Foster the People’s Mark Foster and Isom Innis made their festival debut as Smims and Belle – their new electronic music side project – over the weekend at Hard Summer in Los Angeles. But despite all the experience they’ve had playing major fests like Lollapalooza and Coachella since the smash success of Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” they admitted to feeling a jitters during the gig.
“We played so many festivals this last year as Foster the People, and we’re so used to playing in front of tens of thousands of people at these festivals,” Foster told Rolling Stone backstage after the set. “[Today] we walk up, it’s an early time slot and there were people out there, but I was more nervous. I was more nervous coming in today.”
The duo welcome the challenge of being unproven again. “We love being the underdogs and anytime we’re in a situation where you don’t know our stuff, if you get the crowd putting their hands in the air to something they’ve never heard before, that’s when you know something’s working,” said Foster. He and Innis tested themselves on Saturday with five new Smims and Belle tracks, including one called “Beat Illuminati.” They plan on releasing material in the near future. “We literally stopped touring with Foster the People like three weeks ago, [after] 300 shows in, like, 15 months. So this is a project we’ve been working on under the radar . . . Having some time off, we’re trying to focus on it a little bit more.”
Foster is also staying focused on the band that bears his name, though. “[Smims] is something that I love, but we’re kind of ramping into the next Foster record,” he said. “The FTP record is my priority.” He believes the two will intersect musically. “[Innis] makes stuff a lot more in the electronic realm. He’ll build foundational stuff for Smims and Belle and we’ll come together while I’m doing foundational stuff for Foster the People.”
Smims and Belle is already making an impression on the next FTP record, according to Foster, who also cited West African music, David Bowie and the Clash as influences. “It’s all in there. We make a really heavily electronic hip-hop track and explore that world, [and] it’s floating around in my brain the next time I write a Foster track. One thing about Foster the People is that it’s taking pieces of a lot of different genres of music and kind of melding them together,” he explained. “In the first record, I was looking at my vision for the project through a piece of opaque glass. This next record’s going to be more evolved; it’s going to be a clearer picture of what I’ve had in my head when it comes to that vision. Working on this project and getting deeper into electronic music is gonna help bring a deeper color in the next Foster record.”