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Switchfoot Ė 02.24.08 
by Jonathan Bautts on 2008-03-19

This is an interview conducted with frontman Jon Foreman before Switchfootís show at Biola University in La Mirada, CA.

So how did you guys end up playing this birthday bash here at Biola?

Weíve never actually played a birthday party for a school, let alone a 100 year type thing, so we figured, ďWhy not? It sounds like a fun thing to do. Itís right up the street.Ē

And then you played a solo show here a while back too.

Yeah, and I think that was for Invisible Children.

Right. Anyways, you guys are going to be starting a new tour next month, the Up In Arms Tour, for To Write Love On Her Arms. How did that come about?

Weíve been really good friends with Jamie and were actually there the night he got his first shirts printed. So weíve known him for a long time and really support what heís been doing. Weíve been talking about it for a long time, and it finally made sense for both of us to go out on the road together. Itís kind of a dream come true.

Your song ďLove Is The MovementĒ has kind of become their slogan now. How does that make you feel?

Yeah, itís cool. Itís an honor. Itís strange to write a song and have somebody else take it and put it to use for something else, but at the same time I feel like thatís kind of the beauty of art. We can take these things and use them as a feel for something other than maybe what their intended use was.

Now youíre currently releasing the four solo EPs. How did that idea originate?

The EPs are again kind of a dream come true. When we got off of Columbia, it was a chance that Iíve beenÖ I mean Tim and Chad have been encouraging me to go out and pursue this for a long time, and so it finally made sense once we had gotten rid of Columbia.

Itís one of those things where all these songs you record at 3 oíclock in your bedroom or home studio, never thinking theyíre going to see the light of day. So when they actually are released, on the one hand, itís really amazing because thatís never been the object all along, but on the other hand, it makes you feel a little vulnerable because of how personal the songs are.

Where did the whole Fall/Winter/Spring/Summer idea come from?

I didnít want to release a single CD because I feel like these songs want to be heard in the context of a song. I feel like EPs are much better for songs. Records are better for an entire concept where all the songs are cohesive, but the sixth song on an EP gets almost as much attention as the first, and thatís not true for the last song on a record.

So I wanted to do something along those lines, and it felt like the best way to do that would be to release them in groups and in batches that would coincide with the sentiment of the season. Since fall is my favorite season and a lot of the songs kind of had that feeling already, I decided to start with Fall and Winter and see where things headed from there.

One of my favorite songs on the releases that youíve had so far is ďSomebodyís Baby.Ē Was there anything specific behind that which inspired it?

Yeah, teeth brushing is kind of like the crucial part of that song. Thereís a woman who lives nears me whoís homeless, and I saw her brushing her teeth really early in the morning. It was like one or two oíclock and I remember thinking what a volitional, conscious, deliberate act of hope that was to go out and brush your teeth. I donít know. It felt like that was a true, valiant act. If I was homeless, I probably wouldnít brush my teeth, and so thatís kind of where the concept came for that song.

How does Spring & Summer compare with Fall & Winter?

Spring I just finished. The masters were turned into iTunes on Friday.

Yeah, I saw the track listing you posted online.

Oh, yeah. I wanted it to be cohesive with the other two but I wanted it to also turn a corner with the thematic element. As far as the musical element, I wanted to add different flavors that would be symbolic of flowers popping up, new colors, new life. That was the trickiest part, to draw that into the frame of the ďLearning How To DieĒ kind of somber tones of Fall & Winter.

Iíve noticed with the EPs and stuff youíve been blogging a lot. How important is it to keep up that interaction with fans?

Well, itís something Iíve always done. Even back in í97, we were doing stuff with the P.O. Box. ďSend us a dollar in a self-addressed stamped envelope and weíll send you a sticker,Ē you know? People would write letters and Iíd handwrite a letter back. That was the way it was. So now itís just a matter with blogging, you can do that in a way that a lot of people get to read the letter, which is kind of nice.

In addition to that, you have the side project with Sean of Nickel Creek entitled The Real SeanJon. Whatís the latest on that?

Weíre coming close on picking a name that wonít get us a lawsuit. Weíre doing the final song right now, and thereís a rumor that thereís a large company that produces caffeinated beverages that might put it out in a few months. So, weíll see.

So thatís maybe like a summer release then or something?

Yeah, and that record is surprising because we put very little into it and it turned out really good. Sometimes itís the opposite, where you put a lot into it and youíre not really that thrilled with the results, but this was the exact opposite. We didnít really do that much and it just kind of fell together.

Stylistically how does it compare with Switchfoot and Nickel Creek?

Itís closer to the solo stuff. Maybe Nickel Creekís last record. Itís got a little bit of that in there maybe. I didnít play any electric guitar; Sean played all the electric guitar. We came up with these cowboy rules and wrote them all down. That was our code for the record that we had to live by.

