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Switchfoot: ‘We’ve Always Called Ourselves a Rock Band’

Ahead of Switchfoot’s debut tour of India, we chat with drummer Chad Butler about the American alt-rockers’ image as a gospel band and their collective love of surfing

Nirmika Singh Mar 25, 2015
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Switchfoot | Courtesy of the artist

Switchfoot | Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Not all American dreams go on to become realities. Especially those involving aspirations of global fame, and crafted ambitiously by a bunch of starry-eyed high-schoolers. Switchfoot’s story, on the other hand, has been a whole different journey.

The band had yet to carve a name for itself in 1996 when indie label Re:think Records offered the 18-year-old frontman Jon Foreman and his boys a three-album deal. One of these — Learning To Breathe – even went on to bag a Grammy nomination in 2001. But although the contract was a godsend back in the day, Re:think’s positioning of the band as a Christian rock outfit in its infant years would continue to cause a bit of an identity crisis even two decades later. However, with time, the members on their part have learnt to not mind the religious tag. “We make music for everyone, and we believe that faith and arts are related. That’s why we’ve always called ourselves simply a rock band,” says drummer Chad Butler in a phone interview with ROLLING STONE India.

Switchfoot is currently in India to play its debut tour across three Hard Rock Cafes across the country; the first gig is in Mumbai today, March 25, and it will be followed by Pune on March 27 and Gurgaon on March 28. What took them so long to come here? “I guess India’s a far distance from San Diego,” he jokes, but adds quickly, “We’re really looking forward to the shows. We heard that they’re all sold out.” The band has a very good reason to expect packed houses wherever they play. It has released a ton of material — nine studio albums – in the last 19 odd years. And many of its songs, such as “Dare you to move” and “Meant to live,” have been massive hits. Butler explains how they managed to stay together and have a prolific career. “We love making music, writing honest lyrics and asking all the big questions. Our music has reinvented itself with every new life experience and even reflected the changes, from the time when we were young high-school boys to now when we are married and have kids. We are grateful to have had the chance to work together on nine albums,” he says.

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No tales of malicious oneupmanship or juvenile jealously here; rock-solid friendship has been the cornerstone for Switchfoot’s steady rise to international success. And surfing, of course. “Surfing is a big part of our lives. Someday, long after the band is over, you would still find us all hanging together, surfing together. In fact, we wanted to do that here in India as well, but don’t think we’ll get a chance since we are travelling a lot,” says Butler, who along with bandmates Jon, Tim Foreman (bass guitar), Jerome Fontamillas (guitar/keyboards) and Drew Shirley (guitar) woke up early today to see the Gateway Of India. “We are drawn to the ocean. It feels like home.” He also managed to listen to a bit of homegrown music during the commute. “The cab driver was playing a local electronics artist on the radio. It was very fascinating. I want to explore more Indian artists,”

Meanwhile, a tenth album is due next year. “We are working on it. It will be a masterpiece,” he informs. We can only wait and watch what tricks the boys will pull to promote this milestone record given their occasional soft corner for strange strategies. In 2009, the band hid copies of its upcoming single “Mess of me” ( from the Grammy Award-winning album Hello Hurricane) at several locations around the globe, and requested fans who found them to make copies of the track and hide them too. “We like do all kinds of crazy things. It is challenge for a band these days to creatively draw attention to its music,” confesses Butler. Ask him to let us in on a secret about the band that no one knows and he takes a good minute to think before replying, “What has kept us together is that we are really good friends off stage also.” Not the best-kept secret in the world, that one.

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Switchfoot will be performing across three cities in India. Event details listed below:

March 25th: Hard Rock Cafe, Mumbai, Rs 2,000-Rs 3,000

March 27th: Hard Rock Cafe, Pune, Rs 2,000-Rs 3,000

March 28th: Hard Rock Cafe, Gurgaon, Rs 2,000

Get tickets here.

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