Switchfoot is an American alternative rock band from San Diego, California. The band's members are Jon Foreman (lead vocals, guitar), Tim Foreman (bass guitar, backing vocals), Chad Butler (drums, percussion), Jerome Fontamillas (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), and Drew Shirley (guitar, backing vocals). After early successes in the Christian rock scene, Switchfoot first gained mainstream recognition with the inclusion of four of their songs in the 2002 movie A Walk to Remember. This recognition led to their major label debut, The Beautiful Letdown, which was released in 2003 and featured the hits "Meant to Live" and "Dare You to Move". It went on to sell over 2.6 million copies. They have after been noted for their energetic live shows, and their seventh studio album Hello Hurricane received a Grammy award in 2011 for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album.
According to Jon Foreman, the name "Switchfoot" comes from a surfing term. "We all love to surf and have been surfing all our lives so to us, the name made sense. To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It's about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music."
Formation and early years (1996–2002)
Switchfoot was founded in 1996 as Chin Up, consisting of Jon Foreman and his brother Tim, along with Chad Butler on drums. After playing only a few shows, the band was contacted by music industry veteran Charlie Peacock and eventually signed to his indie label Re:think Records under the current moniker, Switchfoot. Re:think went on to distribute the first three Switchfoot albums, The Legend of Chin, New Way to Be Human, and Learning to Breathe. Because Re:think was bought out by Christian giant Sparrow Records before Switchfoot's first release, however, the band's and Peacock's intentions of being marketed outside of the Contemporary Christian music scene and reaching a wider audience were put on hold. Consequently, the band was mostly marketed to Christian radio and retail outlets early in their careers, a time Jon Foreman has described as when "half of who we were was lost."
Later on in 2002, Switchfoot's music was featured prominently in the movie A Walk to Remember, starring singer and actress Mandy Moore, who sang Switchfoot's song "Only Hope" throughout a scene in the movie. In addition to Moore's cover of "Only Hope", Switchfoot's songs "You", "Learning to Breathe", and "Dare You to Move" were showcased in the film, as well as their own original version of "Only Hope" towards the end of the film.
The Beautiful Letdown (2003–05)
Following the exposure that came from A Walk to Remember, Switchfoot attracted attention from multiple record labels, and ultimately signed with Columbia Records/SonyBMG. Their major label debut, The Beautiful Letdown, under Columbia Records/Red Ink, represented the band's evolution from the predominantly lo-fi, indie rock sound of their early albums, toward a more layered, synth-influenced sound that helped launch the band to mainstream popularity. This shift sonically can be attributed to the fact that the album was the first to include keyboardist Jerome Fontamillas, formerly of industrial bands Mortal and Fold Zandura. Fontamillas had been touring with Switchfoot after 2000, following the release of Learning to Breathe.
The Beautiful Letdown has after been certified double platinum, selling more than 2.6 million copies, on the strength of constant touring and the huge mainstream radio hits "Meant to Live" and "Dare You to Move". A live DVD depicting one of the band's live concerts, Live in San Diego, went platinum as well, and a third single, "This Is Your Life" was released to radio. In addition, the song "Gone" received major airplay on Christian radio stations as well.
Following the runaway success of The Beautiful Letdown, a compilation titled The Early Years: 1997-2000 was released, which featured Switchfoot's first three indie albums released under Re:think records including the original artwork for all the albums. This collection has after been certified Gold, with total sales of over 500,000 copies.
Nothing Is Sound (2005–06)
In 2005 prior to the release of Nothing Is Sound Switchfoot announced that guitarist Drew Shirley (previously the guitarist for All Together Separate) had become the band's fifth member after touring with the band after 2003. Nothing Is Sound, was released on September 13, 2005, and with Shirley's inclusion saw Switchfoot's sound become even more densely layered and guitar-heavy, resulting in an album that was edgier and darker than any of their previous work. "Stars" was released as the first radio single to promote the album, and was a solid hit on mainstream and alternative rock radio stations. It was additionally used in ads for HBO. "We Are One Tonight" was released as the second single in early 2006, and was additionally featured in ads for the 2006 Winter Olympics.
The album debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, an all-time high for the band, while bassist Tim Foreman attracted headlines by speaking out against the copy-protection used by the label and providing fans a detailed workaround on the band's message board, which was quickly deleted by Sony. This copy-protection is known as Extended Copy Protection, which has been identified by leading anti-virus companies as a trojan horse and a rootkit.
During the Spring 2006 leg of the Nothing Is Sound Tour, the band introduced "a video diary of life on the road" in the form of free video podcasts available via iTunes and streaming online on YouTube. In addition to featuring snippets of upcoming songs and live performances, the videos gave fans an inside look at the more casual and humorous aspects of the band members' touring lives, as well as featuring footage of the band working on their follow-up to Nothing Is Sound.
