An Interview With Isom Innis Of Foster The People & Peel

An Interview With Isom Innus Of Foster The People & Peel

Foster the People, Bilbao BBK Live Festival 2014, Kobetamendi, Bilbao, 11/VII/2014. Foto por Dena Flows

If you’re into Los Angeles-based indie rock band Foster the People, surely, you’re aware of the band’s guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Sean Cimino and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Isom Innis, who, alongside Mark Foster, have created some of the more iconic music of the last decade as far as indie-pop, dance, electronica, and neo-psych go.

But Cimino and Innis are far from one-trick ponies. In 2020, the duo formed a side project, Peel. Their self-titled EP followed, channeling industrial post-punk and experimental dance to perfection. And now, for their full-length debut, Acid Star, which dropped on March 29, 2024, they’ve taken those sounds and spun them into a blistering torrent of amalgamated magic.

Via a combination of music that the duo loved as kids and channeling their creativity in ways not often seen, Acid Star is a bit of bliss that you never knew you needed. To that end, Isom Innis beamed in with us here at ClassicRockHistory.com to dig into his drumming origins, songwriting process, membership in Foster the People, new music, and more.

What inspired you to play the drums? Do you remember your first drum kit?

When I was five, my dad gave me a drum kit for my birthday, and I was pretty much obsessed with it and never looked back. My first drum set was a little baby kit, and then when I was 10, I got a used Percussion Plus kit from a garage sale.

Who were your greatest influences, and how do they remain a part of your sound?

The music I heard growing up first was a mixture of The Beatles, The Police, Yes, and Herbie Hancock & The Headhunters. I think the influence of all those artists is baked into my drumming and taste. For this album [Acid Star], my musical influences weren’t a particular artist but chasing the feeling of the songs I would listen to on the radio as a kid in the late-90s and early 2000s.

What was your first professional gig? What did you learn?

My first gig was at 11, playing jazz in a trio with my dad on piano. It was at a really small cafe, and I had to use brushes to not thrash-out the people eating. It taught me to be in tune with the dynamics of a room and how to blend with other players.

What led you to diverge from Foster the People for Acid Star?

We’ve been writing together over the years in and outside Foster the People. When we recorded the Peel EP in 2019, we felt like there was a special identity that we discovered with the music that we really wanted the world to hear.

How do you view the way you play today versus the past? What has changed most? 

My perspective is always shifting. I think my foundation has been approaching music through the lens of a drummer, but over the last few years, I’ve been writing more from a melodic standpoint.

Tell me about your approach to songwriting.

When I’m on my own, I usually make a beat first and then start layering instruments. If I like something enough, I’ll sing over it. Writing on my own mirrors Sean [Cimino] and my process for Peel, except when the musical chairs start, Sean and I split the instrumentation.

Which of these songs means the most to you, and why?

Right now, I’m really drawn to the first and last songs we wrote for the album. “Manic World” came through very fast and really sparked the initial inspiration to make an album. “Cycle” was the last song we recorded, and I think it represents my creativity right now.

Tell me about your gear. What goes into those choices?

My go-to’s are Gretsch drums, a Prophet 6, Juno 106, and a Moog Sub Phatty. We finished the bulk of the album in Ableton [digital audio workstation]. I was having fun exploring what Ableton can do and being intuitive with it as an instrument. I don’t have that much gear, so I think I should utilize what I have access to.

How has your membership in Foster the People impacted this record?

Over the years, I’ve learned so many things from writing and producing with Mark [Foster]. One of them is how to capture an idea fast in a creative burst, leaving my inner critic outside the room. Another is how to design my life to be creative.

What’s the latest there? How will you balance both gigs and your goals as you move ahead?

As far as the timeline goes, I have no idea. I look at every creative outlet as an opportunity to express myself, hopefully, learn more about myself, and grow. As far as goals go, I really desire to be as prolific as possible and not let perfectionism mute my voice.

An Interview With Isom Innus Of Foster The People & Peel article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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