Switchfoot’s songs are meant to be so much more than melodies.
“It’s more than just catchy hooks that grasp a listener for a month out of their life,” said bassist Tim Foreman. “It feels like people are really on the journey with us. Music got me through a lot of tough times. Fortunately, I think we are that band for a number of people.”
Inspiring hope is the end goal, but it had been a fight for the San Diego five-piece to spread that message to a wider base than the Christian roots from which it was born. Not that their songs ever were aimed exclusively to that camp, as chart-toppers “Dare You to Move” and “Meant to Live” showed. The big, moving anthems felt — in many ways — universal, and being saddled with the Christian-rock label felt unfair and undesirable for all involved.
Switchfoot’s members wear their faith proudly; they just don’t invite the division that comes from that label.
“A lot of people have a hard time understanding the difference between a faith and a genre,” Foreman said. “We see that as two different questions. We want our songs to be heard by everybody. That’s where they belong.”
What’s pushed them over the hump may be the subtlety with which the group approaches the subject matter; asking big questions that everyone would like the answer to.
“We’re trying to be poetic with our lyrics,” he said. “I’m attracted to music that’s artful in how it’s delivered, not with a hammer, but with a little artistry. It leaves a little to be interpreted in their own way, and we want this to be something anyone can find meaning in.”
That philosophy has served the group well, even as recently as this year when Switchfoot won a Grammy for Best Rock Gospel Album for “Hello Hurricane.” Its follow-up, “Vice Verses,” is due next month, and Foreman said it’s a total departure from its award-winning predecessor.
“It’s suicide for a band to try and make the same album twice,” he said. “You try to jump on a different train track without derailing entirely. That’s a challenge, how to reinvent yourself without alienating people on board. I think with ‘Vice Verses,’ we’ve done that the best we ever had as a band. We took some risks.”
Switchfoot has ditched the gloss of “Hello Hurricane” for a more aggressive, drum- and bass-driven collection of songs — owing more to Dave Grohl than Bono — but still kept that soul alive and well.
“We knew we wanted to start something new to capture what we loved about that record. The heartbeat behind it translated to a new musical space,” Foreman said. “It feels like the start of something good for us.”
Photo by Tom Stone