Switchfoot takes giant leaps
By Elysa Gardner
January 6, 2004

"Music changed my world, with people like U2, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash singing from their souls. To think about the fact that we could be moving the next generation is an honor."

Stepping out: Singer/guitarist Jon Foreman, 26, and his brother, bassist Tim Foreman, 25, formed this San Diego-based band seven years ago with drummer Chad Butler, 29, and later recruited thirtysomething guitar and keyboards player Jerome Fontamillas. The California boys named their group Switchfoot after a surfing term.

Riding a wave: The Beautiful Letdown, Switchfoot's fourth CD and Columbia Records debut, has enjoyed a steady build since its release last February. In December, anthemic single Meant to Live ranked in the top 10 of modern-rock charts. Fans of the group's earnest, muscular guitar-pop include teen queen Mandy Moore, who crooned a duet with Jon on the soundtrack to her film A Walk To Remember, which also featured several Switchfoot tunes.

Genesis: In the beginning, Switchfoot was signed to a Christian-music label and marketed accordingly. The band even garnered a Grammy nomination for best rock gospel album in 2001. But Jjon insists that he and his colleagues never cared for labels, religious or otherwise. "I think it was Les Paul who said that there are two kinds of music: good and bad," he says. "When I was in high school, everyone tried to call us a punk band. There's a tendency for people to try to put you in a box, and that's something that we're still seeing today. People should listen to the music with an open mind and make their decisions from there."

The perks of fame: The members of Switchfoot have now had occasion to meet several of their idols, including U2's Bono, whom Jon consulted about, a Web site promoting awareness of African debt aid and trade. While recording Letdown, Jon and his bandmates also bumped into Radiohead - almost literally. "We went into what we thought was our studio, and Thom Yorke and the rest of the guys were there. I thought, "This is so great; Radiohead is in our stuido, hanging out." In reality, they were tracking their own record. So I walk in, introduce myself, say "What's going on?" They're obviously completely taken aback by this kid barging in and asking questions. I walked further in, and finally Thom Yorke comes up to me and says, "I don't mean to be an idiot, but if you could please leave? It's a private studio." He was very kind about it, though."

Sweet inspiration: "All of my songs come from a very private honest place," says Jon, Switchfoot's principal tunesmith. "It's 3 in the morning, you can't sleep, you're wondering what life is: That's where the songs come from. I think that with this album in particular, there's a longing for beauty and truth...You'll have 15-, 16-year old kids come up to you after a show and tell you that your songs have helped them deal with their own thoughts of suicide, or deal with divorce, or whatever's going on in their lives."