Alt band Switchfoot is coming back to India

The band talks tanpura and their Grammy win before unpacking for the Bacardi NH7 Weekender Express

  • Published 23.10.18, 10:46 PM
  • Updated 25.10.18, 7:34 PM
  • 4 mins read
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Agencies

We believe Unity is the hardest battle. We have seen it in our relationships; in our band; in our country. When we can agree to love despite our differences, we will overcome

— Switchfoot

In surfing, “switch foot” means to take a stance in an opposite direction and that’s exactly what five San Diego boys have been doing for over two decades. Grammy-winning band Switchfoot has always managed — without giving in to musical trends — to combine music, surfing and issues that concern different communities. Jon Foreman, Tim Foreman, Chad Butler, Jerome Fontamillas and Drew Shirley are living by the words of their song Live It Well: I wanna sing with all my heart a lifelong song/ Even if some notes come out right and some come out wrong.

Before arriving for Bacardi NH7 Weekender Express in Calcutta (November 3-4), in association with t2, Switchfoot members answered a few questions over email. The band will also perform at Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Meghalaya (November 2-3).

You were in India in 2015, performing in Mumbai, Pune and New Delhi. What did you like most about India?

Our first tour of India in 2015 was an eye-opener. We were stunned by the beauty of the people and culture, the art and music. As a band we were amazed that the crowds at the sold-out venues, they knew our songs; it’s such an honour to hear people singing along with us halfway around the world.

Jon, you have been to India earlier without your band, visiting Delhi and Lucknow. How did the sounds and sights of the two cities affect you?

Before I went to India the first time, I thought I knew our planet and the human race fairly well. I had been all around the world and experienced a myriad of cultures. But my friend from India said: “You still don’t know our planet. You still don’t know the scope of humanity. You’ve never been to India!” And it’s true. Every time I visit India, my mind is blown. Every city is so different. Even though Lucknow and Delhi are cities in the same country, they are radically different from each other. But the commonality that I’ve found all over India is the welcome that I’ve always received.

Also Jon, you have a harmonium and a tanpura. Have you used them as part of your music?

I love learning new instruments and incorporating them into my music. I’ve used the harmonium on a bunch of tracks... too many to count. The tanpura produces a very distinct sound and requires just the right use. Two songs that you can hear the tanpura on are Amateur Lovers (a Switchfoot song) and Resurrect Me (a Jon Foreman tune).

The group is always on tour in the US. Does the audience react differently to your music outside the US?

We would have thought that language might be a barrier between our music and the people in India but we were surprised. The audience knew every word and sang louder than the crowds in the US!

Your hometown San Diego reminds one of surfing and Comic-Con. Does your city influence your music?

We definitely have a strong connection to the ocean; looking out at the sea and feeling small… it keeps you humble.

Your album Hello Hurricane (2009) has won a Grammy (Best Rock Gospel Album). Does a milestone like this put extra pressure on the band?

Winning a Grammy was never our dream but when it happened it was a gift like so much of our lives; we can’t take credit for it.

What’s the coolest thing you have done with the Grammy?

Ha! It sits on a shelf in our studio, a reminder that even the unexpected gifts don’t replace the hard work.

Agencies

I’ve used the harmonium on a bunch of tracks, too many to count. The tanpura produces a very distinct sound and requires just the right use. Two songs that you can hear the tanpura on are Amateur Lovers and Resurrect Me

— Jon Foreman

Most of your songs come across as personal, sometimes confessional, sometimes a call to fight inner angst. Is it easy to put across your faith, your spirituality across to listeners who may have a different outlook?

Looking out at our audience, we are thankful it is diverse; people from different walks of life, ethnicities, and beliefs singing the same tune together. The most vulnerable and personal songs often become the most relatable.

There has been a transformation of the American dream. We are reading about the immigrant situation, the housing situation, the health benefits. Do these experiences become a part of your music?

We are living in a very uncertain time but we still believe in love that’s stronger than hatred. Our song Looking For America asks the question: “America, who are you? The land of the free, the home of the brave?” Only time will tell.

There must have been a few obstacles for the band over the years. What’s been the biggest of them?

We believe Unity is the hardest battle. We have seen it in our relationships; in our band; in our country. When we can agree to love despite our differences, we will overcome.

The group was on a hiatus last year and a part of this year. Any reason behind it and do you guys feel rejuvenated to be on the road?

After touring for the last 20 years it was time for us to pause and reflect. We all have kids now and wanted some time at home. This past year we have been able to have a different pace of life; spending time with our families. I think it’s healthy for all of us to pause and reflect, to ask ourselves the hard questions: What you want to do and why you are doing it. We realised we still love being creative and being with each other. Coming back to music and rediscovering the joy of creating together.

Would you call Switchfoot simply a rock band or a Christian rock band?

We call ourselves a rock band for thinking people. We think those categories are not necessary and we want all people to be invited to the party. We are grateful that our audience is so diverse, people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and beliefs singing along with us. The real and most personal songs are the ones that become the most widely connected.

What are some of the places you want to visit?

The pyramids or the Taj Mahal. Let’s go!