In a music world fraught with one-hit pop stars and obsession with celebrities, San Diego band Switchfoot is refreshing in its longevity – the group has been making music since 1996 – and its consistent success (its ninth album "Fading West" debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and was given a score of 71 by Metacritic).
The alternative-rock band will perform for a sold-out crowd at the Historic Bijou Theatre tonight at 8 p.m. Tim Foreman, co-founder of the group and bass guitarist, talked to The Daily Beacon about the band's journey from Christian radio to mainstream staple and all the surfboards and challenges in between.
"We've been through so much as a band through these past nine records, and I think that the bonds have only grown deeper through the years," Foreman said, "which is something I'm really grateful for. That doesn't always happen with bands."
Switchfoot formed in 1996 and has since grown from three members to five, including Foreman, his brother, frontman Jon Foreman, guitarist Drew Shirley, guitar and pianist Jerome Fontamillas and drummer Chad Butler.
In 2002, three of the band's songs were included in the Nicholas Sparks' film adaptation "A Walk to Remember," which gave the group the recognition it needed to propel into a major label debut with Columbia Records. In 2007, Switchfoot left Columbia in order to form its own record label, lowercase people records. This led to 2008's critically-acclaimed release "Hello Hurricane," which Foreman said was a turning point in Switchfoot's career.
"We were staring at the possibilities for what we could do as a band," Tim Foreman said. "Being independent (and) having our own creative space allowed all this freedom. It was kind of an existential moment for the band, to kind of ask ourselves, well, who do we want to be?"
Once that answer was discovered, "Hello Hurricane" was created and quickly followed by 2011's "Vice Verses," which is often considered a part two to "Hurricane." The space between "Verses" and "Fading West" gave the band another break to redefine its goals and explore new directions.
"('Fading West') felt much more like an adventure, a search again, pushing ourselves to new places and more intentionally because we were making a film at the same time," Tim Foreman said. "These songs were written all over the world and inspired by the journey that we were on making the film.
"Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Bali – we wanted this album to sound like a complete departure from our last few records."
The beachy, happy sound of "Fading West" is the result, and it says as much about where the band has gone as it does about where it started, with Tim and Jon Foreman's inextricably tied passions: music and surfing.
"I got into music and surfing right around the same time," Tim Foreman said. "The same year that I discovered Led Zeppelin and the Beatles, I got a surfboard. That was a big year for me.
"They've always been connected, there's no rules in either one, whether you're riding a wave or holding a guitar, that applies to both. I really appreciate that freedom."
And while Switchfoot has emphasized it is not a "Christian band," it is a band of Christians, a factor that has always played into the group's music and developed its identity. This theme and perspective is, as per Switchfoot's style, subtly infused into the songs on "Fading West."
"We wanted this record to feel bright and hopeful," Tim Foreman said. "We've always been a band that infuses hope into our songs, but they're always really cast against the backdrop of pain and honesty and the struggle. This record does that, but in a much brighter way.
"It feels like the sun is shining and the air is clean. Like you're looking at the horizon and anything is possible."