Review The Artist (16)
“What is true happiness?” asks Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman. “Is it a comfortable four-door sedan with tinted windows? Does it mean I have 2.3 children and a beautiful wife and live in a great neighborhood? Everyone has their own version of what happiness means, but many of the things we’re going for, and I include myself in this, are absurd. There’s this moment in Jewish scripture, in Ecclesiastes, where it says, ‘Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.’ That’s the place where our new record starts.”
The San Diego alt-rock band’s new record, Nothing is Sound, once again finds Foreman questioning everything, as he did on the band’s two and a half-million selling breakout album The Beautiful Letdown. “That’s pretty much where our music naturally goes,” he says. “I ask myself questions and sing about it. A lot of these songs are like an oyster. A bit of sand gets in and it’s abrasive and troublesome. The oyster starts working on it and a few years later you open it up and there’s pearl in there. That’s what I do in my songs—chew on the more abrasive parts of my life.”
Switchfoot’s non-stop touring schedule—they performed 400 shows over the last two years—gave Foreman plenty of time to gnaw. In fact, Nothing is Sound was recorded on the road. The band was so busy that they didn’t have time to take a break to make a record. So they set up their instruments and recording equipment in the dressing room every night and would lay down tracks in between interviews and soundcheck.
“That was one advantage we had on this record,” says Foreman. “We’d been playing some of the songs, like “Daisy” and “Politicians,” off and on for a while. We got to road test them, check the tires, and switch things up before we ever pressed the ‘record’ button. The audiences determined which songs were selected and how they turned out. The trickiest part is trying to capture what we do live and bottle it up into the 1’s and 0’s on a CD. It helped to play these songs live, feel that energy, and say, ‘Okay, this is what we have to match.’”
Switchfoot did go into a proper studio to cut drums and other parts. They produced the album themselves with the aid of Letdown producer John Fields, whom Foreman praises as “quick and passionate about music. That’s a great combination.”
Foreman describes the group’s unorthodox approach to recording as a blend of professional with “bro-fessional, combining the skillfully engineered sounds you get from a proper studio with the more raw noise that you get from my garage,” he says. “Both are necessary in making a record. You want it to be honest and raw, but it has to be also listenable.”
It’s Switchfoot’s raw honesty that has continued to inspire the group’s hordes of loyal fans, and Nothing is Sound does not disappoint in that area. It retains Foreman’s signature thoughtful, questioning lyrics and bathes them in huge hooks and crashing guitars. The album’s centerpiece is “Happy is a Yuppie Word” that takes its title from a 1991 interview Bob Dylan gave to Rolling Stone in which Dylan was asked, on the occasion of his 50th birthday, if he was happy. Dylan replied, “Those are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness. It’s not happiness or unhappiness, it’s blessed or unblessed.”
“For me, “Happy is a Yuppie Word” is the heart of the record pumping blood out to the limbs and mouth,” Foreman says. “It’s that existential urban/suburban moment of thinking, ‘Wow, all this happiness that I’ve been trying to achieve is really just the yuppie version.’”
From there, it’s a seamless jump to “Easier Than Love,” in which Foreman bemoans corporate product branding and marketing. “We are the target market / We set the corporate target,” he sings. “That song is about how one of the most beautiful intimate moments in a human’s life is used to sell a can of beer or auto parts. Sex is easier than love.”
Along the same theme is the opening track “Lonely Nation,” which Foreman wrote in 2004 when Switchfoot performed a long stretch of rock radio shows. “I’d walk around near the back and just breathe in the loneliness—masses of scared kids,” he says. “I remember thinking how ironic it is that you have this generation of kids connected through Instant Messaging and text messages, yet people grow more and more lonely every day.”
Another track, “The Blues,” is the next step from The Beautiful Letdown both musically and lyrically. It references New Year’s Day and was written on January 1, 2004. “I tend to write some of my favorite songs on significant days in my life,” Foreman says. “This one means a lot to me, it’s like a modern day Psalm of sorts—a long meandering song about how the end of the world might actually be a beautiful day.”
These kind of personal moments infuse Nothing is Sound. Another example is “The Shadow Proves the Sunshine,” which was inspired by a fact-finding trip Switchfoot took to South Africa in January 2005 to see for themselves the impact that poverty and disease has had on the region. For the last few years, the band has been active in Bono’s charity organization DATA, which promotes AIDS awareness and debt relief for developing nations, but Foreman describes the trip to South Africa, and meeting children orphaned by AIDS, as a turning point in his life. “You realize how poor we are as Americans,” he says. “We might have a nice SUV, but nothing to show for our humanity.”
