth,” said Foster, 30, who’s been writing songs since he was 13 and was a jingle writer before he was in a band.

“For (Best Friend) in particular, that lyric and that vocal melody came to me before any of the music or anything else, which usually doesn’t happen that way. And I wrote the song around that. And so that first verse (starts singing), ‘When your best friend’s all strung out,’ I heard that in my head like a children’s choir singing that lyric with that melody.’ ... I think, in some ways, writing like a pop song to tackle subject matter that’s hard to talk about is defiant in nature, that it’s actually a rebellion against the subject matter. To be able to smile in the face of adversity.”

We caught up with Foster, seated alongside drummer Mark Pontius and bassist Cubbie Fink, in Toronto last Friday where FTP played a warm-up club show at the Horseshoe before they return to play Massey Hall on May 13.

Is Pumped Up Kicks a blessing or a curse at this point in your career?

I think Pumped Up Kicks is a blessing and will always be a blessing. I think that’s the song that opened up the door for people to hear the rest of our music. And now it’s up to us what we decide to do next.

There was a big discussion about Pumped Up Kicks just (last) Wednesday (March 19) on American Idol when contestant Jessica Muese decided to sing it with a big smile on her face much to judge Harry Connick’s Jr.’s discomfort. How do you approach performing it live?

I’ve always performed that song live in the spirit of how the music makes me feel which is pretty much for all of the songs. The music to me comes from my heart. The lyrics come from my head. But when I’m onstage it’s all heart.

The current issue of Entertainment Weekly recently wrote rock isn’t dead it’s just very sleepy citing you, Imagine Dragons, and One Republic and others as “mock stars,” rather than rock stars.

F--k Entertainment Weekly. (laughs)

But what do you think about the general theory that there aren’t any new rock stars?

I think about the fact that actors now are what rock stars were in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. ... And, honestly, I think it has to do with money. ... The old rock stars, before the tide changed (in the music industry) that are still around, The Stones, they’re flying private jets around the world off money they made 40 years ago. And people associate that with power, and it is power. And then you’ve got people like Miley (Cyrus) and Kanye (West) they’re provocateurs. I love watching Miley right now. I love where she’s at. She’s in the most confident place maybe I’ve seen in my lifetime of anybody. She’s 20 years old. She’s gorgeous. She’s stepping into her sexuality as woman. She’s got a ton of money in the bank from her Hannah Montana days and she’s rebelling against her Disney image. And so you’ve got this backlash of wanting to distance herself from what’s safe with all of these other things that’s given her this platform of just extreme confidence. There’s nothing sexier than confidence.

Did you have a musical goal with Supermodel that was co-produced by you and Paul Epworth (Adele)?

For us, we wanted to make a more organic record. The first record was pretty much made in the studio and before we really had a chance to really gel as band. ‘Cause we hadn’t really toured yet together, we hadn’t played that many shows together and so with this record we wanted it to sound more like five guys playing in a room together (there’s a total of eight people currently on tour.) And we wanted to embrace our imperfections more and kind of let the music sound raw, let the songs breathe a bit more and not just like bang people over the head with melody after melody.

Was there a previous album for that in terms of inspiration?

Sandinista by The Clash like, ‘Okay, the percussive nature of this, the vibe of this, you can hear the guys in the room, the songs breathe, it’s not perfect.’ Like we wanted to create something that had that.

But given the wide-ranging sounds on Supermodel, you obviously detoured from that?

Some of these really heavier, ‘90s, British vibes started to come out, like My Bloody Valentine vibes, and I was like, ‘I have never even really listened to that kind of music. I was never really a big shoegaze guy. But for whatever reason this is what’s coming out right now.’ We just kind of chased it. Allowed it to just be what it’s going to be.

Twitter: @JaneCStevenson

Jane.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

 


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