Never Let Us Down
by Sheila Lussier
Pulling up to the legendary Roxy in Hollywood, I found a line wrapped around the block and down the sidewalk. It was made up of Switchfoot fans that had waited more than twohours in line for their favorite band to go on. The band’s tour manager brought me inside the venue to the dressing room where I met four very nice guys. Years of recording indie records, local stardom and having their songs featured in movies like A Walk To Remember and TV series like Dawson’s Creek, Party of Five and Felicity hasn’t gone to their head.
Now, as they release their first major label disk, The Beautiful Letdown, the band has a lot they want to say. The group is made up of singer/songwriter Jon Foreman, his younger brother (and co-writer) Tim Foreman on bass, drummer Chad Butler and multi-instrumentalist Jerome Fontamillas. After weeks on the road, the guys are looking forward to being home in Cardiff, a beach community outside San Diego, if only for a little while. They’ll be surfing soon. But tonight, they are rocking the Roxy.
The guys formed Switchfoot right out of high school, naming it after a term used in the surfing community. “Being Switchfoot is all about putting a different foot forward,” Jon Foreman explains. The band grew up together, surfing everyday and competing on weekends. Beyond a love of hanging ten, they also had a deep passion for music. Their musical roots are diverse: Tim Foreman aspires to be Paul McCartney, while Butler leans more towards Stevie Wonder.
While their songs come from a rich place musically, they also lyrically reflect Jon Foreman’s desire to have a philosophical dialogue with his listeners. He feels music should help the listener ask themselves questions – and to seek answers. These songs are his way of exploring the world… and at times challenging the way things are. While trying to be honest within his songs and in his life, he wrestles with the tension of how the world is and how it should be. He wants listeners to grapple with intense issues, because, as he says, “freedom and truth and love are worth fighting for. Moreover, life is worth fighting for.”
Switchfoot is currently touring and playing tracks from their new album, The Beautiful Letdown. A new song, “This Is Your Life” was a big hit that night with the audience. The group went on to play other songs such as “Meant To Live,” which has a strong guitar feel and a pounding drum giving the song backbone. At the end of the song Foreman took the microphone and sang soulfully with only his acoustic guitar as accompaniment. They also played some of their older songs such as “Learning To Breathe” and “Only Hope.”
The show allowed Foreman to show off what a truly remarkable voice he has, and you could enjoy his perfect pitch, particularly when he played unplugged. Jon Foreman is complicated, but he sort of reminds me of a more grounded Kurt Cobain. Switchfoot succeeded at getting the crowd got caught up in their music, but they also got me thinking, which is important with times the way they are today. And I couldn’t stop humming their tunes, either.
How long have you guys have been playing together?
Jon Foreman: For seven years.
How do you keep the show interesting for the band?
Jon Foreman: Well, every night is an experience. I try to break as many strings as I can…. just kidding. Well, to keep it interesting I usually change the set list…
What about for the audience?
Jon Foreman: A Switchfoot show usually has a lot of energy coming from the crowd and coming back [from us.] To keep that going it has to be spontaneous. So every night it is its own animal.
What is the band’s overall message to the people that you are playing for?
Jon Foreman: The biggest thing is we kind of have a Socratic approach to the interaction that we have with our fans where we ask more questions…
What do you mean by that?
Jon Foreman: Socratic dialogue is where the listener is actually the one who is being forced to think and ask themselves the question. A lot of our songs are that way.
So you let the audience ask themselves the question?
Jon Foreman: If you’re asking the question about something, you’re going to find the answer much more compelling…
Why do you think people would buy a Switchfoot album?
Chad Butler: Because Jerome rocks.
Tim Foreman: Because he looks so good.
Jerome Fontamillas: I think the music is great. We have obviously put our heart and souls in the album. We are very proud of the production that we did. The message is what Jon was trying to convey earlier. It’s a very strong album.
Jon Foreman: I write a lot of the songs, so for me these songs are coming through the heart. These are our passion.
On The Beautiful Letdown, most of your songs seem to have a very positive message. What do you feel is your overall message?
Jon Foreman: The idea of life of being short and wanting to make a full circle. There is a meaning behind our interaction today. There is a meaning behind tonight and I want to make sure that we don’t leave LA having missed our opportunity. [We want] to convey that meaning and pursue what stands behind that meaning, if you know what I mean. I think that’s the reason why these songs are relevant today, especially with the political implications [of] what is going on over there in the Middle East. I feel like there are songs like ‘Meant To Live’ or ‘This Is Your Life’ are talking about the fact that we are we were created to live for more than[just] the two dimensional TV screen, a new car or whatever… [Music] that has impacted me the most are the songs that have touched me on a spiritual level… like Bob Dylan or Bob Marley. That is what these songs are intended to do for other people.
|#1 © 2003 Sheila Lussier|
|#2 © 2003 Matthew Welch – courtesy of Red Ink / Columbia Records|
Copyright ©2003 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 8, 2003.