Few bands have experienced the long-lasting success of a band like Switchfoot. Founded in 1996 by brothers Jon and Tim Foreman and drummer Chad Butler, Switchfoot has been recording and performing music for almost 20 years. They have survived three record labels, numerous band members and are currently on tour to promote the upcoming release of their ninth album, Fading West.
After eight albums, it is understandable that the band found it necessary to look for inspiration in new places. Facing a creative rut after the release of their eighth album, the band decided to spend a year traveling the world and reconnecting with the passion that brought them together in the first place: surfing.
“Surfing has always brought us together offstage,” Chad Butler, drummer for Switchfoot since its creation, said.
The members had wanted to take this journey for a long time, but allowed excuses to prevent them from going. Last year, they finally decided to make their dream a reality.
“Eventually, you have to stop talking about your dreams and start going for it,” Butler said. “We have this deep connection together that was based in the ocean.”
The band financed the entire project themselves and took responsibility for the creative vision of the project. The film captures some of the world’s greatest surf sights and offers an intimate look at the lives of the band members.
The band-mates made the difficult decision not to cut the more difficult moments that occurred while the cameras were rolling. This vulnerability and honesty is part of what makes the band so appealing.
Butler explained that the “human element” of the film is something everyone would be able to relate to.
Connecting with fans has always been an important factor for the band. They split with Columbia Records in 2007 and formed their own record label, “lowercase people records”, in order to have more direct contact with fans.
The Fading West tour is a direct expression of this desire to form community with their fans. The set up is different than any other tour they have been on, shifting the focus from pyrotechnic and cliché concert gimmicks to genuine connection with the audience.
The show opens with a showing of the Fading West documentary followed by a Q&A with the band. Only then does the band begin the concert portion of the evening, offering audience members stripped down versions of classic hits and previews from their new album, Fading West. In an industry consumed with being edgy and different, Switchfoot is unique in their consistent attempts to maintain genuine artistry.
The sound of Fading West is reminiscent of the environments that inspired it.The vastness of the ocean gave them confidence to allow their songs more room to breathe and this is evident in the openness of the music itself.
“We intentionally left the guitars last, to give it more space, give the songs more space, to stretch out,” Butler said.
This space is evident in the peacefulness of the music. Although not acoustically driven as in previous albums, Fading West is relaxed and a clear byproduct of adventure and beautiful scenery. The songs deal with questions of life and love and their passion is evident in every note. A three-song EP is available now on iTunes and Spotify with the full album slated for release in January.
“There’s a rhythm to the ocean…and to have that rhythm reflected in our music is a natural thing,” Butler said.
After almost 20 years, Butler remains grateful for the opportunity to spend his life making music. He still considers his band-mates his best friends and finds joy in performing and surfing together, but more than that, his motivation for making music, is the “desire to communicate hope.”
It was hope that led them to create Switchfoot in the 1990’s, it was hope that drove them to give up their routine and travel the world in search of meaning and inspiration and it is hope that will propel them forward into the future of their music and lives.