Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Mark Foster was doing his own solo project for a few years before he and two friends, Mark Pontius and Cubbie Fink, joined forces to become Foster The People, one of the most buzzed about bands to take on Coachella 2011. (Check out pics from their Sunday afternoon set here.) The band, which draws comparisons to other dreamy indie oufits like MGMT and Passion Pit, formed in October 2009 and has been on a steady path to success ever since, thanks to the growing popularity of their chill-rock lead single, “Pumped Up Kicks”, off their self-titled debut EP.
After the jump, check out our interview with Mark Foster, who told us what it means to play Coachella, why he owes a debt of gratitude to a German stranger he’s never met, and why Kanye West is responsible for changing the way we consume pop music today.
Idolator: Is this your first time at Coachella?
Mark Foster: First time playing. We were here last year actually. Got to see a bunch of good bands. Little Dragon is amazing, Die Antwoord, Vampire Weekend, Gorillaz, Jay-Z.
What does it mean to you to be playing Coachella?
It feels like a homecoming to us, because we haven’t really played a proper big L.A. show yet. We just finished our first U.S. tour and we’re coming back and there’s a lot of people form L.A. here… a lot of people will get to see us for the first time. It’s crazy that it’s a festival and not a club show.
You formed less than two years ago and now you’re playing one of the biggest music festivals in the world. Is it strange to think how fast it’s all coming?
It’s hard to get perspective on that, honestly. I don’t know what the perception is of us. We’re in a bubble playing music. The last year’s been super fast-paced and it’s coming at us fast and furious but we’ve also just been working hard and playing a lot. We haven’t had time to stop and think about it. I still feel like we’re proving ourselves, since we only have three songs [on the Foster The People EP] out there and there’s a lot of curiosity. A lot of good curiosity.
Were your bandmates cool having your last name be in the band name?
We all talked about that together. It was a solo project when it started, so when we started playing, we were like, “Well, do we go by Mark Foster?” That’s what we were going to do, and then we’re like, no, let’s make this a band, this feels good.
How different was your solo material compared to the music you’re writing now as a band?
Different, but a lot of the songs that made our record I wrote in the last year with the band in mind. That definitely helped. When we first started playing together… it was a little scattered. As we continued to jam and gel as a band, that helped me as a writer to focus more.
What was your first big break?
I’d say that Hype Machine was the big break. A girl blogged about our song “Pumped Up Kicks” on some German blog site, and it went on Hype Machine, and it started shooting up the charts, and suddenly we were on everybody’s map.
You should send that girl some flowers!
I know! I sent her an email a while ago thanking her. I was like, when we’re out in Germany, come hang out, we’ell take you out. We should meet.
Did she respond?
She did actually. We haven’t been out there yet.
Who’s the act you’re most stoked to see this weekend?
Kanye, I just get so excited about Kanye. I saw him at South By. I snuck in. It was at capacity. My name was on a list but the fire marshal shut it down. I jumped three fences at the power plant. It was mind-blowing.
What is it that you like so much about Kanye?
His creativity. He’s one of a handful of people who’s doing really creative things with music right now. Also he’s based in songwriting, and I gravitate towards songwriters. He knows how to set a tone and a vibe, but he’s on the frontier of hip-hop as far as pulling so many styles from other types of music and putting them in hip-hop.
I feel like he’s responsible for the way pop has changed today. The fact that Lady Gaga is as big as she is, and the fact that hip-hop and pop and electronic music and European music are all becoming one thing in The States now. And if you remember, before Kanye did that Daft Punk record, “Stronger”, music wasn’t really like that yet. Hip-hop was like Dirty South, cash, money, hoes. He made hip-hop more intelligent.
Do you try to combine genres when crafting your songs?
Yeah. Every song has different influences from different places. A lot of hip-hop, too, but most people probably wouldn’t pick up on it.
Weirdest thing you’ve seen at Coachella so far?
Nothing too bizarre. I saw a guy wearing a glow-in-the-dark suit, a neon face. That guy was rad.
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