Switchfoot’s newest creation, Where the Light Shines Through, was released July 8 this year and sold 29,000 albums in the first week. By it’s second week out, it reached #10 on The Billboard Top 200, #1 on the Christian Album Chart and #3 on The Overall Digital Album Chart. This is their tenth studio album and the band has had an unabating touring schedule for nearly two decades. They have sold over 5.7 million albums and earned $1 million to help kids in their community through their Bro-Am Foundation.
The new album is an eclectic, mature work and vastly different than their last baby Fading West, a more local, So-Cal sounding album complete with a surf documentary, that seemed to be a celebration of the salted water that makes up so much of their lives. The new, epic, anthem-type song “Holy Water” will cross broadly over music genres and “Looking for America,” is a collaboration with 2013 Grammy winner, Lacrae, as a radical response to fear and racism. “The Day that I Found God” may be Switchfoot’s most controversial track yet, since it pushes forward with a superior, edgy, Switchfoot sound while lead singer, Jon Foreman’s vocals are vividly tormenting in an acceptance of surrender. However, since the lyrics are unapologetically about a man who only finds God when he loses himself, many fans that prefer Switchfoot’s blurred lines between Christian and Indie music the band has been so famous for, will have to decide how to react to this one. The album’s first single “Float” features a funky, soulful bass quality that is unique to this band’s more indie rock sound but is a refreshing, inspiring dance track with a music video shot in the Phillipines.
Foreman and little brother, Tim, who plays bass, and drummer Chad Butler formed the band while Tim was still only a senior in high school in Encinitas, California. Jerome Fontamillas is on keyboard and guitar, and Drew Shirley plays lead guitar. The band has one Grammy Award, three ASCAP Awards, eleven Dove Awards and twelve San Diego Music Awards.
Tim Foreman and I connected via telephone yesterday and I got to chat with him about their surfing community, their charity work, their new album and shooting their video for “Float.”
Hey Tim! I’m so excited to talk to you. My sister lives in Carlsbad-
That’s exactly where I live!
Yeah, she does adaptive surfing with the Challenged Athletes Foundation at your Bro-Am surf event. She says it’s a really big deal down there.
Wow. So Cool!
I really want to talk to you about that event since it benefits your community. You guys pull in over 15,000 people on the beach for that?
Yeah, it’s unbelievable. It grows every year but it seems to get better as well as bigger, which isn’t always the case, you know? We’re very thankful. It’s an event we’ve been doing now for 12 years and it benefits at-risk youth within our community and it’s just our favorite day of the year. We get to combine surfing, which is our favorite past time, with rock-and-roll, on the beach, in our hometown. It doesn’t really get any better than that.
You grew up in North County, pretty much.
Yeah that’s home for us. In fact, my brother and I grew up spending our summers at that beach, near D street, where the event is held, and we would go with our friends and we would all throw a couple of bucks into a hat and run our own surf contest. That’s how we spent our summer afternoons and winner takes the pot. So this is like a big version of that.
I know that place well.
A lot of pro surfers get involved and about 18,000 people.
What are some of your favorite surf spots? I know your not going to tell me the secret ones, but maybe?
Yeah, that’s the thing. If you ask any surfer what their favorite spot is, you know your not gonna get an honest answer. (laughs)
I know, right? But I have to try. (we both laugh) So, do you like Swami’s? Boneyards?
Well, as far as the spots everyone knows, I like Swami’s. I like Blacks. Trestles, you know. Those are the hot spots in our immediate area.
Alright, darn it. So you’re on the road now, and you have a show tonight, right?
We have a show tonight in New Hampshire, and then Texas tomorrow and then Canada the next day so we are hopping all over the place. The big tour doesn’t start until September but we are playing a lot of music festivals all summer long. Like, a tour before the tour.
And you’re playing a lot of stuff from your new album, Where the Light Shines Through?
Yeah, the new album came out…coming up on a month ago. It’s been incredible to see these songs kind of spread their wings and fly. We’ve worked really hard on this album.
I really love the song “Holy Water.” How did that come together and what do you guys expect to see when you play that song? Are you playing that one yet?
We haven’t played that one live. We might be saving it for the fall tour. We feel like that’s a special one, I mean we chose it to start the record and we feel like it’s kind of a good set starter as well. With every album we write one or two songs that are specifically designed to be album starters or set starters because it kind of takes a different kind of song to do that. So we just always envisioned that as a song that could start things off.
And it’s so different, this album from your last one, and even more so from Hello Hurricane. I really love the new tracks “The Day I Found God” and “Float.” How did you guys end up in the Philippines to shoot the video for “Float?”
We’ve always had a special connection with the Philippines. Jerome was born there, so we’ve been able to go back a few times through the years and play there and it’s always been a special homecoming for him. And because of that I think we’ve always felt a strong connection there. It’s a very musical country as well so we’ve had a lot of good reasons to go back. When we saw it was on our tour date and we saw it was around the time we had chosen “Float” to be our first single from the album, we felt like it was the perfect chance to do something above the ordinary of a normal music video. It’s also fun when you have a story behind it and get to take a song on an adventure in a music video.
Did you guys have to cast anybody for that or did everything just happen organically?
Yeah, it was pretty organic. The people over there, you know it’s such a beautiful culture, a lot of great energy there. We met a lot of really talented kids, young up and coming film students, and we were able to piece it together really organically and some of the people we met just in that community just had the brightest smiles. There’s just an infectious spirit that dwells in that community there.
So you just set up on a rooftop and filmed whatever happened?
Yeah! (laughs) And then also on the street corner, the community just kind of welcomed us in, and we were able to just set up and throw a free concert right there in the middle of their village, which to our knowledge has never happened before.
You got so lucky with the skateboarders and dancers.
Yeah! The whole thing was completely unreal. It’s definitely one of my favorite memories. Ever.
And you guys have your own studio in San Diego now, right?
Yep, yeah! This is our fourth album that we’ve recorded in that studio and it’s just like the clubhouse, you know? It’s got all of our instruments dialed in the way we like to record and it’s pretty unique that we can just go in there and be creative whenever we want.
To finish the albums, do you fly producers in or do you send the recordings away?
We bring them to us. We tour so much so having the studio at home is a chance for us to feel grounded and make sure the music feels organic and from a place where we all feel comfortable. It’s pretty special to be home while we record. We worked with one of our favorite producers ever, a guy named John Fields, whom we haven’t worked with in awhile. He helped with “The Beautiful Let Down” and “Nothing Is Sound,” so we flew him in and he did a great job helping us bring the project to a completion.”
It’s such a great album. You guys won’t be in L.A. until November but I’m definitely gonna catch that show.
That will be a good one! At the Palladium!
And you guys are touring with Relient K this time.
Yeah, that’s a friendship that goes way back. We’ve known those guys since our very earliest touring days. It’s pretty unique to have that kind of longevity and to be such close friends through the years so we’ve been looking forward to this tour for a while.
You guys toured with them before in 2007 and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Habitat For Humanity. Is there a charity for this one?
Yeah, a buck from every ticket goes to benefit the Bro-Am Foundation, which is really exciting, so just by showing up and buying a ticket, everyone is supporting Bro-Am. We are also working with a great organization called CURE International, which does free surgeries for kids who need them all around the world. It’s an amazing organization and they’re going to be along on the tour as well.
Switchfoot’s tour with Relient K kicks off September 19 in Denver, Colorado. A complete tour schedule and tickets can be found on the band’s website http://switchfoot.com/tour.
Interview by Bylle Breaux / Photo by Robbie Jeffers
Published in Elmore Magazine.