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Music / Switchfoot

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Switchfoot are an alternative 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, accordion, pretty much everything else, really), and Drew Shirley (guitar, backing vocals).

Formed in 1996, the Foreman brothers, sons of a local Baptist preacher, got fellow band-mate Chad Butler together and started recording music. They were then discovered by producer Charlie Peacock who signed them to his re:think indie label and produced their second and third albums. Their first three albums, The Legend of Chin (1997), New Way to Be Human (1999), and Learning to Breathe (2000) helped the band gain some indie status, and also snagged them a few Grammy nominations for Christian music.

After re:think was bought by Sparrow Records, Switchfoot signed to Columbia Records in 2002 and released their breakthrough album, The Beautiful Letdown in 2003. They gained two radio hits from it, the epic "Meant to Live" and the heartwarming "Dare You to Move" (the latter had previously appeared on Learning to Breathe, but was remixed and rerecorded for the new album). Their music started massively being used in TV commercials and shows, quickly growing them more recognition.

Their next two albums, Nothing Is Sound (2005) and Oh! Gravity (2006) saw some commercial and critical success, but the reaction from longtime fans was mixed. The band slowly grew more and more tired of being pushed around by Executive Meddling and left Capital in 2008 to start their own independent label known as Lowercase People.

They then recorded 4 albums worth of material. The first, Hello Hurricane was released in 2009 and was a refreshing return to their old sound. The second, Vice Verses was released in September of 2011. A remix album titled Vice Re-Verses was released soon after. Fading West and Where the Light Shines Through, were released in 2014 and 2016.

After a brief hiatus, their latest album NATIVE TONGUE was released in January 2019, followed by Interrobang in 2021.

They're unique for not being blatantly Christian and being able to appeal to audiences of all kinds. They have some surf rock and punk influences, but many listeners have trouble separating them from other post-grunge bands.

Switchfoot contain examples of the following tropes:

