In his interview with JesusFreakHideout.com back in 2000, Jon Foreman, lead singer/guitarist of Switchfoot explained the origin of their name: “Switchfoot is a surfing term. We all love to surf and have been surfing all our lives so to us, the name made sense. To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It’s about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music.”
Luckily for us, these guys walk the talk. While I wouldn’t call their latest release, Hello Hurricane, “wildly experimental”, it does take some interesting musical turns and ventures out from a purely mainstream sound, while still managing to be inviting and accessible. Layered guitars (from Jon Foreman, Jerome Fontamillas, and Drew Shirley) form the basis of their sound. Artsy synth effects (courtesy also of Fontamillas, who has an industrial music background – Mortal and Fold Zandura) mix with vocal harmonies in the title track. Acoustic piano, bells, and choral-like backing vocals add elegant touches to the pretty, heart-expanding ballad “Always”, which is then starkly contrasted in the following guitar-driven hard rocker, “Bullet Soul”. Their music builds on the introspection and soul-searching of Foreman’s songwriting, with that layered, guitar-driven sound, propelling bass and percussion from Tim Foreman and Chad Butler, and Fontamillas’ atmospheric synth. A surprisingly range of varied moods and styles for one album – I really like these guys. “Sing It Out” is quite lovely, with synth and strings, and Foreman’s soaring vocals, and “Mess Of Me” is another personal favorite [they performed an absolutely searing version on Conan O’Brien last night].
“I am my own affliction
I am my own disease
there ain’t no drug that they could sell
no, there ain’t no drug to make me well…”
“I’ve made a mess of me I wanna get back the rest of me
IÂ´ve made a mess of me I wanna spend the rest of my life alive..”
“We lock our souls in cages
inside these prison cells
ItÂ´s hard to free the ones you love
Ohh, when you canÂ´t forgive yourself
– Mess Of Me
There’s still slick production values and the album has a radio-friendly sound, but the unusual and unexpected instrumental touches and mix of harder-edged tracks with softer ballads show some artistic courage, especially in light of their previous massive mainstream successes and the inevitable “label pressures” that so often accompany that level of success. Hence their split with Columbia Records back in 2007, creation of their own lowercase people records, and distribution deal with Atlantic Records, which now gives them their artistic freedom and a more direct connection with their fans.
The band have also been very involved in various charities through the years (including Habitat for Humanity and their own BroAm in San Diego), and on this tour they’re doing canned food drives at each show, the food being donated to that city’s local food bank. Jon, lead singer/songwriter, did a Global Warming commercial for Oxfam that will air nationally in the U.S. and around the world leading up to Tck, Tck, Tck – the Copenhagen Conference on Global Warming.
A Little Background…
In 1996 (as Chin Up), Switchfoot began its life with a lo-fi, indie sound, releasing their first three albums on Re:think Records. The label was bought out by Sparrow Records before the first release, which marketed their releases exclusively to Christian radio and retail outlets. In retrospect, this was probably something of a disservice to the band, as they were inevitably labeled as a “Christian rock” outfit, perhaps limiting their early reach into a more secular market. Even so, their third release, Learning to Breathe, was gold-certified by the RIAA with 500,000+ sold, and was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Rock Gospel Album”.
They gained mainstream recognition in 2002 with the inclusion of four of their songs in the movie “A Walk to Remember”. Their major label debut the following year, The Beautiful Letdown (on Columbia/SonyBMG), was their first album with Jerome Fontamillas on sythesizer, giving the band a fuller, richer sound. It went on to sell over 2.6 million copies and produced the band’s best-known singles, “Meant to Live” and “Dare You to Move”. Guitarist Drew Shirley joined the band officially in 2005, after touring with them for a few years, further enhancing Switchfoot’s guitar-oriented sound. Their final release on Columbia, Nothing Is Sound, was released in 2005 and debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
The creation of lowercase people records in 2007 marked a turning point for the band, and these past three years were spent honing their newest offering, recording over 80 songs in their home studio which were then pared down to the 12 songs on Hello Hurricane.
East Coast Shows
Dec. 7 – Baltimore, MD – Ram’s Head Live
Dec. 8 – New York, NY – The Fillmore Irving Plaza
Dec. 9 – Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club
Dec. 10 – Providence, RI – Lupo’s (WBRU Presents)
Dec. 11 – Philadelphia, PA – TLA (WRFF Presents)
Dec. 12 – Hartford, CT – Webster Theatre
Dec. 13 – Washington, DC – 930 Club
Dec. 14 – Burlington, VT – Higher Ground (WBTZ Presents)
See their official site for full tour schedule.