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Monday 11 November 2019

Q&A: Foster the People's Mark Foster answers the questions

Foster the People
Foster the People

Mark Foster on the dark side of overnight success, his contribution to the gun control debate and why Facebook and Twitter mean we're all 'supermodels' now

Hello Foster the People's Mark Foster. How are things on planet alternative pop?

Things are going okay. I'm getting into the swing of it now. It took a few weeks. I 'm looking forward to touring. Yeah ... I think I'm ready.

Let us speak frankly – your new album is quite the downer in places. There's lots of angst and soul-searching. Was it an ordeal to record?

There were points it was enjoyable, points where it was painful. So, a little of both. The lyrics, especially, were a lot more vulnerable than on the first album. I'm exploring introspection in some ways, I suppose you could say.

Foster The People's debut, Torches, was a surprise hit. Was success difficult to handle? You went from working as a jingle-composer in LA to headlining festivals.

You could say that. Torches opened a lot of doors. Ultimately it turned into an experience to be reckoned with. Torches took me around the world, showed me a lot – and that fuelled the concepts for the new album.

Everyone knows you from the single Pumped Up Kicks. Does it feel weird to owe your breakthrough to a song about gun control?

It wasn't intended to be a public service announcement about guns. I write songs based on things I see in the culture around me. I didn't record Pumped Up Kicks out of a sense of moral obligation. Of course, it ended up becoming a talking point and did draw some attention to the subject. In that aspect, it was an important song.

Was it fun to be a lightning rod for such a controversial subject?

It brought the conversation about gun control, and the censorship of that debate, to the forefront of the culture. That all happened by accident. If I knew how to control stuff like that, I'd be our next president.

Meanwhile, your new record is called Supermodel. That suggests you've travelled quite a distance from fretting about firearms.

We were extremely deliberate about the title. You don't need to speak English to know what 'supermodel' means. It's a very powerful word... when people hear it, they associate it with a specific lifestyle and set of values. And in many ways we all live in a supermodel culture. This is our world now.

Is it? Really?

Well, think about it. This is a culture where, through technology and social media, we are able to create an identity that practically lives in a cloud. We have these personas that are almost extensions of who we really are – and which seem to be becoming a bigger part of our identity day by day. It's just like when you open a magazine and see a picture of model – you don't see the hours spent in make-up and hair beforehand.

So you're comparing Twitter users to Kate Moss

Everyone is in communication with everyone else through these pieces of glass on their phones. People want to show how clever they are – they are meticulously thinking about their tweets, how they come across in their online profiles. It's where we are getting our sense of worth. That's what supermodel means to me – and that's the context in which I use it.

One of the most powerful tracks on the new record is The Truth, which chronicles your struggles with touring and fame. But apparently you had to be talked into including it on the album?

That was the song I agonised over time and again. I called up my friends, my bandmates, played it to people who hadn't heard it. And I'd say 'guys, I really don't think we should put it on the record'. The lyrics are so raw – there's no artifice, it's the real me. And everyone said, 'are you crazy – this HAS to be there'. And, from what we've heard, that's the song people are responding to. It goes to show – sometimes the thing that is most uncomfortable happens to resonate the most.

  • Supermodel is released today

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