It’s not often a band considers retiring their most popular song, but that’s exactly where Foster the People stands with “Pumped up Kicks.”
Frontman and songwriter Mark Foster says he’s thinking about leaving the band’s breakthrough hit out of all future live performances because it has run its course. The song is often misunderstood because of its contrast between upbeat music and dark lyrics, which some have interpreted as being about a potential school shooter, but Foster says it is more about a person’s psyche.
“What's interesting about it to me was, topically, (the song) struck a chord and resonated with people, which is why the song became what it did. But it took people a while to really let the lyrics get into their bones, and I think that once the lyrics got under their skin, it was a bit of a slap in the face,” Foster told Billboard.
Foster recalled writing the song in eight hours, channeling late 60s and early 70s California pop, Fleetwood Mac and Jimi Hendrix, while sticking to his first instinct on the lyrics. He says he’s proud that the track created conversation, but is seriously thinking of retiring it forever because of the connection that has been made to school shootings that continue to happen.
“That song has become almost a trigger of something painful (listeners) might have experienced. And that's not why I make music,” he explained. “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.”
Foster was interviewed by Billboard about “Pumped Up Kicks” because the publication listed the song among its 100 of the 2010s that shaped and reflected the music and culture of the period. Foster maintains that he's still proud of the song and worries about fan reaction if he stops singing it.