As the Californian alternative rock band and surf enthusiasts Switchfoot approach their second decade of tours and trips, chasing both sounds and waves across the globe, they celebrate with the release of their ninth studio album, Fading West, and to go with it, a “part rock documentary, part surf film, part travelogue film” with the same name. In between catching some well-deserved waves, and catching the crowd’s energy while playing live on stage, JUICE catches up with frontman Jon Foreman to talk more about the making of Fading West, and maybe even put him in a tough spot for a bit.
The release of Switchfoot’s ninth studio album, Fading West, was not only a different one, but a big one as well, with a documentary film of the same name released last year in anticipation of the album. Tell us more about the film, and how it ties in with the album.
You know, we grew up watching all these surf films, in which these guys are always out there chasing waves around the globe, and it hit us one day that that’s kind of like what we do as well, but with music. So, we decided to play with the thought of making a film of us chasing not only waves, but songs around the planet. We partnered up with this incredible filmmaking team from Florida, Interpret Studios that specialises in making surf films. That itself was something important to us, because we wanted to make a film that is more than just amateur backstage footage of us holding the camera, and trying to piece a story together – we wanted a film with a cinematic quality when we tell our stories. Not only that, the chance to go surfing at all these exotic places played a big part in making the film, and simultaneously, in making the record too. We went to famous surf spots in South Africa, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, and also in the US, and we would be inspired by these places, and the music that we encountered there. So, to accompany these incredible views, we wanted to use these music instrumentations that are in keeping to what we were seeing. We’re still on the trajectory of taking chances when it comes to making music. Although we were a little more restrained with the electric guitars this time around, we do try to push ourselves with new instrumentations at the same time.
When we last spoke, which was before the release of Vice Verses back in 2011, and one of you mentioned that “We took some chances on this new record and surprised ourselves with what we could get away with”.
It’s been close to 20 years since the formation of Switchfoot, as well as the band’s debut record The Legend of Chin. Nine albums later, how far do you think the band has come to, with all the surprises and all that you have gotten away with?
Well, everything changes, really, for any band and anyone over time. I mean, the first record was created for my friends in my college dorm room, while we were still in college! But after a few records, I dropped out of college, and music became my education. Every time we go into the studios, I want to learn and I want to be educated. I take that same approach with touring as well – I want to see the world, to not only experience it, but to be changed and be informed by it. As for the specific changes in our music, it varies from albums to albums, but certainly, the subject matter has opened up to embrace a lot more of what the world is all about, rather than that one narrow-minded point of view I had back in college (laughs).
Being such an enthusiastic surfer that you are, here’s an ultimatum: to perform live in front of a crazy sea of audience, or to chase crazy waves across the world?
It’s funny you should ask, because the Editor-in-Chief of The Inertia, Zach Weisberg, gave us the exact ultimatum as well; me, alongside three-time World Champion surfer Tom Curren, and legendary professional surfer Rob Machado, who were both featured in the Fading West film. I ended up writing a huge piece about that (laughs)! Like I have mentioned to them, I am glad that we are blessed, and none of us have the misfortune to choose between the two. Whilst it may be an almost impossible question to answer, I would have to say music. For me, music takes me places that the ocean can never take me.
Switchfoot’s latest album and documentary film Fading West is now available in stores.