What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, Mark Foster was trying not to embarrass himself as he played alongside his bandmates in Foster the People at South by Southwest. This year, they’re ready to tour the world after playing the famed Austin music festival eight times in four days.
That’s the sort of year the Los Angeles indie rock band has enjoyed, as the sheer fun and energy of hipster tracks like “Pumped Up Kicks” resonates on playlists coast to coast. The band’s upcoming North American tour, which brings them through Denver on Wednesday, sold out numerous shows up and down both coasts and Chicago as well. It’s a sure sign of the universal appeal of one of music’s hottest bands.
“Last year, we were still trying to figure things out,” says Foster, the band’s vocalist, keyboardist and guitar player. “We were trying to figure out our live show and who we were. We’d only been a band for a couple of months. All of a sudden, we were on the map because ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ went viral a month earlier or started to go viral, so there were people there to check us out.”
“On the map” is one way to put it. The band’s planned a tour of Europe later this year and plans to head back to Australia after several dates in January. Foster says the highlight of this year’s SXSW festival featured playing to 2,000 fans at Stubb’s, and the aforementioned soldout crowds will only build the brand.
The most amazing part of the hype is that they’ve done it all on one three-song EP, a self-titled release that finally dropped after the first of the year.
Torches is the official full-length debut being released in May, so expect the momentum to stay the upward course. While Foster says the entire ride has been surreal and difficult to process given the fun and focus they’re trying to maintain in the moment, he also believes the band’s success is due to a rigid rehearsal schedule and strong work ethic.
“I’ve always been confident in the band,” says Foster.
“Ever since our first show, I’ve known that we have what it takes. Even when we were first starting, I knew it was possible but that it would take a lot of work. We work really hard all of the time. Things are constantly changing and we’re constantly rehearsing. We’re always trying to make things better.
We’re all super-focused on this, so I think all of the work we’ve put in this last year has started to pay off.”
The recent slew of gigs in Austin is an example of the hard work Foster the People is willing to put in. Our interview comes between quick set-ups and teardowns in hopes of reaching as many fans as possible. Then again, that’s also a part of the reality of the frenzied week.
“If you’ve never been to South by and nobody ever warns you what South by is like, you come into it as a band thinking you’re going to go through the motions like any other show — you get a sound check and that people go through the typical routine,” Foster says. “But you quickly realize when you get here that there’s no sound check and you probably don’t even have all of the cords that you need. You have about five minutes to live check your instruments, and then you play and put on the best show that you possibly can.”
While the band takes its craft seriously, Foster’s also quick to admit that the primary reason the trio has enjoyed such buzz is the fun factor associated with their music. Foster the People is largely about having a good time, and the singer realizes they can’t lose sight of that vibe for the fans or for themselves.
“I think all of this is about making these people happy,” he says. “I think it’s joyful music, and we’re not pretentious. We’re up there having fun, and I think we create the type of environment for other people to have fun. I think people gravitate toward things like that and hope they’ll continue to do so.”
On the Bill:
Foster the People play the Walnut Room on Wednesday, March 30. Doors at 7 p.m. Grouplove and Le Sands also appearing. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. 3131 Walnut St., Denver, 303-292-0529.