Switchfoot is an American rock band from San Diego, California. The band's members are Jon Foreman (lead vocals, guitar), Tim Foreman (bass guitar, backing vocals), Chad Butler (drums, percussion), Jerome Fontamillas (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), and Drew Shirley (guitar, backing vocals).
They are known for their energetic live shows, where the three guitarists in the line-up often operate simultaneously.
After early successes in the Christian rock scene, Switchfoot first gained mainstream recognition with the inclusion of four of their songs in the 2002 movie A Walk to Remember. This recognition led to their major label debut, The Beautiful Letdown, which was released in 2003. It went on to sell over 2.6 million copies and produced the band's best-known singles, "Meant to Live" and "Dare You to Move." Their seventh studio album Hello Hurricane received a Grammy award in 2011 for Best Rock Gospel Album.
According to Jon Foreman, the name "Switchfoot" is a surfing term. "We all love to surf and have been surfing all our lives so to us, the name made sense. To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It's about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music."
Formation and early years (1996-2002)
Switchfoot was founded in 1996 as Chin Up, consisting of Jon Foreman and his brother Tim, along with Chad Butler on drums. After playing only a few shows, the band was contacted by music industry veteran Charlie Peacock and eventually signed to his indie label Re:think Records under the current moniker, Switchfoot. Re:think went on to distribute the first three Switchfoot albums, The Legend of Chin, New Way to Be Human, and Learning to Breathe. Because Re:think was bought out by Christian giant Sparrow Records before Switchfoot's first release, however, the band's and Peacock's intentions of being marketed outside of the Contemporary Christian music scene and reaching a wider audience were put on hold. Consequently, the band was mostly marketed exclusively to Christian radio and retail outlets early in their careers, a time Jon Foreman has described as when "half of who we were was lost."
Of Switchfoot's first three albums, Learning to Breathe was the most successful, being certified gold by the RIAA, and receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Gospel Album.
Later on in 2002, Switchfoot's music was featured prominently in the movie A Walk to Remember, starring singer and actress Mandy Moore, who sang Switchfoot's song "Only Hope" during a scene in the movie. The movie's soundtrack album also featured a duet with Jon Foreman and Moore, as well as four other Switchfoot songs from the band's previous catalogue, in addition to Moore's cover of "Only Hope".
The Beautiful Letdown (2003-05)
Following the exposure that came from A Walk to Remember, Switchfoot attracted attention from multiple record labels and ultimately signed with the major record label, Columbia Records/SonyBMG. Their major label debut, The Beautiful Letdown, under Columbia Records/Red Ink, represented the band's evolution from the predominantly lo-fi, indie rock sound of their early albums, toward a more layered, synth-influenced sound that helped launch the band to mainstream popularity. This shift sonically could be attributed to the fact that the album was the first to include keyboardist Jerome Fontamillas, formerly of industrial bands Mortal and Fold Zandura. Fontamillas had been touring with Switchfoot since 2000, following the release of Learning to Breathe.
The Beautiful Letdown has since been certified double platinum, selling more than 2.6 million copies, on the strength of constant touring and the huge mainstream radio hits "Meant to Live" and "Dare You to Move." A live DVD depicting one of the band's live concerts, Live in San Diego, went platinum as well, and a third single, "This Is Your Life" was released to radio. In addition, the song "Gone" received major airplay on Christian radio stations as well.
Following the runaway success of The Beautiful Letdown, a compilation titled The Early Years: 1997-2000 was released, which featured Switchfoot's first three indie albums released under Re:think records including the original artwork for all the albums. This collection has since been certified Gold, with total sales of over 500,000 copies.
Switchfoot also received five 2005 Dove Award nominations, and won four, including Artist of the year.
Nothing Is Sound (2005-06)
In 2005 prior to the release of Nothing Is Sound Switchfoot announced that guitarist Drew Shirley (previously the guitarist for All Together Separate) had become the band's fifth member after touring with the band since 2003. Nothing Is Sound, was released on September 13, 2005, and with Shirley's inclusion saw Switchfoot's sound become even more densely layered and guitar-heavy, resulting in an album that was edgier and darker than any of their previous work. "Stars" was released as the first radio single to promote the album, and was a solid hit on mainstream and alternative rock radio stations. "We Are One Tonight" was released as the second single in early 2006.
The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, an all-time high for the band, while bassist Tim Foreman attracted headlines by speaking out against the copy-protection used by the label and providing fans a detailed workaround on the band's message board, which was quickly deleted by Sony.
During the Spring 2006 leg of the Nothing Is Sound Tour, the band introduced "a video diary of life on the road" in the form of free video podcasts available via iTunes and streaming online on Youtube.com. In addition to featuring snippets of upcoming songs and live performances, the videos gave fans an inside look at the more casual and humorous aspects of the band members' touring lives, as well as featuring footage of the band working on their follow-up to Nothing Is Sound.
Oh! Gravity. (2006-07
Switchfoot's next album, Oh! Gravity., was released on December 26, 2006 to considerable critical acclaim. It entered the Billboard chart at #18 and peaked at #1 on iTunes' Top Albums chart.
Before the release of the album, Switchfoot e-mailed a newsletter on June 2 which contained a free download of the song "Daylight to Break", a statement from Foreman implying that the band wanted to have a new album out by the end of the year, as well as a thanks to their fans for helping keep the band together for ten years. The band tried to involve their fans in the creation of the album, setting up a webcam in their recording studio and running a contest for a chance to play the cowbell in the studio with the band.
