Whenever anybody asks what kind of music Mark Pontius and his fellow bandmates (Mark Foster and Cubbie Fink) play in Foster the People, he can never come up with an answer.
Some might classify the band's music as indie pop, alternative rock or (my personal favorite) neo-psychedelia.
"I think we, as a band, are hard to categorize," said Pontius during a phone interview. "It's hard to categorize bands at all I think. They're trying to mix a bunch of things and find their own way. There are a lot of in-betweens."
Nowadays, Pontius continued, musicians or bands just say what they are "inspired by and that's kind of what [they] sound like." For Pontius, his inspirations go back to when he was a child. He was raised alongside a sister five years older than him; she had the more extensive music collection. Growing up in the 1980s, Pontius found himself listening to a lot of his sister's pop music albums.
"I love that cheesy '80s stuff like Ace of Base, Phil Collins and Michael Jackson," said Pontius. "I don't know if I bring a lot of that into the band. There may be a little bit, subtly."
He added that everyone in Foster the People has different influences and is inspired by their own musical tastes. But some members of the band don't necessarily need inspiration to make a hit. Foster, for example, forced himself to write what would eventually become "Pumped Up Kicks" on a day when he didn't feel like writing.
That song would later grant Foster the People a multi-album record deal, high spots on musical charts and a Grammy Award nomination for "Best Pop Duo/Group Performance." The group's debut album "Torches" also earned a Grammy nomination for "Best Alternative Album." Foster the People earned its third nomination for "Best Short Form Music Video" thanks to the song "Houdini."
It's been almost a year since Foster the People released its followup album "Supermodel." Pontius said the band wasn't looking to surpass the previous "Torches," which was certified platinum in the U.S. Instead, the band was looking to try out different styles, which led to "Supermodels" becoming a much heavier album, musically, whereas "Torches" had more electronic sounds.
Pontius, Foster the People's drummer, said some songs featured Afrobeat or African-inspired rhythms which, as a percussionist, he found to be quite challenging.
"It's very different from the Western way of doing music," said Pontius, adding that he could talk forever about Afrobeat. "Everything is 4/4 [time signatures] in our music. With them it's 12-bar phrases and six-bar phrases and different time signatures.
"I learned American music. When you go to study African music, it's all completely the opposite. It's like you're breaking the rules, per se. And for me as a drummer, I feel like I'm learning to play drums again. It's really inspiring to me."
Though only a few tracks from "Supermodel" took influence from the Afrobeat sound, Pontius said he can try it out more during live shows.
"I don't think we've fully jumped into it" said Pontius. "That [the album] was just a little taste of that. I think with our live shows we're looking to do a little bit more of it, which is fun."
Perhaps Saturday in the Park will allow him to experiment with his playing a little bit? For now, Pontius just wants discover his unique style and sound and "keep that fluid throughout a lot of [their] records."
"But within that same world, changing styles and letting influences inspire you and fall into your playing," said Pontius. "But I like the idea of hearing the expression of a musician as the same when you hear it through a record. Like that band is that collection of musicians and you can tell right away. I like the idea of that."