The song grapples with the idea that South Africa, which has endured many years of oppression and poverty, is a place where “I’ve never seen so much light or joy or happiness,” he says. “So I may write about how everything is meaningless, but it’s a very hopeful thing for me to be proven wrong.”
THE HIGH NOTES:
"Nothing Is Sound," the band's fifth studio album to date, released on Sept 13, 2005
Four consecutive sold out US headlining tours on the Beautiful Letdown, totaling over 1.5 million tickets sold
2.5 million copies sold of the Beautiful Letdown (double Platinum)
Two top 5 singles "Dare You To Move" and Meant To Live"
Prior release "Learning to Breathe" (2001) certified Gold
Live DVD "Live in San Diego" certified Platinum
Jon Foreman — vocals, guitar
Tim Foreman — bass
Chad Butler — drums
Jerome Fontamillas — guitar, keyboards
Andrew Shirley — guitar
Thanks to Hannah for submitting the biography.
Please click here to submit the latest Switchfoot biography
Switchfoot...OH! YEAH!! | Reviewer: Anonymous | 12/9/10
This band has meant so much to me in the past few months. Even though their lyrics aren't clearly about God, its easy to see where their inspiration comes from. I appreciate their thoughtful lyrics and brilliant music that has inspired me so much. Thank God for bringing this band into my life!
switchfoot I love | Reviewer: cyzah | 12/26/07
Im a christian too.. all of the reviews are true. Listening to switchfoot's music makes my heart melt. there is something I cant explain. I REALLY LOVE THEIR MUSIC... Go on FOR GOD.
meant to live and dare you to move.
How do you describe Switchfoot? | Reviewer: Stefan Hay | 9/6/07
Switchfoot have been called a Christian rock band. But the band tries to steer clear of this label, made evident by avoiding 'preachiness' in their lyrics. "For us, it's a faith, not a genre", says Jon Foreman. "We've always been very open and honest about where the songs are coming from. For us, these songs are for everyone." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switchfoot#Switchfoot_and_Christian_music)
For me, their songs hold so much strong and powerful lyrical content; it's impossible to just let their songs wash over you (unless, of course, you're not into this genre of music; described sometimes alternative rock, post-grunge or power pop). Each time I listen to ANY song, I discover new meaning and a new perspective that has helped to shape me as a human being.
Switchfoot reminded me about life's purpose; yes, I'm a Christian, but life is never without its fair share of struggles. For me, it's a matter of expressing love again; never lose the ability to love (it's the most precious thing you have, to be given away or used wisely).
In terms of Switchfoot, I cannot fault them. I have been a Switchfan, or 'amigo' of the band for close to four years now, and I will never go back; I cannot. They are an awesome mix of rebellion, realism and rock; Switchfoot is definitely one-of-a-kind.
"We were meant to live for so much more..."
fantaztic!!! | Reviewer: victor | 8/23/07
finally they'll be here in phillipines!!! you guys moved me alOt..i love switchfoot..each time i hear their music played i felt im one of them..joke.. go jerome!! Noypi ka rin pala!! we're vry proud of you!! more power to all Christian Artist!! keep it up for JESUS!!!
you rock!!! | Reviewer: Anonymous | 7/5/07
i am proud to found out that switchfoot member jerome fontamillas is a fellow filipino.. I am so proud of you. keep delivering the voice of God thru music.
i LOVE switchfoot | Reviewer: Anonymous | 6/30/07
i LOVE switchfoot!
i saw them live at creationfest.... of course it was AMAZING! if you ever get a chance to see them live........ DO IT. each time i have seen them they are FANTASTIC!
SWEET! | Reviewer: Josh | 4/30/07
Switchfoot is the greatest! I heard they were really great in concert; I can't wait to see them!
Great Band | Reviewer: Raveesh | 9/29/06
great mesmerizing lyrics, awsome sound and what else do you need?
THE best band!!! | Reviewer: ivy | 3/9/06
ok,switchfoot is probably one of the best christian bands out there.Their
music is literally moving and very well-written.Switchfoot's songs have
lyrics and beat that really get you hooked on them.Instead of singing about
girls,fighting and money like some musicians do,Switchfoot sings about the
spiritual things in life like sound,feelings,everything that's as spirited
as they are.Their cd's the beautiful letdown and nothing is sound are very
amazing.I love their songs:meant to live,stars,dare you to move and we are
one tonight but my ABSOLUTE favorite is "this is your life".
Switchfoot is awesome! | Reviewer: Katie | 6/28/05
I got The Beautiful Let Down just after hearing Dare You to Move. They are an awesome Christian band and their lyrics do have great meaning. I definitely recommend this CD to anybody wanting GOOD music ;0)
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