Switchfoot Live: Snap A Photo, See The Unity

Switchfoot’s performance at Stage AE on Oct. 12 started early. It started during Relient K’s opening set when Jon Foreman, Switchfoot’s lead singer, ran on stage for the end of the last song, “Deathbed.” At this, a look of surprise came over the face of Matt Thiessen, Relient K’s frontman.

Switchfoot

If you snapped a photo of Foreman and Thiessen singing together on that one mic, both with big smiles, that would be a frame that could represent the rest of the show.

Switchfoot’s message is unity. Many times during the show, Foreman stepped across the space between the stage and the front-row barrier to touch people’s hands. During their fourth song, “Gone,” he encouraged audience members to lock arms with the person next to them and sway with the music.

Snap. Another frame showing the love-thy-neighbor atmosphere the band brings.

A little later, all five band members huddled around Foreman’s mic, Chad Butler (drums) on the snare, Tim Foreman (bass) singing, Drew Shirley (guitar) on acoustic guitar and Jerome Fontamillas (keyboard) on accordion. The five of them had their arms around each other, singing, “Hello hurricane, you’re not enough. Hello hurricane, you can’t silence my love,” in honor of Haiti, which Hurricane Matthew recently devastated.

Snap. A frame showing how they’ve become a band of brothers, standing up for the broken.

Soon, the lights went off and Foreman was walking around stage with a flashlight, singing, “I’m looking for America. America, where are you?” This led into, “The Sound (John M. Perkins’ Blues).” With a guitar riff that could be mistaken for one of AC/DC’s, the lyrics go, “This is the sound of a heartbeat. This is the sound from the discontented mouths of a haunted nation.” All the while, footage from the Civil Rights Movement played on the screens behind the band.

Snap. A frame yearning for redemption.

Switchfoot

Multiple times throughout the night, Foreman stepped down into the crowd, high-fiving as he pushed through the sea of people, singing with those around him. While crowd surfing during the song “Love Alone Is Worth The Fight,” Foreman garnered a chuckle from people during a break in singing.

“Sometimes I wonder how I get to these places,” he said as people’s hands held him above heads.

Snap. A frame showing trust in your fans to carry you through the air.

Soon after, Relient K decided to repay the favor and crash Switchfoot’s set. Foreman welcomed Thiessen and Matt Douglas (Relient K’s drummer) to the stage to sing the end of “Live It Well.”

“Life is short, I wanna live it well,” they all sang. “And you’re the one I’m living for.”

Snap. Another frame that shows people bonding over music.

As the night wound down, confetti shot out of cannons from either side of the stage, cities of bubbles floated around the packed room, and Foreman kneeled in front of a half disco ball during “Float.”

And then, right before playing the very last song of the evening, “Dare You To Move,” Foreman put into words the atmosphere of the room.

“This is one of those nights,” he said. “You just kind of don’t want it to end.”

Snap.


Originally published in Pittsburgh City Paper

Switchfoot’s Chad Butler: That Song Was “A Point Of Contention”

The muscle behind Switchfoot’s newest album, Where The Light Shines Through, is the one-two punch of spotlighting the dark and offering hope for what they find there. It’s summed up in the anthem of the title track: “the wound is where the light shines through.”

During the band’s fall tour, which brings the members to Stage AE on Oct. 12, they’re not only singing about giving people hope, they’re actually giving people hope. They’ve partnered with Cure International, an organization that seeks to heal children with treatable disabilities from 29 countries.

“We got to experience one of those hospitals while we were in the Philippines earlier this year,” drummer Chad Butler explains over the phone. “It’s an incredible organization, so [we would] definitely like to highlight them on this tour.”

Switchfoot

Jon Foreman talked in an interview about how you all had to fight for the songs you wanted on this record. Were there any songs you personally had to fight for?
For the most part … we agree on the majority of it, but usually the last one or two songs that you’re deciding to cut … that’s when the arm wrestling starts [laughs]. The intensity goes up a notch. Because, I think, as an individual, you become attached to a song, whether it’s a particular lyric or just the way it makes you feel, and they mean different things to different people. So in particular, there was a song — “Bull In A China Shop” — that I really wanted to be on the record, and I remember that one being a point of contention for sure. Maybe it’s because I’m a drummer, and thinking about the live show, that one seemed like one that I wanted to play every night. So I fought for that one for sure.

