'Continuing To Put Their Best Foot Forward'
Alternative rock group Switchfoot was formed in San Diego, CA, by singer/guitarist Jonathan Foreman and his bassist brother Tim. With the addition of drummer Chad Butler - like the Foremans, an award-winning surfer - the band recorded their debut LP, 1997's The Legend of Chin. New Way to Be Human followed two years later, while Learning to Breathe was issued in fall 2000. The latest effort, The Beautiful Letdown appeared in Spring of this very year on the Red Ink label.
Chatting recently with lead singer Jon Foreman, I first wondered why they named the band after a surf-boarding term and what other names could the band so easily have been? "Naming our band is always quite a bit harder than writing tunes. We had pages and pages of band names that were thrown in the trash never to be seen again. Before we were called switchfoot we called ourselves Chin Up."
Why name the album The Beautiful Letdown and what would be your
favorite song off the CD - and why? "The Beautiful Letdown is an attempt to wrap my arms around the whole of what it means to be alive. It's an album that talks about the pain and the beauty that every new day brings. A strong undercurrent of longing runs beneath the record, reaching out for meaning and joy that this physical world can never
afford me. It's hard to pick favorites as they're all my kids in a way, but today favorite song would probably be '24'. I wrote '24' the day before I turned 25. This is a song that speak of my desire to be one, whole. To be the same person onstage and off. Sometimes the voices in my head sound like a political debate, arguing inside of me. '24' is a cry for inner peace."
Explain the cover art! "An empty pool: the modern embodiment of incompletion. Unable to be used until it's filled with water. I feel like our world looks a lot like that... Lonely, desolate... advancing? I wonder what future archeologists will think as highly of our society as we do."
Is it true that you actually did all the pre-production for this album
... in your bedroom?! "Yes. Many of the tracks that were cut in my bedroom made it straight onto the record. For example, on the song, 'Gone' the last lazy outro vocals were recorded first take at my house. Many times there's a simple honesty that comes through when you're alone with a song that can't be heard in a studio."
I was amazed to learn that over 40 of your songs had been used on TV
shows, one way or another, but do you get the final say on things like that
and is it monetarily beneficial?! "We have little to no say over the usage of our songs and receive very little monetary benefit. I'm an
optimist though, instead of seeing the glass half empty I'm always honored to hear that people making other types of art are listening and involving our songs in their projects."
Which one springs to mind as being the most satisfying placement ... and
which one still to this day doesn't make sense?! "We've seen some crazy stuff... A hot tub scene that had no correlation to the true lyric of the song... Etc.. Funny thing is, I never watch TV. I'm not going to say that I hate TV but I really hate it when the TV is just talking to itself, alone in a corner. So I've never seen a lot of these shows. I did
enjoy hearing Mandy [Moore] sing one of our tunes in her film. I think she's got a great voice and as a songwriter it was great to hear her version."
You're always vocal about change and the need for it in today's society,
but just how can Switchfoot change things up in today's world? "I have no delusions of grandeur. I know that a rock band has a limited scope as far as global change is concerned. But I will use what I have been given to change things. We have an amazing audience of people who are out there mixing it up. I met a kid last night at our show in Minneapolis who just got back from a year in Uganda, making a difference overseas. He said
our songs were a big inspiration for him. To be a spark is to start a fire. I want to be that spark. We are always encouraging people to get involved specifically with www.datadata.org as a few minutes can start the wheels turning. We live in the richest nation in the world. We have more than most people on the planet. That's a lot to give away."
Tell me more about your involvement with DATA "We've been involved locally in San Diego with a group of Sudanese Refugees that have survived the brutal, (and unpublicized) civil war over there. The
goal is to record a CD of their songs to help further awareness of the Sudanese plight overseas and here in the states. (incidentally, check out
www.lostboysfilm.com/film.htm) This involvement eventually led up to a chance to hear Bono speak about data and the amazing opportunity that we have to save lives. So we've been involved ever since. DATA is a
great place to get started: an organization that's politically smart, and passionately caring."
What's something interesting to know about you (or the band) that perhaps the general public wouldn't know ... or expect!? "Jerome used to milk cows...!"
Describe your sound in just three words "Thinking guitar rock."
So, have you two brothers ever gotten into it (fight wise!) whilst
on tour ... or on stage?!!? "I have absolutely fought with Tim and Chad and no, never onstage. If a band is passionate about the music
there is always the possibility for conflict. Fortunately, we are all great friends. We see eye to eye and there's no one else that I'd rather be making music with. I know that in 40 years we'll all be hanging out at the beach having a barbeque talking about the surf."
Finally, if you were locked into a studio and told to make music with three artists (thinking of their instruments, etc.), which three would it be (no one from your band) - and what would be the name of the song?! "Dave Grohl on drums, Paul McCartney on bass, Miles Davis on trumpet
the song would be titled, 'The Failure of the Modern Age'."
Interviewed By Russell A. Trunk
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