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Foster the People: Second Album 'Not the Record People Will Expect'

'It's a more polarizing record for us,' says Mark Foster

Mark Foster of Foster the People performs in Mountain View, California.
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
November 18, 2013 2:55 PM ET

After breaking out in 2011 with "Pumped Up Kicks," Foster the People slowed down considerably this year. They played just one show, and Mark Foster became a self-described "studio rat," where he started working on the band's follow-up to Torches, as well as scoring his first feature film. But 2014 should see a resurgence of Foster the People, starting this January, if all goes well. Rolling Stone recently spoke backstage with Foster at the HARD Day of the Dead Festival in L.A., where he teased some details about the new album, his film score and more.

HARD Day of the Dead Highlights

What was your experience scoring a film for the first time like?
It's called Little Boy. It's going to come out this next year. It's a period piece and the first feature film I've scored. This guy Alejandro Monteverde – he directed a film called Bella that won the Toronto Film Festival, and this is his next film. It's Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson, some really good actors. It's a good movie, but a ton of music. I think there's only nine minutes in the film that didn't have music, so it was, like, five months of work. But it was cool – I went to Prague and recorded the orchestra there for all the classical stuff. It was definitely an experience, but I'm really excited about the new Foster the People record. It's guitar-driven. I haven't played this much guitar in a long time, so it's going to be really fun to play live, because it's much more organic and more in the vein of the Pixies and Clash and stuff.

Did scoring Little Boy influence the Foster record?
For me, they live in different worlds. I think scoring the film is going to influence our third record because it kind of brought me back around to classical music, which is what I grew up on. I've been thinking a lot about the third record, even though our second record is not out yet, which is really funny to say out loud. For that record, I think it's going to be much more orchestral, and definitely working on the film and going to Prague and recording the orchestra, which I'd never done before – I'd never written a piece and then watched 50 musicians bring it to life – it's one of the most powerful things I've ever been a part of, to see an orchestra construct an original piece of music. I want to do that again. It was fun.

Is there a timeline for when the album comes out?
Beginning of next year. We're going to have a song at radio in January.

Is there a first single?
I shouldn't say that. This is the first interview I've even done about the next record so I've spilled a lot. I've spilled the beans.

What do you want people to take from this record?
It'll be interesting. It's not the record that people are gonna expect us to release second. It's definitely an evolution for us, and it's a more polarizing record for us, so I'm excited to see how it's received, for better or worse.

Was there a moment where you realized you didn't have to do another "Don't Stop" or "Pumped Up Kicks"?
I'm always like that. Once I write something, I never try to write that same style again, because I get very schizophrenic musically. This record, I went into it wanting to do something more organic and human, because the first record was so electronic and synthetic – in a cool way, I'm not putting it down, that's just what it was. So this record, I wanted to make something more human and let the songs breathe and grow and turn and take left turns and not come back if they want to. So it's a brave record. It started in Morocco. We did most of it in L.A. and then ended in London. I took from my travels in the Middle East, Africa and all year and put that perspective into the record, so it's got an interesting mix of things. I'm excited to play it live. It's a record that's going to come to life more onstage.

Jump ahead, first night of the tour – what tracks from the new album are you most excited to play?
There's a track called "Beginners Guide to Destroying the Moon" that, for me, is my favorite lyrical moment on the record, and it's probably the heaviest song on the record. So that's definitely one. There's a track right now called "Are You What You Wanna Be," and that's another one of my favorites because it goes into this 6/8 African shuffle rhythm in the verse – it's North and West Africa influenced, so it's got the bounce to it that a lot of western music hasn't seen. And then there's a song called "Nevermind" that's just kind of like my heart. If the album has a heart, "Nevermind" is the heart.

What songwriters have you been digging of late?
There are a few songwriters in bands I really relate to that write a certain type of joy, because a lot of artists don't really write joy. It's a thing only a few people do. I was just in Detroit working with Gregg Alexander, the singer for the New Radicals, and we ended up doing a Motown track in Detroit. It's not finished yet – this was literally five days ago. We went in just to write a song together and didn't plan on making it a Motown track and it just ended up being that, which I feel like, just being in Detroit, the snare drum just sounded like Motown. He's another one, like Jeff Lynne, that writes joy.

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