To promote the album, the band first released the song, "Dirty Second Hands", as a "preview" single via iTunes on September 26. The title track "Oh! Gravity" was also released to iTunes on October 21 and was sent to radio on October 31 as the lead single for the album, seeing limited success at alternative and modern rock radio. The album's second single, "Awakening", was released in early 2007. Although it saw virtually no play on radio, the accompanying band-funded music video song received over one million hits on YouTube in less than three months.
Major label independence, The Best Yet (2007–08)
Later, on August 10, 2007, Jon Foreman revealed that the band had severed ties with Columbia Records in order to release music as an Indie band. "Neither party has any hard feelings," he said of the split a few months later. "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. I think that's part of the problem with the corporate entity as a whole is that there's no true responsibility." Later in October, the band announced that they had created a new record label called lowercase people records, in order to better make a direct connection with their fans.
Subsequently, Foreman began working on his own set of solo EP's (one named after each season of the year); the first of these was released on November 27, 2007, the last on June 10, 2008. Foreman also began a side project with Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek originally called "The Real SeanJon" but later renamed "Fiction Family".
With their new status as an independent band, Switchfoot embarked on their 2007 fall tour, playing shows with Relient K and Ruth. The tour, dubbed the "Appetite for Construction Tour", was designed to benefit Habitat For Humanity, with the bands donating one dollar per ticket sold to the cause. In addition, Foreman wrote the song "Rebuild" with Matt Thiessen from Relient K, and released it as a way to raise additional money for Habitat. By the end of the tour, the bands had raised over $100,000 for Habitat for Humanity. With no album to promote, the band continued touring for philanthropic causes, booking a short national tour in March through May titled the Up In Arms Tour, partnering with and benefitting the organization To Write Love on Her Arms.
Later that year, Columbia Records/Sony Music, released the first ever Switchfoot greatest hits compilation album titled The Best Yet, a sort of "final farewell from Sony".
Hello Hurricane (2008-2010)
Prior to the label split, Foreman had announced in a March 17, 2007 MySpace blog that Switchfoot had begun pre-production for a new album, saying that "the new SF record is underway." Later, on October 12, 2007, Foreman also announced that the band had begun construction of their own studio in their hometown of San Diego. It was completed in the spring of 2008, and the band began recording their follow-up to 2006's Oh! Gravity.
In March, the band wrote and recorded a new song called "This Is Home" for the film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The song was included on the film's official soundtrack and an accompanying music video was also filmed, with footage from the film.
In April, the band announced that instead of one studio album, they had actually been at work on 4 albums-worth of material, and had decided at the time to release them one after another, starting with the first one on November 10, 2009, titled Hello Hurricane. The album to follow it will be called Vice Verses, set to release in 2011.
Upon completion of Hello Hurricane, the band began searching for "the right partners" to distribute the songs globally. On August 7, 2009, the band announced that lowercase people records was licensing the album to Atlantic Records, ensuring "these tunes are heard around the world." To help promote this new release, the band took a hands-on approach with their lead single, "Mess of Me," by hiding copies of the single all across the world and encouraging fans to share it around by finding the discs and making copies of their own to hide. Through this, the single spread all across the world in grassroots fashion in advance of a traditional radio release, which saw the track hitting the Top 15 of Modern Rock radio. This was followed by the release of "The Sound (John M. Perkins' Blues)," which went on to become the band's first Top 10 Modern Rock hit since "Dare You to Move."
On December 1, 2010 it was announced that Hello Hurricane had been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album. It won the Grammy on February 13th, 2011. The band concluded the year with the release of the Eastern Hymns for Western Shores EP, which was included in their annual holiday package for fans.
Switchfoot and Christian Music
Switchfoot is often referred to as a Christian rock band, mostly due to their continued involvement with the Christian rock scene. The band has always philosophically disagreed with this label: "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. Calling us 'Christian rock' tends to be a box that closes some people out and excludes them, and that's not what we're trying to do. Music has always opened my mind—and that's what we want".
In addition to the general market, they also distribute their music to Christian markets, and play at larger Christian festivals. Though they hold this position, they have not alienated their Christian fans. As in their indie days, they are still distributed to Christian retail outlets through Sparrow Records/EMI CMG, featured on Christian radio and charts, as well as being presented with Dove Awards, even after having been signed to the mainstream Columbia Records from 2003–2007 and currently, Atlantic Records. "[Signing to Columbia was] a realization of something that we'd wanted to be from the beginning," Foreman explains. "When we were signed to re:think Records [an indie label], the goal was to get the music out to everybody. [But] when Sparrow [a Christian label] bought re:think Records, it was evident that our music wasn't going to be in the hands of everybody. As a Christian, I have a lot to say within the walls of the church. But also, as a Christian, I've got a lot to say just about life in general ... So to be able to be on Columbia and on Sparrow felt like the realization of the two sides of what we had to say. It's a dream come true to be able to have songs that are outside of the box."
Following the release of The Beautiful Letdown, the band temporarily stopped playing at Christian festivals and doing interviews with Christian organizations, as they found the speculation about their faith to be distracting from the music. Three years later, Switchfoot began going back on this policy, headlining at large Christian-based music festivals, and agreeing to be featured on the June 2006 cover of CCM Magazine, after declining the opportunity for years. Yet in many ways they used the opportunity to describe their split from the CCM industry. This has caused some, such as Spin writer Andrew Beaujon, to take the view that "their lyrics often have two different meanings, one meaning for a Christian audience and one meaning for the rest of us. They try to relate to two different groups of people at once".