Q&A with Jon Foreman of Switchfoot
San Diego alternative rock band Switchfoot has been on tour supporting its eighth record, Hello, Hurricane, released November 2009. The group, founded by brothers Jon and Tim Foreman, boasts two gold records and sold over more than 500,000 copies of both Learning To Breathe (2000) and The Beautiful Letdown (2003) since its debut in 1996.
The Lumberjack asked singer/guitarist Jon Foreman a few questions about Switchfoot’s recent release while he was between tour dates in Texas prior to the band’s stop at Ardrey Auditorium March 4.
The Lumberjack: Starting out as Chin Up, Switchfoot has come a long way since your Legend of Chin debut album of 1997. How would you compare your first album to your latest, Hello, Hurricane?
Jon Foreman: Well, I think the first one was simply songs that came to me. I wrote most of them back when I was 17 or 19, somewhere in there. So, those are songs that reflected the world around me at that point, and it was a pretty small world. I grew up in San Diego. I think that Hello, Hurricane has a much brighter embrace and wider embrace. It’s trying to understand the bigger issues, trying to find a place for hope amidst tragedy.
LJ: Switchfoot has had more than eight records since 1997, and a lot of your earlier albums have had a distinct Christian audience. Would you consider your more recent albums to have a broader musical scope?
JF: No, I think we’ve made the same music from the beginning. I think that people are going to call you all sorts of different things. I’ve always been very honored to be affiliated with Christ, and we certainly don’t shy away from talking about who we are or what we think about the world; but it’s never been in a condescending approach. It’s always simply inviting other people into the journey that we’re on. We’re all on different journeys, and [music] can be a window into somebody else’s soul.
LJ: Where did the inspiration/concept come from for this album, and how did the band approach innovating and expanding off of your Oh! Gravity record of 2006?
JF: The goal, musically, was to travel to areas we’ve never been before. We wanted to cover new terrain and have been pushing ourselves further than we’ve ever been. This particular record was a real challenge for us, probably the most challenging record we’ve ever made.
The concept for Hello, Hurricane … actually, my brother came up with the title. I liked it because I felt like it was approaching the storms of life and the natural disasters that hit our world with a certain sense of hope and putting the weight of the crisis back into the lap of the individual, the idea that you can’t determine when storms will come and tear through your world. You can’t choose what they are going to tear apart. But you can choose the way that you sing while the storm is happening. You can choose the way you treat people while the storm is happening. For me, that’s kind of what the whole record is: singing into the storm.
LJ: Is there any particular direction you’re heading toward after Hello, Hurricane?
JF: I think the next CD is going to be quite a bit different. We’ve been talking around the idea about a double album. The name of the next CD is called Vice-Verses, and I think it’s a chance to show off even more diversity than Hello, Hurricane.
LJ: “Mess Of Me” is a very powerful song that centers on a very interesting concept about the drug-ridden populous. Besides the obvious, what is this song trying to communicate to people?
JF: We are prone to take the easy way out, that we’re prone to running away from ourselves in a million different substances and relationships, and often, the most difficult thing to do is look in the mirror and recognize that things need to change. So for me, that song is bigger than even drug use. It’s about transformation, I suppose. The last line of the chorus for me is kind of a battle cry where it says I want to spend the rest of my life alive. In that spirit, it’s about facing the demons within all of us and moving forward.
LJ: Do you have any particular favorites to play at your live shows?
JF: There’s a lot of songs that I have really fond memories with. I feel thankful that the songs that we’ve made over the years have been such that I’m very proud of them to this day. I have friends that are in bands that hate their singles. For me, it’s not the case. There are still songs that I’m very proud of. There’s a lot of them that we’ve had the fortune of playing night after night, from Only Hope on down to more recent songs off the new record, too. [Hello,Hurricane] has become the new favorite for me. We liked it so much that for the first few months while we were touring it, we played the entire new record from start to finish before we played any other songs; the first hour being the new record and the second hour being all of the old songs. So it kind of gives you an indication of how much we believe in this new record.