Last year, you parted ways with Columbia and started Lowercase People Records. How did that whole situation happen? Was that kind of a joint thing or your decision?

Yeah, I mean neither party has any hard feelings. I think for us, the reason why we signed with Columbia was because of the people that were there. So itís very understandable when all those people are gone, you donít hold any real bad feelings or good feelings towards a company name. I think thatís part of the problem with the corporate entity as a whole is that thereís no true responsibility.

I think for us as a band, we just see it as thereís a time and a season for everything, and right now it was the right season for us to begin doing things on our own again with the solo EPs and with the SeanJon thing. You know touring is even affected by what label youíre on. We had disagreements about the way things should be run, so we parted on amicable terms and it was a mutual thing. I think itís the best thing that could have happened for us; to be able to kind of turn over a new leaf.

With the way the music industry is right now, do you see more bands going a similar route?

I absolutely do. Like I said, thereís a time and a season. A couple years ago, I donít think it would have been the right move for us at all, but to be in a place where we are now, we donít have to play that game anymore. Weíre able to think like, ďLetís do a tour in the South Pacific. Letís do a tour in Europe. Letís do a tour in the States.Ē It becomes very simple. We want to put out a record. Thatís great. OK, put it out. Thereís no over thinking. Thereís not 500 cooks in the kitchen, you know? I feel like we are at a place now where we understand more than ever what we want to do with our music, and it feels like the right place to be.

How is that new record coming along?

Itís good. Tim and I have just been writing. You know, itís one of those things where you get to a point where you kind of want to shock yourself again. The reason why you started playing music in the first place is because itís shocking, and it felt like you were somehow defying gravity or something like that. So you kind of want to find that place again. You canít go to the same well. Thatís all dry; you got to find a new place.

You guys are building your own studio too, right? Is that almost done?

Yeah, itís pretty much done except for a few final tweaks. You know, little last minute red tape type issues.

So the most successful record you guys have had was The Beautiful Letdown back in Ď03. Has there ever been or is there still any pressure to achieve that huge status again?

On the one hand, you never set out to achieve it, but on the other hand, youíre not trying for failure either. I think for us, our goals have always been a little bit more inline with things that can be measured outside of numerical success. So I think certainly in the back of your head, that record has helped put food on the table and certainly helped get all the rest of the songs weíve written a bigger platform. I think to try and go back and duplicate that feels likeÖ I donít know. Like I said before, you canít go to the same well twice. You have to come to new places.

With your lyrics, you love to tackle those kinds of deeper questions and feelings. How do you go about approaching that and weaving that commentary element into the songs?

I think Iím coming to the place, especially with the more recent stuff, where Iím just digging. All I do is dig. I equate it with archeology. An archaeologist just digs and on a good day comes across something that you didnít actually create but something that was around long before you were. Maybe one day you discover this lost city. Those are the best songs. (The ones) that donít have your fingerprints on them anywhere but are fingerprints of the Divine rather than your own little markings. So those are the good songs, and the bad ones are a little bit more confined to my own reality.

I think the other similarity you could draw would be with oysters and pearls. You have a piece of sand that gets in the oysterís shell, and over time the oyster just keeps putting more and more material into the sand until it becomes a pearl. But the beauty was created by an irritant, and thatís what I feel like songs are. Theyíre just an attempt to come to terms with pain.

Youíve been doing this for over 10 years now. How do you feel youíve grown as a songwriter over that time period?

I donít know, man. Hopefully Iím a little bit more concise and a little bit more deliberate.

My favorite song of yours is probably ďDare You To Move.Ē I love that song a lot. Why do think it is able to resonate with so many people?

I donít know. Itís really funny because we put that on a record called Learning To Breathe, and it was like my favorite song. So itís been around for a little while. I think itís fairly honest, fairly straightforward. I think we all want to see movement and change, and thatís kind of what the song is a cry for. I think it also acknowledges the tension between the way things are and the way they should be.

Looking back on your career, is there a particular song or album or event that really sticks out to you that youíre the most proud of?

Every year, the thing Iím most proud of is the Bro-Am. Itís this silly little surf contest that we hold every year that raises money for kids in San Diego. It brings my hometown together. I think we do a lot of things for other people around the world that Iím a big believer of. A lot of times as Americans weíre drawn to go to Africa, to go the Philippines, and thatís certainly a big part of something thatís needed. Weíve been given a lot, so letís give back to the rest of the world. But I think when you see it in your own backyard, itís that much more important.

Is there any advice youíd like to offer us college students?

Aww, man. I think that the American culture and views on importance are completely screwed up. The sooner you can discover what is true and whatís a mirage, the better, because I think that diving deep into truth when youíre young is an incredible gift. I feel like when I was in college, I look back on things that I found that are true that have lasted me my whole life, and then there are other things I wish I would have discovered sooner that Iíve chased my whole life that donít matter at all.


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