Artist: Foster The People

Pumped Up Kicks ~ Foster The People

Foster the People is an American indie pop band formed in Los Angeles, California in 2009.The group is composed of Mark Foster (vocals, keyboards, piano, synthesizers, guitar, programming, percussion), Mark Pontius (drums and extra percussion), and Cubbie Fink (bass and backing vocals). The group’s music, described as melodic dance-infused pop and rock, spans many genres.

While attending high school in Cleveland, Mark Foster-the group’s lead singer and primary songwriter- was matched to the Air Force by a vocational aptitude test. However, Foster hesitated at the prospect of fighting in the War in Iraq. At his father’s encouragement, after graduating, Foster moved in with his uncle in Sylmar, Los Angeles in California to pursue a music career. Foster worked various odd jobs and at night, he began to attend parties in Hollywood in an attempt to network. He said, “I felt like an 18-year-old Hunter S. Thompson. I was just diving into this Hollywood Hills subculture and taking it all in. I wasn’t shy about taking my guitar out at a party. I wanted to be the center of attention.” At one time, he roomed with actor Brad Renfro.  Foster struggled with drug addiction during his initial years in Los Angeles, saying, “It got pretty dark. My friends thought I was going to die. I was blind to it. When I was 19 years old, it got to a point where I said, ‘Enough is enough’… I saw time was just passing me by. I wasn’t being productive.”

Several attempts at founding a band proved unsuccessful. After turning 22, he says he was contacted by Aftermath Entertainment about showcasing his musical talents, but the opportunity ultimately fell through. For the next few years, Foster worked at a cafe while dealing with writer’s block, but he remained in Los Angeles after landing a job as a commercial jingle writer for Mophonics.  He said of the profession, “I definitely learned from the commercial standpoint what works”,and he credited the job with reviving his confidence in performing.  The music Foster wrote spanned a wide range of genres, but he had difficulty reconciling his eclectic compositions. He explained: “I’d write one song and it’d be a hip-hop song. I’d write another and it’d be heavily electronic. Another would be like a spiritual, and another would be classic piano song. I was constantly trying to pull those elements together. It took me six years to do it.”  He still wished to be part of a group; reflecting on a residency he did at a venue performing electronic music, he said, “It was just me and a laptop. Really, it was terrible. I knew I needed a band.”

Foster the People was born out of a nascent relationship with drummer Mark Pontius, who left his group Malbec in 2009 to found a band with Foster. Pontius was impressed by the amount and diversity of songs that Foster had written to that point, saying, “Some were on the guitar, and some were on the computer. But it was this really awesome singer-songwriter thing with a tricked-out beat, and I felt we could go wherever we wanted with this.” Foster’s long-time friend Cubbie Fink joined the group soon afterwards as bassist.  Mark Foster originally named the band Foster & the People, but people misheard it as “Foster the People”. Eventually, he took to the nurturing image it evoked of “taking care” of people, so the name stuck.

Not long after the group formed, Foster wrote and recorded a song at Mophonics called “Pumped Up Kicks”, a song that was the group’s breakthrough. It appeared on the website supergoodmusic.com in early 2010,and after Foster posted the song on his own website as a free download, it drew the attention of Nylon magazine, who used the track in an online advertising campaign.  The song continued to receive attention through various blogs and soon became big. Foster was emailed by many people about “Pumped Up Kicks”, and needing professional guidance, he contacted artist manager Brent Kredel at Monotone, Inc. in March, saying, “Everyone is calling me and emailing me-what do I do? Who are the good guys, who are the bad guys?” Kredel recalled that “He went from the guy who couldn’t get a hold of anyone to being the guy who had hundreds of emails in his inbox.” Kredel and Brett Williams were subsequently hired to co-manage Foster the People, and they helped the group get meetings with several record labels, including Warner Bros., Atlantic, Columbia, and Universal Republic. In May 2010, the band was signed to the Columbia imprint Startime International by Isaac Green in a multi-album deal. The deal did not involve ancillary rights, which pleased the band and their management. Foster controls publishing of the songs in North America, while a separate 2010 deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing controls publishing outside of North America.

Pumped Up Kicks

The lyrics to “Pumped Up Kicks” describe troubled and delusional youth with homicidal thoughts. Foster said, “I was trying to get inside the head of an isolated, psychotic kid.”  He stated the lyrics were written to “bring awareness” to the issue of gun violence amongst youth, which he feels is an epidemic perpetuated by “lack of family, lack of love, and isolation”.  Some people have speculated that the song is a reference to the Westroads Mall shooting in Omaha, Nebraska; the shooter was Robert Hawkins, and the first lyrics of the song are “Robert’s got a quick hand”. Similarly, Hawkins stole his stepfather’s AKM-style rifle, and in the song, the alleged shooter steals his dad’s revolver.  However, the band’s publicist told an Omaha World Herald reporter, “This is completely false. The character name in the song is just a coincidence.

Contrasting with the dark lyrics of the song, the music, which was written first, is upbeat, with a heavy bassline and a mixture of acoustic and electronic elements. Foster said, “It’s a ‘fuck you’ song to the hipsters in a way-but it’s a song the hipsters are going to want to dance to.”Jeffery Berg of Frontier Psychiatrist said, “I was so engrossed with the cheery melody of its chorus that it took me a few listens to discover that the lyrics suggest dark, Columbine revenge.”

For play on the television channels MTV and MTVu and the Sirius XM channels The Pulse and The Blend, the words “gun” and “bullet” were removed from the song’s chorus.  Foster believes many have misinterpreted the song’s meaning, and he has written letters to his record label and called radio stations to complain. He explained, “The song is not about condoning violence at all. It’s the complete opposite. The song is an amazing platform to have a conversation with your kids about something that shouldn’t be ignored, to talk about it in a loving way.”

Robert’s got a quick hand.
He’ll look around the room, he won’t tell you his plan.
He’s got a rolled cigarette, hanging out his mouth he’s a cowboy kid.
Yeah, he found a six shooter gun.
In his dad’s closet hidden with a box of fun things, and I don’t even know what.
But he’s coming for you, yeah he’s coming for you.

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

Daddy works a long day.
He’ll be coming home late, he’s coming home late.
And he’s bringing me a surprise.
‘Cause dinner’s in the kitchen and it’s packed in ice.
I’ve waited for a long time.
Yeah the sleight of my hand is now a quick-pull trigger,
I reason with my cigarette,
And say your hair’s on fire, you must have lost your wits, yeah.

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

[Whistling]

[Chorus: x3]
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

  • Audio from the 2010 album, Torches:
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