Oh! Gravity. (2006–07)
Switchfoot's next album, Oh! Gravity., was released on December 26, 2006 to considerable critical acclaim. It entered the Billboard chart at No. 18 and peaked at No. 1 on iTunes' Top Albums chart.
Before the release of the album, Switchfoot e-mailed a newsletter on June 2 which contained a free download of the song "Daylight to Break", a statement from Foreman implying that the band wanted to have a new album out by the end of the year, as well as a thanks to their fans for helping keep the band together for ten years. The band tried to involve their fans in the creation of the album, setting up a webcam in their recording studio and running a contest for a chance to play the cowbell in the studio with the band.
To promote the album, the band first released the song, "Dirty Second Hands", as a "preview" single via iTunes on September 26. The title track "Oh! Gravity" was additionally released to iTunes on October 21 and was sent to radio on October 31 as the lead single for the album, seeing limited success at alternative and modern rock radio. The album's second single, "Awakening", was released in early 2007. Although it saw virtually no play on mainstream radio, the accompanying band-funded music video song received over one million hits on YouTube in less than three months. Along with preorders of Oh! Gravity came a 3 song EP called Oh! Switchfoot. The short CD included songs: "The Sound in My Mouth", "C'mon C'mon", and "Oh! Gravity (Acoustic)".
Major-label independence, The Best Yet (2007–08)
Later, on August 10, 2007, Jon Foreman revealed that the band had severed ties with Columbia Records in order to release music as an Indie band. "Neither party has any hard feelings," he said of the split a few months later. "I think for us, the reason why we signed with Columbia was because of the people that were there. So it's quite understandable when all those people are gone, you don't hold any real bad feelings or good feelings towards a company name. I think that's part of the problem with the corporate entity as a whole is that there's no true responsibility." Later in October, the band announced that they had created a new record label called lowercase people records, in order to better make a direct connexion with their fans.
Subsequently, Foreman began working on his own set of solo EPs (one named after each season of the year); the first of these was released on November 27, 2007, the last on June 10, 2008. "Your Love is Strong" is the most well known from the string of releases. Each of Jon's EP's contained six songs. At the end of this, he released a sort of "best of" album called Limbs and Branches. Foreman wrote two additional songs for this called "Over the River" and "Broken from the Start." Once all four EP's were released, they were released again on vinyl in limited quantity. Foreman additionally began a side project with Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek originally called "The Real SeanJon" but later renamed "Fiction Family".
With their new status as an independent band, Switchfoot embarked on their 2007 fall tour, playing shows with Relient K and Ruth. The tour, dubbed the "Appetite for Construction Tour", was designed to benefit Habitat For Humanity, with the bands donating one dollar per ticket sold to the cause. In addition, Foreman wrote the song "Rebuild" with Matt Thiessen from Relient K, and released it as a way to raise additional money for Habitat. By the end of the tour, the bands had raised over $100,000 for Habitat for Humanity. With no new album to promote, the band continued touring for philanthropic causes, booking a short national tour in March through May (titled the Up In Arms Tour), partnering with and benefitting the organisation To Write Love on Her Arms.
In March 2008, the band wrote and recorded a new song called "This Is Home" for the film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The song was included on the film's official soundtrack and an accompanying music video was additionally filmed, with footage from the film.
Hello Hurricane and Eastern Hymns for Western Shores (2008–10)
Prior to the label split, Foreman had announced in a March 17, 2007 MySpace blog that Switchfoot had begun pre-production for a new album, saying that "the new SF record is underway." Later, on October 12, 2007, Foreman additionally announced that the band had begun construction of their own studio in their hometown of San Diego. The studio, named Spot X Studio, was completed in the spring of 2008, and the band began recording their follow-up to 2006's Oh! Gravity.
In April, the band announced that instead of one studio album, they had actually been at work on 4 albums-worth of material, and had decided at the time to release them one after another, starting with the first one on November 10, 2009, titled Hello Hurricane.
Upon completion of Hello Hurricane, the band began searching for "the right partners" to distribute the songs globally. On August 7, 2009, the band announced that lowercase people records was licencing the album to Atlantic Records, ensuring "these tunes are heard around the world." To help promote this new release, the band took a hands-on approach with their lead single, "Mess of Me", by hiding copies of the single all across the world and encouraging fans to share it around by finding the discs and making copies of their own to hide. Through this, the single spread all across the world in grassroots fashion in advance of a traditional radio release, which saw the track hitting the Top 15 of Modern Rock radio. This was followed by the release of "The Sound (John M. Perkins' Blues)", which went on to become the band's first Top 10 Modern Rock hit after "Dare You to Move".
On December 1, 2010 it was announced that Hello Hurricane had been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album. It won the Grammy on February 13, 2011.
