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Intersection of Life and Faith

SWITCHFOOT

  • 1999 3 Mar
  • COMMENTS
SWITCHFOOT
"We really wanted go into this album making sure that there was hope throughout. That is certainly something that is lacking in our generation. To have hope on a deeper level is not only absent from music, but from the pop culture in general."
--Switchfoot's Jon Foreman



by Dan MacIntosh for Crosswalk.com Music


They are three quiet and polite young men, with a passion for music, literature and surfing. Rock music may be their artistic vehicle of choice, but there is just so much more to these gentlemen than any series of guitar power chords, rhyming words and musical riffs could ever reveal.

==New Way to Be Human== marks the return of {{Switchfoot}}, with its second album on Charlie Peacock's re:think label. Following its striking debut, ==The Legend of Chin==, Switchfoot's latest release is even more praiseworthy than its first.

There are just so many reasons to love Switchfoot's music: It has a unique and quirky sound, which is never less than melodic. Songs are both deep, and spiritually applicable. They're intelligent and thoughtful, and even a tad philosophical, without ever coming off dark or depressing. Simply put: it's music that always presents the eternal hope found only in Christ.

With its first album, the group says it recorded music mainly for their own pleasure, and did not expect too many people outside of their own close circle of friends to appreciate it. But Legend ended up finding a much larger audience than anticipated, and as Switchfoot discovered it had a loyal following to speak to, they soon needed to figure out just what kind of message they wanted to give this sizable and growing audience.

One thing they did not want to become, though, was just another standard issue rock group.

"There's really no point in being just a rock & roll band," says primary songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Jon Foreman. "The world doesn't need anymore rock & roll bands, just for the sake of that. The bottom line is that when you're a kid, that just seems like such a great thing to do. It seems like the coolest thing in the world."

But what's cool to a teenager, loses most of its initial appeal with age. The examined life is about so much more than just playing rock star to impress the neighborhood girls.

After much prayer and consideration, Switchfoot--which consists of Jon Foreman, brother Tim (bass) and Chad Butler (drums)--soon agreed upon a few primary purposes for making its music. Most importantly, Switchfoot desires to paint an accurate picture of the Christian worldview. It's a picture that isn't always presented truthfully--even by Christians themselves.

"It's funny, a lot of times when you hear the music on the radio by people who actually don't know Christ, they present truths that [relate to] Christianity much better than Christians do sometimes," Jon explains. "I think that's definitely true in regards to materialism, and the desperate search for meaning that can't be found inside an individual. And those two things are not very clearly expressed within the Christian music scene."

Switchfoot counters this void by addressing materialism with "Company Car," and the meaning of life with "New Way to be Human," the title track on the new album.

"Most of all," he continues "the most important hope that many albums lack is the hope that we have in Christ for redemption and completion and wholeness and meaning."

Switchfoot infuses its music with hope. Not a blind hope, mind you, that ignores the hardships of this life. Nor a weak hope, that is barely holding on with any faith. But a real, solid hope, built upon a firm foundation. "We really wanted go into this album making sure that there was hope throughout," says Jon. "That is certainly something that is lacking in our generation. To have hope on a deeper level is not only absent from music, but from the pop culture in general."

The hope Switchfoot holds out is a biblical hope. To underscore this point, Jon recounts a recent performance where he was singing "Let That Be Enough," a song from the new album. In his introduction to the song that night, he read Isaiah 40.

"It starts out 'Comfort, comfort ye my people,'" he recites. "Then it goes into talking about being basically a voice in the desert, saying 'Prepare a way for the Lord. Make straight a highway for our God.' That He will raise up the valleys, and bring down the mountains."

"There's just a hope that's throughout that whole passage, that doesn't dull down any of the problems that Israel is facing. And I think that's the only type of hope that can ever truly touch someone, and reach to the heart of the problem. So I hope that our music is doing that in some sort of a way."

When it comes to Switchfoot's musical sound and style, the English band XTC comes immediately to mind. Like that superior, yet underrated band, Switchfoot matches witty lyrics with unexpected musical phrasings, to create a sometimes disjointed, yet melodic, rock-pop dish. "We weren't even familiar with them," admits Tim, speaking of XTC. "We just recently got their albums, and they're incredible."

"As far as musical influences, we really try to pull from a variety of different sources," Tim continues. "Chad comes from an R&B influence, and the drumming kind of shows that soulful influence. I've been very influenced by the bass playing of guys like Paul McCartney, and the songwriting and bass playing of Sting and the Police. And also Adam Clayton of U2."

The group recorded this album in their home studio, where they also work with other bands that choose to record there. And with such a self-sufficient method of making music, it's a wonder they even needed the assistance of {{Charlie Peacock}} as their producer for this album.

But to hear the band tell it, Peacock's assistance went far beyond mere musical assistance.

"He played such a huge role on this CD in just pushing us and stretching us not to be satisfied with something less than our very best," says Jon. "That includes musically, lyrically and spiritually where we were at--to go that extra mile in all aspects of out lives. His whole perspective on being a Christian artist has really been challenging to us. Our gratitude to Charlie definitely goes beyond words."

Switchfoot is currently touring with {{Five Iron Frenzy}} on the Pants Across America Tour, which seems like a perfect touring fit for the guys. Both bands appeal equally to the brain, the feet, and the ear.

"We would rather be out with Five Iron," says Jon "more than anyone we've ever been out with. And that's not a knock of anyone, because we've enjoyed everyone that we've been out with. We just believe in Five Iron and what they do, on all levels."

Jon loves {{Five Iron Frenzy}} because he recognizes their obvious musical talent. "A lot of time, my favorite people are the people that frustrate me, because you're just like 'Gosh, that's so good,' and it makes you want to quit. And their music is definitely along those lines."

{{Switchfoot}}'s music must also make some bands want to quit, because it's also so dog-gone good. They've got a message of hope, wrapped in imaginative music, which makes this trio from the southern most tip of Southern California welcome messengers. Let's all be glad they didn't decide to become just another rock & roll band.