Artist of the Week: Foster the People
Foster the People made it big by playing by their own rules. The Los Angeles-based trio of Mark Foster, Mark Pontius, and Cubbie Fink came together in 2009 following separate attempts at breaking into the music industry. By experimenting with different genres, the indie pop band landed on an eclectic sound, which has given them the freedom to work in a different musical space than their peers.
The backbone of Foster the People’s success came on their 2011 debut album Torches, a well-executed project that bridged the gap for pop music and also highlighted a valuable narrative about personal struggles. Foster the People have followed that up with their sophomore album Supermodel, which takes a more meaningful look at societal ills while still delivering music that will make you want to dance.
How did Foster the People get to be so great? Find out here.
Previous Work Before Becoming a Group
Each member of Foster the People shared an interest in music before they came together, but to varying degrees. Mark Foster, whose real name is featured in the band name, was attempting to pursue music as a career in Los Angeles. However, he was having a difficult time making it in the industry. After failing to put together a band, Foster found himself working for a company that made music for commercials, otherwise known as jingles. Not exactly Foster’s dream gig, but it was a job nonetheless.His friend Cubbie Fink had experience playing the bass, but wasn’t too concerned with music as he had a steady job working for a television production company. Drummer Mark Pontius had his own band, and was attempting to get that group off the ground and running, but to no avail.
Forming Foster the People
Before Mark Pontius left his group Malbec in 2009, the drummer met Foster, and they hit it off from a musical standpoint. They soon started their own two-man group, but still needed a bassist to complete the team. Around that same time, Fink lost his television job and joined Foster the People shortly after. Whether these events happened because of fate or coincidence, it seemed like the stars were starting to align in their favor.
Creating Their Own Sound
Since the beginning, Foster the People have walked a fine line between indie pop, rock, and dance music. This blend of musical styles sounds like it’s really complex—and it very well may be when they’re making it—however, they’ve been able to package it in a way that makes it accessible for casual listeners and diehard music heads alike. The lyricism from Mark Foster is also layered in a way that communicates deep, meaningful emotions.
Expanding Their Reach by Licensing Music for Television and Video Games
Foster the People took advantage of their highly unique and accessible style of music by sharing it through different avenues. They licensed songs like “Helena Beat,” “Houdini,” and “Call It What You Want” to popular television shows and video games in order to expand their musical reach. This ended up working out nicely for Foster the People, who were able to get millions of people to hear their music without them having to turn on the radio.
Performing on the Late-Night Circuit
Another way Foster The People were able to get their music out to the general public was by performing on late-night television programs like The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and Last Call with Carson Daly. Viewers got to catch their high-energy performances, and get a feel of what Foster the People were all about as the group continued to work toward their debut album Torches.
Making a Splash With Their Debut Album Torches
Foster the People finally released their debut album Torches in May of 2011, and it proved to be a commercial and critical success for the group. The project reached number eight on the Billboard 200 chart and number one on the Alternative Albums chart. Equally as important, Torches established Foster the People as a group that had their sights on making a difference beyond record sales. From personal stories of hardship to heartbreak, Torches connected with listeners who were going through the same issues. It was mood music with a message.
Gaining Recognition at the 2012 Grammy Awards
Proof of Foster the People’s musical prominence was made evident when the trio got nominated for Best Alternative Album and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 2012 Grammys. They also delivered a performance to remember with The Beach Boys and Maroon 5. While they didn’t go home with an award, their moment at the Grammys was validation that Foster the People were a group on the definite rise.
Crossing Over Into Different Markets
Along with scoring hits at home, Foster the People also made their mark on charts overseas. From European countries like France and Switzerland to all the way across the globe in New Zealand and Australia, the group made connections with different cultures and audiences that appreciate their style of music. Singles like “Helena Beat” and “Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)” established success in countries the group never even visited.
Rocking on the Road (With Two Other Members)
Foster the People make sure their stage show is as good as it gets when fans come to see them perform. This meant a lot of touring early on their in career, and traveling tirelessly for months on end. Now they could perform in their sleep if they had to. Practice really does make perfect.
Along with extensive touring, another key part of Foster the People’s success on the road came when they added two other talented musicians to their live set. Sean Cimino and Isom Innis are both multi-instrumentalists who contribute in many ways, providing Foster the People the proper support when it’s time to rock a crowd of thousands.
Their New Album Supermodel
Foster the People recently released their second album Supermodel, which expands on their previous work from both a musical and lyrical standpoint. It’s still very melodic, yet songs like “A Beginner's Guide to Destroying The Moon” and “Pseudologia Fantastica” deliver a marked intensity that wasn’t present before. Mark Foster also changes his lyrical focus, looking at the ills of modern culture and the effects it has on society. Billed as a concept album, Supermodel debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 chart and also topped the Alternative Albums chart, the second time for Foster the People to do so in their career. Chances are they’ll continue that streak in the future.
August 08, 2014 via Pepsi