Late in 2010, Switchfoot announced, via newsletter, that they would be releasing an EP of songs that they wrote and recorded between Nothing Is Sound and Oh! Gravity. It was called Eastern Hymns for Western Shores. For a time the location of the masters of these tracks were unknown. Once found, Switchfoot announced that the EP would be available as part of their holiday fan pack which additionally included a Switchfoot calendar, poster, sweatshirt jacket, and limited edition post cards, one for each of the songs on the EP. In their newsletter the band described these songs as showing their "darker" side. The EP included five never before heard songs along with a different cut of the Oh! Gravity song "Dirty Second Hands".
Vice Verses (2011–12)
Switchfoot's eighth studio album Vice Verses was released on September 27, 2011 and debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200. According to Butler, the core of the record rests thematically in the idea of the polarity of life. A release date of September 27, 2011 was announced on AllAccess, with "Dark Horses" hitting modern rock radio on July 20.
In an interview with CBN.com, Bassist Tim Foreman calls Vice Verses a cousin to Hello Hurricane, not a sequel to their last album, but related in a few ways. Saying it features a few of his brother, lead singer Jon Foreman's best lyrical work, Tim is glad of the musical component of the project as well. "From the quite beginning, we set goals, one of them being to make a quite rhythmic record, a quite soulful record, and a quite hard-hitting record that really pushes the boundaries, the highs and the lows," he told CBN.com.
Switchfoot performed a song for the Hawaii Five-0 soundtrack, released October 4, 2011, titled "Out of Control".
Fading West album and film (2013–2015)
As of May 2013, Switchfoot was on tour and filming a movie called Fading West. The band's guitarist Drew Shirley has said that it was "a surf documentary mixed with behind the scenes footage of the band" and that "the soundtrack will be released as a CD and it will be [their] next album". On September 17, 2013 Switchfoot released Fading West EP containing three songs from the full-length album. Two songs on the EP, "Who We Are" and "Love Alone Is Worth the Fight", were released to different radio formats as the lead singles promoting the upcoming album. The Fading West film premiered throughout the Fading West Tour that started in September 2013, and was released digitally on December 10, 2013. Switchfoot's ninth studio album, additionally titled Fading West, was released on January 14, 2014 through lowercase people and Atlantic Records.
In February 2014 in a YouTube Interview with Relevant magazine, Jon Foreman hinted that a new album was coming out in late 2014 or early 2015 that would mostly consist of the songs that were cut from the Fading West film. The album, an EP titled The Edge of the Earth, was released on September 9, 2014. Foreman additionally announced that he would be releasing between 30-50 new songs for his solo albums most likely throughout 2015.
Switchfoot toured in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands in May and June 2015. In July and August 2015, Switchfoot toured with Needtobreathe, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors and Colony House throughout the second leg of the 2015 "Tour De Compadres" tour.
Where the Light Shines Through (2015–present)
In August 2015, it was reported that Switchfoot would be releasing their tenth studio album in 2016. On April 29, 2016, Concord Music Group announced that the band had signed a worldwide recording and co-publishing deal with Vanguard Records imprint and Concord's sister publishing unit, The Bicycle Music Company. On May 12, 2016, Switchfoot announced that the album, titled Where the Light Shines Through, would be released on July 8, 2016. It was produced by Switchfoot and John Fields, with whom the band has worked on The Beautiful Letdown, Nothing Is Sound and Oh! Gravity.. The band supported the album with the "Looking for America" Tour, featuring Relient K and travelled to 51 cities from September 17, 2016 through November 26, 2016.
Style and influences
Since Switchfoot's first release in 1997, the band's sound has changed significantly. The style of the early albums with independent label Re:think Records consisted primarily of guitar-driven alternative rock, hard rock with characteristics of a three-man lineup, though they additionally incorporated string arrangements with slower songs.
Switchfoot's frontman and guitarist Jon Foreman cites his musical influences as U2, The Beatles, and Keith Green, and has said that he admires the vocal "strength and vulnerability" of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. Guitarist Drew Shirley cites U2, Miles Davis, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tommy Walker, Phil Keaggy, Michael Jackson, Dave Matthews Band, and the Brand New Heavies, while bassist Tim Foreman pays tribute to Stevie Wonder. Chad Butler additionally cites Dave Grohl as an influence for The Beautiful Letdown. "We've never fit in any of the genre boxes," says Jon Foreman. "I think that diversity is our strength".
With regard to their lyrics, Foreman notes "we try to make music for thinking people", which can be characterised by his allusions to the works of philosophers like Søren Kierkegaard and Augustine of Hippo in the songs "Sooner or Later (Soren's Song)" and "Something More (Augustine's Confession)" respectively. "Meant to Live", the band's runaway hit, was inspired by T. S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men", while "Stars", the lead single off Nothing Is Sound, briefly "looks at things from the Descartes perspective," according to Foreman.
