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Experimentation helps Foster the People connect with listeners on “Sacred Hearts Club”

When Foster the People singer/guitarist Mark Foster relaxes, he goes all out.

In between tours, Foster’s to-do list includes snuggling with his bulldog, taking lots of naps, not talking to anyone (he made an exception for The Spokesman-Review) and watching TV all day.

“In between tours, I like to cocoon,” he said. “When I do relax, I relax hard.”

After spending most of June and July touring the U.S. and overseas, Foster has earned a little down time. And with another month and a half of shows, including a stop at the Knitting Factory on Sunday, in the near future, it’s smart for Foster to rest up.

Electro-rock quartet Foster the People – Foster, guitarist/pianist Sean Cimino, keyboard player/bassist Isom Innis and drummer Mark Pontius – have been hitting the road hard in support of its third album “Sacred Hearts Club,” which was released in July.

“Sacred Hearts Club” came from a series of experiments, some more unconventional than others.

“It’s really hard to put my finger on what action I can take or if there’s something that I can do physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally to invite the spirit of creativity into the room,” Foster said. “I’ll try everything and anything.”

Lead single “Doing It for the Money” came to be about five years ago while the band was touring behind its debut album “Torches.”

Foster’s friend and OneRepublic singer Ryan Tedder suggested the band install a recording studio on its tour bus so they could work on its second record while on tour.

Foster followed his advice, but, save for “Doing It for the Money,” recording on the tour bus was a bust.

Another more atypical experiment found Foster moving from Los Angeles back into his family home in Cleveland. Foster thought getting back to where he first fell in love with music would spark his creativity. Again, the experiment wasn’t as productive as he thought it would be.

Foster preferred to spend time with his younger brothers, and a noisy house wasn’t exactly conducive to recording vocals.

“Pay the Man,” born from a beat Innis sent Foster, was the only song to come from Foster’s time in Cleveland, but nonetheless, he’s glad he gave the change in scenery a try.

“Sometimes those experiments are worth chasing even if it’s just for one idea,” he said.

In a move not quite as drastic as moving back in with his parents, Foster also returned to the stream-of-consciousness manner of writing lyrics he’s employed through most of his career.

Foster experimented with a new writing style on the band’s second album “Supermodel,” one that found him writing lyrics with a pen and paper and then figuring out the melody, but found getting into a meditative space and recording as he responded to the music organically felt better.

He then listened back to what was recorded and tried to find, in his words, what the spirit in the room was trying to say.

“I almost feel like I’m co-creating with something else in the room,” Foster said. “I call that thing ‘God.’ Other people might have a different word for it, but that’s what it feels like to me, that there’s this spirit of creativity that is speaking and hitting this lightning rod and coming out into the microphone. It’s a pretty special feeling.”

While they welcomed the spirit of creativity – Foster said it felt like the room was vibrating when the spirit was present – the band did its best to resist the idea of commerce and questions like “What else is popular right now on the radio?” and “How can I be competitive with what I’m writing right now to where people are going to digest it in the same way that they would something else that they love this year?”

“Those ideas, they can creep in and disguise themselves as friends of mine…,” Foster said. “It’s a constant struggle trying to fight for the purity of the art but I think that on this record, that was something that we did really well where we really kept the space that we were working in pure, didn’t really let any outsiders in or things that would influence and really followed our instincts and really tried to stay authentic in what we were saying.”

Foster and the band fought to stay authentic because they see the songs on “Sacred Hearts Club” as a way to close the gap between themselves and listeners.

“To me these aren’t just songs, they’re bridges,” Foster said. “They’re bridges to allow people to walk closer to me and get to know me and they’re bridges for me to be able to walk across to get to know people, and in that, I want people to connect to what I’m saying.”


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