Meant to rock

Switchfoot hit it big with 'Meant to Live,' but they still shy away from the fame game.

By Mike Osegueda / The Fresno Bee

(Updated Friday, October 8, 2004, 6:35 AM)

Jon Foreman, Switchfoot's frontman, sounds real chill, real mellow.

Maybe because it's Monday morning.

Or maybe there's another reason.

"We're home sweet home right now," he says from San Diego.

For now.

As he speaks, the band is days away from leaving for a tour that will last until mid-December, including a stop Saturday night at The Big Fresno Fair.

"We're working on getting our guitars ready for the tour," Foreman says. "Spending time with the grandparents before we go out again. The main thing is just kinda relaxing.

"To go out for a surf and come back and make your own food at home — that kinda thing means a lot," he says.

Sounds like he's been enjoying the good life during Switchfoot's break from the road.

Which has lasted how long? "Four days," Foreman says, pride evident in his voice.

Four days?

He sounds like a guy who's been sitting on a warm beach for a month now.

"No, no, no," he says.

"It looks like we're gonna break 200 shows this year. In the past month we were on three different continents playing shows.

"At least we got some frequent-flyer miles."

This is what happens when you're a famous rock star. It happened for Switchfoot so quickly. They were three albums into a small-scale rock career. They got picked up by Columbia. Their song "Meant to Live" swarmed onto radio. Now they're famous.

Talk about lifestyle changes. Your life becomes a whirlwind. Everything is bigger and crazier and faster. A new city every night. Parties that would make Axl Rose proud. Groupies. Ya know, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, right, Jon?



Guess not.

"We're not stars," Foreman says adamantly, a claim that is backed up by the honest, hopeful, tame songs on the band's most recent album, "The Beautiful Letdown." "We're all very aware of our own inadequacies and weaknesses."

This is what critics have seemed to enjoy about Switchfoot. The Los Angeles Times said, "Angsty emo kids could use a dose of Switchfoot's feel-good attitude and thoughtful introspection." The Orange County Register called the band's album "a rousing rock testament of hope, dreams and inspiration."

But when you do what Switchfoot did and make a song like "Meant To Live," that takes you from independent journeymen to platinum- selling artists performing on every late-night talk show and getting love everywhere, from Rolling Stone to Pepsi, isn't it easy for even the most upstanding band to get swept into the glamour?

It is. But Foreman and Switchfoot seem to be sincere about staying grounded.

After all, Foreman did say he cooks his own food.

And he does still talk to fans after shows and post on his band's message board.

And he does try to write a song every night before he goes to sleep — it's his way of keeping a journal, he says — and he records them in his bedroom rather than in $1,000-an-hour studios.

And while he's proud of the platinum-record thing, he's excited just to hear his music on the radio. Besides, his goal was never to sell a million, but 30,000. That was the most his local heroes in San Diego had ever sold. So that was the number to beat.

"The goal was never to get popular," Foreman says. "That was never the point. The point was just to make sure whatever avenues and venues were there for us to sing our songs, that we would take advantage of it."

You have to understand, Switchfoot is a band whose members once checked out of their hotel in London and used their hotel money to hop a train to France in search of a beach they heard was good to surf.

Forget sleep, they figured; they'd just stay up and enjoy the nightlife. When they didn't find anything to do, they instead tied their bags to their legs and slept at the train station.

"It's stories like that," Foreman says, "I'm really glad that I'm gonna be able to tell them to my kids one day."