Continuing on in “I Heard it on the Radio” week, today’s band is Switchfoot! Like all of the bands we’ve posted this week, Switchfoot is a band that has been able to cross over from the Christian market to the secular world. You’ve probably heard of them before because you’ve likely either heard their songs on Christian radio, regular radio, or MTV.
Most bands we like to cover here are indie bands, or at least less-well-known Christian groups, but this week of popular radio stuff has been fun, and educational – just like Sesame Street.
Switchfoot, on the other hand, is not like Sesame Street. They have no giant wooly mammoths in the band. They are not sponsored by letters. And they will make few attempts to teach you Spanish. But I still give them a strong recommendation as my personal favorite of the three bands I’ve covered this week.
I first started listening to Switchfoot way back in 2000 when a college roommate of mine had me listen to their 1997 album The Legend of Chin. To be honest, I remember very little of the album except that I liked it, and it seemed there was some sort of mysterious coded message in the song “Might Have Ben Hur.” What did that cryptic title mean? What did Ben Hur have to do with anything? Perhaps one day, after much research, I will find out.
With me liking The Legend of Chin, that same roommate popped in 1999’s New Way to Be Human for me. I remember even less about this album, except I again liked it, especially the song “Company Car,” for whatever reason. So I went out and bought their latest album Learning to Breathe and when the band went to Columbia in 2003 I bought The Beautiful Letdown, then I got their Stripped album for free as a promotion, and I’ve since forgotten about them.
Not that you needed to know my whole life story in relation to Switchfoot, but this is my post and I’ll do what I want.
Anyway, all the band members are born-again Christians, but they’ve really disliked being labeled a “Christian band” because they don’t want non-Christians to think they shouldn’t listen to their music. For them, it’s not about a genre; it’s about a life. According to the band, whether they’re labeled a Christian band or a secular band, they’ll still be singing the same songs about searching for truth, finding God, etc.
To add a little controversy to the mix… Former Spin editor Andrew Beaujon stated in his book Body Piercing Saved my Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock 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.” Interesting… In an interview here, he goes on to say this is why Switchfoot will never be huge rock stars, because they court two audiences. He claims the most successful Christian groups are the ones who are unabashadly Christian but don’t limit their audiences to Christians.
Anyway, back to the band! Switchfoot has a great, really catchy alternative rock sound, mixed with a little surf rock attitude and deep, searching lyrics. Their sound isn’t totally original, but it’s very good, and the lyrics are well-written.
Switchfoot started life as a three-piece rock group, but currently consists of Jon Foreman (vocals, guitar), Tim Foreman (bass, vocals), Chad Butler (drums), Jerome Fontamillas (guitar, keyboard, vocals), and Drew Shirley (guitar).
According to Foreman (the Jon version), 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”. Read more in an old interview here.
So check their songs out and if you like them, buy some CDs or check them out in concert. All this fall, they’ll be touring with Relient K, raising money for Habitat for Humanity. Check out dates here.
Here’s some newer, less well-known songs for your listening pleasure:
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