  • Album Title Drop:
    • Nothing Is Sound is the only album not to have a title track on a Switchfoot album. Instead it's a line repeated in "Happy Is A Yuppie Word". Seven times very loudly, if the first time didn't suffice.
    • Fading West also lacks a title track. One was recorded, but didn't make the final cut for the album. It can be found on The Edge of the Earth EP.
  • All Just a Dream: "Faust, Midas, and Myself" from Oh! Gravity. Jon hangs a lampshade on the first line of the song. note 
  • Animated Music Video: "Oh! Gravity" is a combination of this and live action; the band was filmed against a green-screen background, and then digitally placed against a floating, animated background. It's... unusual.
  • Book Ends:
    • "Learning to Breathe" begins and ends with the lines, "Hello good morning/ How 'ya do?"
    • The final track on Hello Hurricane ends with a lyrical reprise of the opening song, "Needle and Haystack Life".
    • Their next album, Vice Verses, did the same thing, with the added bonus that this time they made sure the final chord in "Where I Belong" matched the opening chord from "Afterlife", so if you play the album on a loop the ending fades seamlessly back into the beginning.
  • Call-Back: Towards the start of "Ode to Chin", Jon quips that 'life's more than girls'. Towards the end of "Gone" released six years later, he says that "life is still more than girls".
  • Car Song: "Company Car", though it's more about the meaning behind the car rather than the car itself.
  • Changed for the Video: There are two different music videos for "Dare You to Move". The video with the surfer being resuscitated after nearly drowning was identical to the version from The Beautiful Letdown (other than omitting the really quiet part of the intro), but the video with the guy running through city streets added a loud electric guitar hook to the intro.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Jon on Oh! Gravity, which might have led to some of the lukewarm reception for the album. Just listen to the title track or "Amateur Lovers". Oh, dear sweet whoever you happen to pray to, "Amateur Lovers"...
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Nothing Is Sound, being their first album recorded with Drew Shirley, is noticeably heavier than The Beautiful Letdown due to the extra emphasis on electric guitar. Its lyrics are also a shade darker than most of their work up to that point.
    • The Edge of the Earth contains seven songs that were cut from the album Fading West, but featured in the film's soundtrack. Several of them are noticeably darker than the overall tone of that album.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: Averted pretty soundly. In fact, when Sony placed a Copy Protection on Nothing Is Sound, Tim posted a way to get around it.
  • Dress Rehearsal Video: This concept has been used for several of their music videos ("Dark Horses" or "The Sound" for example).
  • Everything Is an Instrument: The guys have admitted to using just about anything that makes noise in their songs.
  • Fading into the Next Song: Used multiple times throughout their albums. Nothing Is Sound contains at least three instances note , and Vice Verses contains at least one note .
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Poparazzi".
  • Follow the Leader: U2 are a big influence on the band. So is Bob Dylan.
  • Grief Song: "Yesterdays".
  • Gratuitous Panning: The intro to "Meant to Live". If you're listening in headphones, it's a very quick way to find out if your headphones are on backwards. note  Ditto "Mess of Me".
  • Hidden Track: Their second album contains one called "Chin 105".
  • Latex Perfection: Used at the very end of the "New Way to Be Human" music video.
  • Meaningful Name: "Switchfoot" is a surfing term that means to change one's stance on the surfboard and face the opposite direction. Ties in nicely with the band's passion for surfing and philosophical approach to life and music.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Jerome is jokingly treated like this during live shows, as his official position is somewhat vague compared to the other members. Jon once introduced him as Switchfoot's "keyboardist, accordionist, DJ, and life coach."
  • New Sound Album: The Beautiful Letdown for the change into their more pop-punk oriented sound, Hello Hurricane for their return to form, and now Fading West for their evolution into a poppier, more electronic sound. Compare "Company Car" (from their second album) with "Skin and Bones" (from their most recent EP) to get an idea of how much their sound has evolved.
  • Nice Guy: All of them! Seriously, you'll be hard-pressed to find another group with the same level of popularity that are as amiable and friendly as these guys. For proof, watch their interviews, or better yet, their podcasts. And if you do decide to watch the podcasts, prepare to laugh at almost every single one of them! They love to goof off, with special mention going to Drew.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: Thoroughly averted as Tim is one of the most popular members of the band.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Chem 6A", "Ode to Chin" and "Faust, Midas and Myself"
  • The Philosopher: A lot of Jon's lyrics are inspired by philosophy; the album New Way To Be Human name-drops both Augustine and Kierkegaard.
  • Piss-Take Rap:
    • Jon on "Dirty Second Hands". It's actually pretty cool.
    • He does it again in "Selling the News", and it actually works quite well.
  • Post-Grunge: They're more this in name than in sound, though.
  • Protest Song: "The Sound" is one. Being subtitled after Civil Rights leader John M. Perkins, it was expected.
  • Re-release the Song: "Dare You to Move" was originally released on Learning to Breathe. The band later rerecorded it and released it again on their next album, The Beautiful Letdown.
  • The Rival: For some reason they are always considered rivals of the Newsboys and DCTalk.
    • Even though they are far more successful in the mainstream, and more vague about their faith, than the two bands in question.
      • They'd probably be more likely to be rivals to Anberlin, or P.O.D..
  • Rock Trio: Switchfoot started like this for their first three albums, adding Jerome Fontamillas right before getting big.
  • Rockers Smash Guitars:
    • During their 2007 tour, Jon deliberately destroyed his guitar on stage during the finale of 'Dirty Second Hands', and then proceeded to bang on a cymbal with what was left of the neck. According to their video podcast, he'd planned it in advance and they even filmed him saying 'goodbye' to the guitar backstage before the show.
    • On another occasion, he randomly threw his guitar at Chad's drum set, breaking the guitar and denting the kick drum. This one was not planned in advance, and Jon's tongue-in-cheek explanation on his blog was that he was just doing his job.
    • Subverted in the case of the guitar on the cover of The Beautiful Letdown: the band originally wanted to light it on fire, then changed the plan to breaking it in half instead when told they weren't allowed to set things on fire. By then Jon had grown too attached to the guitar, so they ended up putting it intact at the bottom of a pool.
  • Sequel Song: "Your Love is a Song" from Hello Hurricane is said to be the third part of a song trilogy that began with "Let Your Love Be Strong" (from Oh! Gravity) and also contains "Your Love is Strong" (from one of the solo EPs that Jon Foreman released between the two albums).
  • Sex Sells: "Easier Than Love".
  • Shout-Out: At the beginning of "Might Have Ben Hur": "This one goes out to Charlton Heston".
  • Something Blues: Two examples - "The Blues" (obviously), and "The Sound (John M. Perkins Blues)".
  • Song Style Shift: "Daisy" is a sweet, soft, quiet song.... until it goes full rock during the final chorus.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Tim Foreman sings lead for the first time on "What It Costs".
  • Studio Chatter: On several of their songs, notably "Gone".
  • This Is a Song: "The Loser"
    "I wrote this song for you, To show how I'm selling out, I'll take the benefit of a doubt."
  • Uncommon Time: They have been known to play around with this quite a bit.
    • "Happy Is A Yuppie Word" from Nothing Is Sound, which is mostly in Common Time, throws in a 6/4 bar regularly to 'lag' time between lines in the verses.
    • "Circles" from Oh! Gravity, goes 5/8 in the verses and 6/8 during the chorus.
    • "Dirty Second Hands" from Oh! Gravity cranks this up to eleven. It moves back and forth between 5/8 and 6/4 during the verses, throws in a hardly discernible time signature during the chorus, only to move to full-on 6/4 during the last third of the song. Long story short, the song's a musical Mind Screw.
    • "Back to the Beginning Again" from Fading West is mostly in Common Time but goes 7/4 for the intro, the bridge, and briefly at the end of the last chorus refrain.
    • "Slow Down My Heartbeat" from The Edge of the Earth is also in 7/4 time.
    • "Float" from Where the Light Shines Through is in 7/4 as well. Didn't stop it from being one of the first singles released from the album.
  • Vocal Evolution: Compare Jon's voice on their first album with his voice now.
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: Lecrae on "Looking for America".