After arriving in Atlanta and thankful it’s not sweltering hot, drummer Mark Pontius of Foster the People described the recent race the band has been running to keep up with its fans.
“‘Pumped Up Kicks' was the first thing that got written, and we hadn’t even been a band that long. Then that kind of blew up on the Internet, and we really had to play catch up,” he said.
The viral single gave Foster the People the rare opportunity to ride the wave that skyrocketed “Pumped Up Kicks” to the No. 1 song on the Billboard Alternative chart and the No. 3 song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
FROM CAMPUS CROWDS TO...YOUR PARENTS?
“The unique thing about the music is that it’s very accessible and there’s a pop sensibility … that has some grit and dirtiness to it. It kind of sits outside the box as far as pop music is considered,” he said.
Watch out, because your parents might even be stealing its most recent and first album, Torches, off your iTunes. Pontius said one of the coolest parts about their music is that it’s not only appealing to college audiences, but also crosses generation gaps. He said his friends have told him, “Oh I love the new album, and actually my mom wants it more than I do.”
However, the more exhilarating crowds tend to be full of college students, like when Foster the People performed in Columbus, Ohio across the street from The Ohio State University’s campus.
Emily Hunger, a junior at The Ohio State University, said Foster the People’s music has a laid-back style that is easy to listen to in any setting. She saw the band perform at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago this summer and loved the environment.
“Everyone was just there to enjoy music and you can tell by Foster the People's performance that they play because they have a passion for their music,” she said.
Justin Flor, a senior at Benedictine College, hopes Foster the People comes to Kansas City, because he likes its indie, electronic and oldies style. “I feel a lot of college students listen to them because their style of music is so different,” he said. “I almost feel like their style reminds me a lot like the Beatles.”
Pontius attributed Foster the People’s success to its friendship and vision. He knows some bands that say they’re being honest with the music, but then start to sound like other people.
“We definitely keep each other accountable for trying to stay true to the music. I think because we’re all good friends, we can call each other out about somebody trying to be something else,” he said.
After high school graduation, Pontius moved to Los Angeles to attend a film training school. He then became the drummer for the band Malbec, also shooting and editing their music videos. He was with the band for six years, but near the end he started looking for another outlet for his musical interests.
“Creatively I was kind of trapped and wanted to do more. I met Mark Foster and we started playing randomly on the side, not even trying to do anything,” he said.
The two kept playing for a while when Pontius finally decided to leave Malbec. A month or so later, Foster and Pontius decided to take a big step and make their “neat little project” a band.
Foster the People’s friendships have provided some interesting humor along the road, especially once when bassist Cubbie Fink lost his pants.
After a concert in Dallas far from the venue, the band was drenched with sweat and Fink decided to hang his pants on a fence outside the bus to dry. An hour later, his pants were gone. Instead, there was a ransom note saying if the wanted the pants back they had to call the phone number written underneath. Pontius actually ended up calling the thief, leaving a message in a funny voice. The next day they received a message saying, “Sorry we didn’t mean to take your pants, we just wanted to come hang out!”
Music fans can have strange methods of flattery and obsession, but Foster the People isn’t without their own oddities.
THE BAND'S HALLOWEEN PLANS
With Halloween coming up, Pontius said he is “super excited,” oddly enough, because the band is going to be traveling that day. The members are all planning to dress up in costumes at the airport. “We’re all going to make a little bit of a party out of it and have a good time,” he said.
However, this isn’t Pontius’ first Halloween at the airport. A few years ago he decided to dress up, thinking other travelers might have the same idea. Apparently not.
“I thought there were going to be a lot more people doing it, but I was pretty much the only one running around in a costume,” he said. “I had this really dumb M&M costume on that didn’t fit. So I had just whitey-tighties on under it that were kind of revealing. I thought it would be funny and people would enjoy it, but I got so many dirty looks.”
As for college students in a band looking to follow a similar path, Pontius advised them to embrace their own identity and not to change their aspirations to please others or fit in with the current style.
“Be true and honest to the music you want to make. Don’t try and conform to any sound or any other artist or band. Something original is always going to do way better than something that’s already been done, no matter how weird it is.”