The group started In San Diego as a trio with John Foreman (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Tim Foreman (bass, keyboards) and Chad Butler (drums). With their debut full-length "Legend of Chin" in '97, Switchfoot's blend of acoustic flavored ballads and straight-ahead power pop earned them a sizable Christian Rock audience. "New Way To Be Human" came out in '99 and '00 release "Learning To Breathe" garnered a Best Rock Gospel Album Grammy nomination.
In '03, Switchfoot issued "The Beautiful Letdown." A month later guitarist/keyboardist Jerome Fontamillas joined. He had been touring with the group for over a year. Also, guitarist Andrew "Drew" Shirley was added for touring.
Amid a hectic road schedule, Switchfoot wrote and recorded "Nothing Is Sound," their '05 release. The group split their recording time between impromptu sessions in dressing rooms and the studio. First single, "Stars" led the 12-song set.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Switchfoot worked with Habitat For Humanity in Baton Rouge as volunteers. And two years later, they launched the '07 Appetite For Construction Tour (a play on the GN'R album title) to benefit the organization. One dollar per ticket went to the cause. The Switchfoot led trek (with support from Relient K and Ruth) raised over $100,000.
Any remaining post-Christmas cash Switchfoot fans might have had likely went to buy the '06 album, "Oh! Gravity" on December 26th. Actually, given where the band came from they probably held off releasing it earlier to avoid getting caught in the Christmas commercialization. Also, Shirley contributed his guitar to the mix.
On the heels of "Oh Gravity" Jon Foreman announced that the group had left Columbia Records with no "hard feelings." "I think for us, the reason why we signed with Columbia was because of the people that were there. So it's very understandable when all those people are gone, you don't hold any real bad feelings or good feelings towards a company name." They then started their own indie label, lowercase people records - eventually distributed by Atlantic so there was still some major label contact. But before the books were closed with Columbia, the label issued the compilation album, "The Best Yet."
In addition to the Appetite For Construction Tour, '07 was notable for the group's contribution to the "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" soundtrack. They wrote and recorded "This Is Home" for the film.
Switchfoot rolled out "Hello Hurricane," an album inspired by the group's work with Habitat For Humanity, in late '09.
"Hello Hurricane" earned an '11 Grammy Award for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album. Then Switchfoot released the "Eastern Hymns For Western Shores" EP which contained songs they recorded between "Nothing Is Sound" and "Oh! Gravity."
"From the very beginning, we set goals, one of them being to make a very rhythmic record, a very soulful record, and a very hard-hitting record that really pushes the boundaries, the highs and the lows," said (bassist Tim) Foreman about Switchfoot's '11 set "Vice Verses." The album, featuring the single "Dark Horses," debuted at #8 on the Billboard 200.
It figures that a band with a surfing term for a name would make "Fading West," "a surf documentary mixed with behind the scenes footage of the band."
The "Fading West" EP was followed in '14 by the full-length soundtrack album of the same name. The latter landed at #6 on The Billboard 200.
Just prior to "Fading West's" release, John Foreman was treated for a face wound sustained while riding the waves. "I had a little conversation with my board and it turned into an argument. The board won," joked Foreman. Though he made a full recovery the injury forced the cancellation of a hometown appearance.
1997 The Legend Of Chin
1999 New Way To Be Human
2000 Learning To Breathe
2003 The Beautiful Letdown
2005 Nothing Is Sound
2006 Oh! Gravity.
2009 Hello Hurricane
2011 Vice Verses
2014 Fading West
There are three basic song templates on "Oh! Gravity." All-out (for Switchfoot), lean uptempo and ballad. On the ballads they show the most variety, getting heavy ("Circles"), intimate ("Yesterdays"), overwrought ("Let Your Love Be Strong") and pretentious (Faust, Midas And Myself" with synth strings). Of the four, "Yesterdays" holds together the best thanks to an easy-flow rhythm. But it's the other eight, uptempo tracks that make this album.
The title track is a great start with the scatter-shot piano break. That, plus "American Dream" and "Burn Out Bright" show this group has power - not an excessive amount but enough to put them over. Where Switchfoot really find their footing is on stripped down songs. "Awakening," "Amateur Lovers" and the jangling "4:12" have a pleasing economy to them. Unburdened, the songs roll out with all the pieces in place. It also helps that they have an overall encouraging, positive tone.
Early on, the word on Switchfoot was dismissive. They can Rock when they get around to it. But they don't get there too often. When held up against their previous work, the beefed up "The Beautiful Letdown" is welcome. It opens with the power-pop "Meant To Live." They take the acoustic "I Dare You To Move" from their "Learning To Breathe" album and rework it into an improved soft-to-loud "Dare You To Move." The best track is the guitar infused "Redemption."
Lyrically, Foreman writes from the "way it is and the way it should be" perspective with an underlining theme that "life is worth living." But it's not done in a dry, preachy way. On "More Than Just Fine," among the handclaps and acoustic guitars, the line "I want more than just OK" rings true. For those looking for a positive spin, and optimism, this is a group to invest in.
With "Nothing Is Sound" Switchfoot picks up where "The Beautiful Letdown" left off, notching up the energy and creating engaging songs. Surprisingly, considering how the album was written and often recorded (on the road), it doesn't sound forced or hurried. In fact, it was their most polished and cohesive effort to date.
"Stars" has a 'blame myself" motif and is very catchy. The group's appealing, high-energy pop-Rock can also be heard on "Easier Than Love" and "The Setting Sun." They even score with the melodic "We Are One Tonight."
With the exception of "Needle And Haystack Life," a catchy, forceful opener, and riff-Rocker "Bullet Soul," "Hello Hurricane" doesn't capture the high power velocity of a Category 5 storm. Despite the band's claims to have explored various styles, most evident on title track and "Enough To Let Me Go," the album is, at its heart, a pretty standard Switchfoot effort. "Mess Of Me" (a really good track) covers personal redemption and "Free" goes for inspiration. A collection of ballads, the best being the last one, "Red Eyes," closes out the set.
"Vice Versus" drops nuggets of wisdom throughout - "Why wait 'til I die to come alive" ("Afterlife"), "Every fight comes from the fight within" ("War Inside") and "Every blessing comes with a sad curse" (the title track). These bon mots go down surprisingly well.
Musically, the album is easy to like. The post-Punk "Afterlife" and the bass driven "Original" are gems. Another standout is the ballad "Restless" which drops right out of the Bono/U2 songbook. The single "Dark Horses" ("You can't count us out") has a defiant edge not readily evident elsewhere.
"Fading West" is the standard Switchfoot fare. Foreman drives the songs with an inherent passion but the sum of the efforts fails to reach the desired emotional heights. However, none of that really matters to fans. Switchfoot is something to believe in.
Switchfoot's remaining albums are generally low-key, acoustic focused efforts (not to imply that "The Beautiful Letdown" or "Nothing Is Sound" Rock all that hard) but each has its moments. The unpolished "Legends Of Chin" has "Chem 6A" and "Concrete Girl." "New Way To Be Human's" title track is impressive while "Learning To Breathe" comes through with humorous and layered "Poparazzi" and "You Already Take Me There."