Mark Foster of Foster The People has revealed he’s been considering retiring the band’s best known song considering the controversy surrounding its morbid lyrics.
Back in 2010, the music world was treated to a summery anthem from Foster The People named ‘Pumped Up Kicks’. A catchy number, the tune topped charts around the world, only for people to realise its lyrics held something far sinister.
Beneath its sunny disposition hid a story about a troubled young man named Robert who insitgates a school shooting, as the chorus urges “all the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, outrun my gun.”
Despite being a big hit, the song was not without controversy, as it came under fire for supposedly glorifying gun violence, and eventually being banned by some radio stations following school shootings in the US.
Now, in a lengthy interview with Billboard, Mark Foster revealed that while he’s “proud of the conversation that it created”, he claims that he has been “very seriously thinking of retiring the song.”
“That song has become almost a trigger of something painful they might have experienced,” he explained. “And that’s not why I make music.
“At some points I do make music to bring awareness to something, but I make music to connect with people, and I feel like the awareness that that song brought and the conversation that that song brought, that’s been fulfilled. We’re still talking about it 10 years later. It still gets brought up.”
Check out Owl Eyes covering ‘Pumped Up Kicks’:
Noting that he feels “a lot of different things” about the incidents where real-life shooters have been inspired by the song, Mark Foster claims that while he’s love to retire the song, he can’t stop the public’s fondness of the track.
“I’ve been thinking about retiring the song and just not playing it live anymore,” he noted. “I can’t ask other people not to play it live, but the public made the song what it is — and if the song has become another symbol for something, I can’t control that. But I can control my involvement in it.
“The way that people perceive the song is their choice, and it becomes a separate entity that I don’t have control over,” he added. “But I do have control over whether I’m going to take part in playing it over and over again.
“It’s like pushing your song in somebody’s wound — I don’t really want to do it. And so yeah, it’s something that I’ve been wrestling with.”
As he continued, he noted few artists have “officially retired their most well-known song” (though, Radiohead springs to mind), but claimed that even a performance in Las Vegas following the 2017 shooting saw fans request the song.
Despite this, Foster noted that he’d gladly do a follow-up to the song if he could pull it off in a respectful way.
“I don’t know, I’m not a huge fan of sequels,” he explained. “If I can figure out a way to do it in a way that’s authentic and feels fresh and not preachy, I’ll do it.
“I’ve even thought about releasing that same exact song, with completely different lyrics. Or continuing the story, and talking about where Robert went from there — because nobody knows how that story ends.
“The thing about ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ is that it’s a moment in time, and you don’t know where it went. So people fill in the blanks, and I think sometimes horror is the most powerful when you let the imagination fill in what happens.”
Foster The People were last in Australia for the Falls Festival in 2018. At this stage, it’s unclear when they might return to our shores, and it’s equally vague if their reappearance will see ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ on the setlist.