In their upcoming return to Calvin, Switchfoot will be trying something different from their normal performance style. Over the past year, the band has recorded their experiences using a new medium. Instead of only music, they will also be presenting a movie that they made in place of an opening band. This is not just any band documentary either. Fading West, which is the name of both their movie and their studio album, is a full-length movie that follows their adventures and struggles over the course of a year. Expect to see a lot of surfing and beautiful landscapes from around the world. During their tour, the band will be playing it before each of their shows and doing a full set afterwards.
Switchfoot has a long history at Calvin, and with good reason. The band has been here multiple times, and Jon Foreman has performed here in various capacities. This is in part because they embrace what we strive for here. They are Christians who are at times considered to fit into the genre of contemporary Christian music, but they are not afraid to try new performance styles or to address issues that are not often discussed in the CCM community. The band is willing to point out the areas in which we fail, where politics are failing us (at the same time pointing out that we are no different), and asking how long the brokenness will last. In their new album and movie, the band has kept with the themes that are present in their earlier work, while still exploring new avenues. They continue to fearlessly ask hard questions and seek answers through their music.
- Avery Johnson
Switchfoot are known for their catchy guitar work and the distinctness of Jon Foreman’s voice, at points falsetto, with a hint of wisp in his voice; giving it a sense of intense authenticity. The melodies get stuck in your head, but it is the rhythm provided by drums and bass that get you moving to the music. Switchfoot has perfected the contrast of loud and quiet. They are able to use volume to create intensity, but are also able to become softer and use that to make great melodies, some of which have an almost lullaby like quality.
Switchfoot has been led for the last 15 years by Jon Foreman on guitar and vocals, along with his brother Tim on bass, and Chad Butler on drums. More recently they have added Jerome Fontamillas on guitar and keyboards and Drew Shirley, also on guitar. The five are becoming veteran’s, finding their grove on their most recent album, Vice Verses, their eighth.
The first single, “Dark Horses,” explores the theme of optimism. In a world that feels like everything is going down hill, Foreman shouts:
Hey, you can’t count us out
We’ve been running up against the crowd
Yeah, we are the dark horses
Wait! It’s not over now
We’ve been down but we’ve never been out
Yeah, we are the dark horses
Switchfoot has often seriously confronted issues of brokenness and pain in the world, but continually appeals to love and humanity’s resilience to offer a word of hope.
While Switchfoot works from a Christian worldview, they don’t come off as didactic in this optimistic tone, nor do they shy away from real issues of injustice in the world. In their song “The Blues”, Foreman sings:
There's nothing here worth saving,
Is no one here at all?
Is there any net left that could break our fall?
It'll be a day like this one
When the sky falls down and the hungry and poor and deserted are found
Are you discontented? Have you been pushing hard?
Have you been throwing down this broken house of cards?
Does justice never find you? Do the wicked never lose?
Is there any honest song to sing besides these blues?
Switchfoot’s audience has come to rely on this honest questioning; to hear song that embody a response to chaos. From a theological perspective this is the chaos of doubt and hope, and the struggles of belief and loving others. From a political and cultural perspective, it is the unending and elusive search for, the quick sound bite, the trendy, the “new,” and the relevant. What can one do in a world that refuses a simplistic certainty?
Switchfoot is for those who have discarded simplistic answers and who want to sing along with the longing that their music and lyrics invokes.
- Greg Veltman
As they enter their 17th year as a band, Switchfoot has achieved a level of success that brothers Jon and Tim Foreman and their high-school friend Chad Butler never anticipated when forming the band in San Diego in 1996. The SoCal natives have sold 5.5 million copies worldwide of their eight studio albums (including their 2003 double-platinum breakthrough The Beautiful Letdown and 2009’s Grammy Award-winning Hello Hurricane), racked up a string of Alternative radio hit singles (“Meant to Live,” “Dare You To Move,” “Mess of Me,” “The Sound (John M. Perkins’ Blues),” “Dark Horses,” and “Afterlife”), performed sold-out world tours (visiting five continents in the past year alone), raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to aid homeless kids in their community through their own Bro-Am Foundation, and earned themselves a global fan base devoted to Switchfoot’s emotionally intelligent and uplifting brand of alternative rock.
So when it came time to write the songs that would make up their ninth studio album, the members of Switchfoot were looking for a challenge. “The point became, ‘What are we going to do to push ourselves,’” Jon recalls. “Could we take ourselves somewhere we’d never been before, yet achieve a feeling of comfort at the same time? How do we go to a new place that feels like home?”
Switchfoot found the answers on the road and in the waves. A year ago, while touring in support of their 2011 album Vice Verses, the long-time surfers set out in search of inspiration by visiting several of their favorite surf breaks around the world. “The idea was to surf, write songs, play music, and see what ideas came,” says Tim. The band traveled to Jeffreys Bay and Crayfish Factory in South Africa, Bronte Beach in Australia, Raglan in New Zealand, and Uluwatu in Bali, and chronicled their physical and emotional journey, as well as their unshakeable brotherly bond, in Fading West — a documentary film that features stunning locales, revealing interviews, jubilant live footage, and glimpses of Switchfoot at home and in their studio in San Diego. Like Rattle and Hum meets Endless Summer, the movie is part travelogue, part surf film, and part behind-the-scenes look at the making of the band’s upcoming new album, which will also be entitled Fading West.
Switchfoot premiered Fading West on opening night of the 2013 Summer X-Games in August. (The band have been very active in the action sports world, having performed at numerous NFL and MLB post-game events, as well as at the US Open of Surfing in 2011.) They will spend the fall on a unique tour, with the film serving as the opening act to a more intimate, stripped down performance from the band. The film will be released digitally towards the end of 2013, with the new album seeing it’s release on January 14, 2014.
- Switchfoot publicist