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How do you guys work that out? How do you come to a decision?
… Ultimately, the passion is what wins. So if somebody has really got a strong opinion, they just have to formulate their case, you know. In the studio, you have to really fight for the song. But ultimately, those arguments are to better the art. You don’t take it personally — you have to have thick skin to take the passion for the song but not be looking at it beyond that as far as someone’s character. It’s more about if you love the song, you’re going to fight for it tooth and nail.

This album is very different but still classic Switchfoot at the same time. Did you guys approach this album differently than you did others?
With Fading West, we started without guitars intentionally to try to take the music somewhere new. But [for] this record, we started with guitars. It’s a rock guitar record from the very get-go. For me, it’s kind of a return to the guitar rock songs that Switchfoot’s known for.

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Do you guys ever think about or talk about how Switchfoot’s music could affect people and stick with them?
Yeah, absolutely … The goal of this band has always been to communicate hope. And the goal of this record, the reason why we made this record is because hope deserves an anthem. And for us, wrestling with big questions of life and looking for hope in the dark places. It’s really what motivates us and keeps us going as a band. It’s more than just about rock n’ roll — this is about a desire to communicate hope and to explore the world through songs. And I think that’s the beauty of art, is that you can really talk about things that are deeper, that are maybe uncomfortable or off-limits for everyday conversation. But through the songs you can explore those things in a meaningful way.


Originally published in Pittsburgh City Paper

Music Review: Jon Foreman

Staying within the borders he set up with his first solo work, Jon Foreman created a new collection of EPs, The Wonderlands, and released the first installment May 26.

He placed the 24 songs into four representations: Sunlight, Shadows, Darkness, and Dawn. It’s similar to his other albums, which he labeled as Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring.

Like the cycle of the seasons, he continues with the same topics he’s always written about: our generation, love, death, and living for more than what we see, with an occasional lighter song. Writing like a recycling center is something Foreman welcomes.

“Usually, for me, I write about the same things every time.”

– Jon Foreman

That’s not bad writing, it’s just his process. And this does bother me sometimes – whether it’s his own work, Switchfoot’s, or Fiction Family’s – but what it comes down to is that he’s a talented songwriter.

So I can ignore the critic in me and enjoy it.

Jon Foreman

So below is how I’ve rated this release by Foreman, using my sophisticated music-rating system.

My rating:

o – One of my current favorites

♦ – Worth a listen

o – It was okay

o – Not recommended, but go ahead, it’s a free country

o – Stay away

Music Review: Swithfoot, The Faithful Spouse

The first sound is a heavily distorted electric guitar strumming a resounding chord; it continues into what sounds like a classic rock song. As the album continues, the songs range from anthems to classic rock songs to pop songs.

Imagine U2 mixed with One Republic and Aerosmith with a smidgen of Kings of Leon; the result may sound something like Switchfoot’s newest full-length album, “Vice Verses.” Smoothly-played, ripping riffs and solos are very much present on this album. After listening to album number eight, it’s obvious that they haven’t lost their energy or tenacity.

“Energetic, tenacity and deeply embedded emotion” could be the catchphrase for this album. That catch phrase seems to be a common one in Switchfoot’s albums. Jon Foreman, who is the lead singer, guitarist and main songwriter, is the one to be given the most credit for these themes and ideas. He often writes and sings of changing the world, waking up inside and even questions, “Am I myself or am I dreaming?”

Foreman acknowledges the repetition of themes in his songs, “Usually, for me, I write about the same things every time. It’s just the same irritant.”

Switchfoot’s themes or sound hasn’t changed much from “Nothing Is Sound” in 2005 to “Vice Versus.” This album definitely has strong family resemblance to their previous album, “Hello Hurricane” (2011). Switchfoot even says that “Vice Versus” is a “cousin” to “Hello Hurricane” and “Vice Versus” the song was actually written during the recording of the album “Hello Hurricane.” This unchangingness and lack of diversity leaves a bad taste in some critics’ mouths, because it doesn’t prove that the band has any versatility, which can wrongly be interpreted as a lack of creativity.

Like a marriage, it’s nice to experience some differentiation from the norm. It’s good to spice things up and do something new. Since “Nothing Is Sound”, Switchfoot has been like a spouse who’s faithful, but who hasn’t taken you out to a nice restaurant in years. You still love them and enjoy them, but the romance is dwindling like the last embers of what used to be a roaring bonfire. You’re hoping for them to do something, anything, to show you that they still love you. Well, with “Vice Versus,” Switchfoot is starting to rekindle the love, but at a very slow pace. They plan to keep you around for the rest of their lives.