Switchfoot and Christian music
Switchfoot is often referred to as a Christian rock band; even after having been signed to the mainstream Columbia Records from 2003–2007, Atlantic Records from 2008–2016, and currently, Vanguard Records, their albums are still distributed to Christian retail outlets through Sparrow Records/EMI CMG, their songs are featured on Christian radio and charts, they play at Christian festivals, and they're presented with Dove Awards. The band has always philosophically disagreed with this label: "We're Christian by faith, not genre," Tim Foreman explained to Rolling Stone magazine in 2003.
Says Jon Foreman, "We've always been quite open and honest about where the songs are coming from. For us, these songs are for everyone. Calling us 'Christian rock' tends to be a box that closes a few people out and excludes them, and that's not what we're trying to do. Music has always opened my mind—and that's what we want".
"[Signing to Columbia was] a realisation of something that we'd wanted to be from the beginning," Foreman explains. "When we were signed to re:think Records [an indie label], the goal was to get the music out to everybody. [But] when Sparrow [a Christian label] bought re:think Records, it was evident that our music wasn't going to be in the hands of everybody. As a Christian, I have a lot to say within the walls of the church. But also, as a Christian, I've got a lot to say just about life in general ... So to be able to be on Columbia and on Sparrow felt like the realisation of the two sides of what we had to say. It's a dream come true to be able to have songs that are outside of the box."
Following the release of The Beautiful Letdown, the band temporarily stopped playing at Christian festivals and doing interviews with Christian organizations, as they found the speculation about their faith to be distracting from the music. Three years later, they went back to headlining at large Christian-based music festivals, and additionally agreed to be featured on the June 2006 cover of CCM Magazine after declining the opportunity for years. Yet in a large number of ways they used the opportunity to describe their split from the CCM industry. This has caused some, such as Spin writer Andrew Beaujon, to take the view that "their lyrics often have two different meanings, one meaning for a Christian audience and one meaning for the rest of us. They try to relate to two different groups of people at once". Jon Foreman has compared the Christian undertones of his music to the undertones of C.S. Lewis's books.
Switchfoot has been involved in a number of humanitarian causes, including DATA, the ONE Campaign, the Keep A Breast Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Invisible Children, and To Write Love on Her Arms.
In addition to supporting those causes, they founded the Switchfoot Bro-Am Surf Contest, an annual benefit contest and concert to raise money for various organisations serving homeless kids in the band's hometown of San Diego. Also, before recording Nothing Is Sound, the band made a trip to several South African villages in January 2005, which inspired the album's song "The Shadow Proves the Sunshine". Seeing an orphanage filled with infants who all lost their parents to AIDS, befriending orphans in the streets, and getting involved with a children's choir called the "Kuyasa Kids" moved them to start an organisation called lowercase people. The organisation originally published a quarterly online magazine for music, arts and social justice. They have additionally produced a CD by the Kuyasa Kids to help raise money for the children's communities.
In 2008, Switchfoot additionally got involved in the musical movement to spread awareness about twenty-first century slavery and human trafficking, performing "Awakening" for the documentary film Call + Response.
On Saturday, July 31, 2010, Switchfoot performed live at the 2010 Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree final arena show: "A Shining Light Across America" in Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. Jon and Tim Foreman were both Boy Scouts in their youth, and were honoured by the opportunity to perform at the Scouts' hundredth Year Anniversary event.
Switchfoot is scheduled to perform at the Harvest America event on March 6, 2016 at ATT Stadium.
Switchfoot hosts a yearly charity event in their hometown of San Diego known as the "Bro Am". Established in 2005, the event benefits local and national charitable organizations, including the band's own Bro Am foundation. The Bro Am festivities typically include a silent auction the night before the public event, wherein donors bid in a silent auction for charity. The Bro Am event consists of surf contests in the morning and musical performances in the afternoon, culminating in Switchfoot's capstone performance. Since its inception, the Bro Am has raised over $1 million for charitable causes.
- Jon Foreman – lead vocals, keyboards (1996–present), lead guitar (1996–present), rhythm guitar (1996-2000, 2005–present)
- Tim Foreman – bass, backing vocals, acoustic guitar (1996–present)
- Chad Butler – drums (1996–present)
- Jerome Fontamillas – synthesizers, accordion, keyboard, rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2001–present)
- Drew Shirley – lead guitar, backing vocals (2005–present)
- The Legend of Chin (1997)
- New Way to Be Human (1999)
- Learning to Breathe (2000)
- The Beautiful Letdown (2003)
- Nothing Is Sound (2005)
- Oh! Gravity. (2006)
- Hello Hurricane (2009)
- Vice Verses (2011)
- Fading West (2014)
- Where the Light Shines Through (2016)