Ahead of a sold out show at Somerset House, we spoke to Foster the People's Isom Innis about touring, the new album and everything in between. Take a look at what he had to say here.
As the phone started to ring, I suddenly had a flash back to being 17 years old, standing in the NME tent listening to Foster the People. Fast forward five years and I’m now speaking on the phone with Isom Innis, keyboard player for one of my favourite bands as a teenager. I’m not screaming out the words of “Pumped Up Kicks” anymore but more trying to find the words to formulate a sentence without sounding too nervous. I can still picture that tent now. Thousands and thousands of people all waiting for that iconic bass riff to kick in and screaming once those notes finally started to play.
Although I might be going into this interview with a pair of nostalgic, rose tinted glasses, I can’t help but feel the excitement in talking to Isom. Ahead of a sold out show at Somerset House, being on the back leg of a European tour and performing across the world, the guys must be feeling all kinds of emotions. Tired, drained, nervous and, most of all, excited.
Hi Isom, how are you today?
Hey man, how’s it going?
I’m good, excited for tonight?!
Yeah of course! We just rolled in a few hours ago so just getting all our kit together and get prepared for tonight.
Where did you fly in from?
We were in Amsterdam last night, we played in Paradiso which was fun. We’re kind of at the tail end of the first European leg.
Well, I guess someone’s got to do it, eh!
(laughs) I know! We’re just touring at the minute. Touring the UK, touring Europe. It’s not a vacation!
You got married this year, didn’t you?
Yeah I did! A few months ago at the end of April.
Thank you so much man! I have my Mrs out with me. We met up in Barcelona and she’s now with us onto Paris, Amsterdam and London leg. It’s so nice.
Let’s just jump straight into it then shall we, how did you guys form?
So Mark Foster and Mark Pontius started the band in 2010 and they were just getting started. I met Mark in 2010 and they were looking for another guy. I’d just moved to Los Angeles from Boston so we ended up meeting up, hanging out and had shared interests. They were rehearsing in downtown Los Angeles so I went down, rehearsed with the guys and then that was kind of it. They asked me to be in the band and now the rest is history.
What were some of your main influences both individually and as a band?
Well for this record, Sacred Hearts Club especially it has to be J Dilla’s “Donuts.” “Donuts” is the manual for hip-hop production and it’s something that I think we kept coming back to because we kept discovering more about it, the more we listened. Joy Division also had a big influence on the synth work for the new record.
For me, especially when I was growing up, it was definitely people like Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters. Although I play keyboard for Foster the People, drums are actually my main instrument and Harvey Mason was the drummer on that record. The sounds, the grooves, the improvisation is amazing. There’s a lot of synth work on that album which introduced me to the world of keyboard playing.
After the success of your ‘III’ EP, did you feel that this was now the right time to release your album?
Well we’ve been working on this album for two and a half, almost three years and for us coming from the traditional mould of the music industry; bands put out a single first. I think for us it felt right to put out three songs at once and out of nowhere. The three songs that we picked all have a very sonic texture, representative of what’s to come on the record but without giving away everything. It’s important to keep surprises! We’re just excited to finally put out a body of work that people can sit and digest having given a preview on ‘III’.
So the new album is out next Friday the 21st, how are you feeling about releasing it?!
Man, we’re so excited! It’s kind of that feeling where it’s the last day of school and we’re just waiting for the bell to hit 3pm. It definitely feels like the clock is ticking slowly and we’re just waiting for the time to go past (laughs).
For us, we’ve worked so long on this album and it’s been a long time. It kind of feels like your baby and no one really knows about it then all of a sudden, you release it, and it becomes everyone else’s. We’re just really eagerly anticipating that point.
So Somerset House, a massive place to play, how does it feel knowing that you’re going to be performing there?
It feels good to be back in London. We haven’t played here since I believe Glastonbury 2014 so it’s been a while since we’ve been in the UK. I think we’re just all excited to be back here. There’s just a different spirit to the London music scene. A lot of our influences come from the UK so it just feels really good to be back. We get to debut new songs when we are out here and before the new album is released
Has all the touring taken it’s toll yet or are you keeping up alright?
At the end of the Supermodel tour, I thought that I would never want to tour again (laughs) but you know what, we spent so much time in the studio that, believe it or not, we couldn’t wait to get back on the road. We’ve been playing a lot of the new songs and we’re really gonna start once Sacred Hearts Club comes out we can just play the full album.
It feels exciting man, it’s just nice to be back out touring. For us, we don’t get to come to Europe that often so whenever we’re out here we really cherish our time here. Feeling the different energy from the crowds, it’s unreal which adds to the experience.
Do you still get nervous playing to people or are you sort of past all that now?
It’s not a bad nervous, it’s just an excited nervous. By this point, three records in, when we’re playing live we really know what we are doing. You know that you’re prepared, you’re ready to step on stage but you still have those excited nerves. It keeps you going.
Have you got any other big plans for this years, tours, festivals or are you going to chill out after Somerset House?
Oh no man, we have a show in Portugal a few days later and then we head back to LA where we are gonna do some stuff out there for release week. Then we head out on a North American run at the end of July.
No rest for the wicked then!
(laughs) no man not at all! We’ll be back in the UK too so we’re hoping to get out here and in Europe in Spring of next year.
Well thanks for chatting to me and good luck for tonight!
Absolutely thank you, was a pleasure to talk to you.
After my chat with Isom Innis, it's easy to see why Foster the People still have all the buzz around them, even though this is their first album for 3 years. The band are hard working, fun and most of all, easy to like. Whilst they know that they are successful by selling out shows around the world, winning awards and carrying unprecedented energy to every show they don't show it. It feels as though they have the same energy and excitement they did when they started out all those years ago.
This new album Sacred Hearts Club is something that the band have truly put blood, sweat and tears into. The project is a defining moment that shows how far the band has come since their early years but still shows how young they are at heart. I for one, am more than excited about Sacred Hearts Club and everything that this year has for Foster the People.