By Taylor Griffin
Just as the pattern of tides swell and retreat in the ocean, so does the rhythm and course in the life of a rock band. For countless bands, change is the upset that ruins the integrity of its sound and core. Not so for Switchfoot.
As San Diego natives, surfing runs thick in the band’s blood, and for its members, the pure joy of getting out on the board keeps them rooted in the past and eager to explore their potential.
But it’s more than simply garnering and fostering their own sound throughout the years. It’s a lifestyle of spontaneous transition and going with the flow. In fact, the surfer’s term “switchfoot” implies a change of footing on the board for a different perspective in the midst of the perfect wave.
With surfing deep at the core, the band hit the waves to rediscover what keeps them afloat: their personal sound. To fully find it out, the guys traveled the world seeking new inspiration from the waters and cultures beyond the united states.
“I think as an artist you have to keep looking for inspiration,” drummer Chad Butler said. “You can’t just sing the same songs. You have to be pushing yourself. This project was exactly that: getting out of our comfort zone and into a new environment with new cultures and situations influence the art.”
From down under in Australia and New Zealand to the colorful beaches of Bali and South Africa, Switchfoot emerged from its adventure across cultures with a documentary and upcoming album, both called “Fading West.” It opened new avenues for the band to experiment with different instruments to enhance their songs, Butler said.
While the record isn’t set to drop until Jan. 14, the band is touring now with the new music and documentary for audiences to get a sneak-peak screening. An EP with three songs from the project is available on iTunes.
The journey began in 2012, and as the 10 months of editing followed, the band recorded songs that were written along the way.
With their tour hitting Baylor on Monday, Butler said the audience can expect a full screening of the film followed by the concert featuring songs from the past and new tunes that describe their experiences around the world.
“This is a dream come true for us to finally launch this project,” Butler said.
The documentary captures raw emotions and tender moments that most bands typically suppress from the outside world, Butler said.
“There are things in the songs and in the film itself that were unexpected surprises that happened along the way,” Butler said. “Taking a film crew with you to capture all the highs and lows, there’s definitely moments when the songs were in our emotions and the experiences that were captured in the film. It’s all really tied together in a unique way.”
But that’s exactly what Switchfoot intended from the start: complete candidness and transparency.
“We wanted to be very honest about who we are, our family life and the challenges of being in a rock band while also husbands and fathers,” Butler said.
Besides the music, family and relationships are evident themes throughout the documentary. Butler said it opens doors for a more intimate connectivity with their loyal fan base.
“There’s this theme of family that is evident in the movie,” he said. “We’re opening up and showing a side of the band people have never seen before.”
From eclectic guitar riffs to soul-reaching vocals, Switchfoot’s mix of styles reaches across the boundaries of varying genres. The show is brought to campus via Baylor Activities Council, and Matt Burchett, director of student activities, said the band has the perfect marriage of both faith and entertainment for Baylor.
“The documentary is a unique fit for the show,” Burchett said. “Their journey in a part of the world that we’re not familiar with gives interesting insight into their band.”
Seeking a diverse mix of guest artists for the Bear community, a consulting team within the school met last year, Burchett said, to enhance and outline the specific music culture at Baylor. Burchett said he saw the idea of bringing Switchfoot to campus was a unique opportunity to have entertainment with a purpose.
“Switchfoot just fits that goal,” he said. “Their range draws in all kinds of students.”
Baylor Activities Council expects a full house 7 p.m. Monday night at Waco Hall as ticket sales have already reflected the anticipation for the band’s arrival, Burchett said. Tickets are still on sale but quickly selling out.
Following the movie, the band will hold a dialogue with the audience and open the floor for questions, which offers a deeper understanding with the band and its music, Butler said.
“We’ve got some surprises,” he said. “I think it’s going to be really different because we’ll be talking with the audience.
With eight records in its portfolio, Switchfoot has already surpassed the expiration date many bands encounter in the span of its life on the stage, Butler said. However, with each new record since its start in 1996, the band explores new ways to reinvent itself while keeping in sync with its roots.
“Most bands don’t last this long,” said Butler. “We’re aware of that, and we’re thankful for that.”
Their sound, Butler said, embraces newfound diversity within each album, and even from song to song, diverging styles represent where the record and band are headed as a whole.
“For me, I think it’s just honest music,” he said. “There’s a heart beat to the music that’s unique.”
As a longtime fan of the band, Littleton, Colo., post-baccalaureate student Michael McHugh said he loves the range in Foreman’s vocals and the band’s innovative guitar riffs. He said he values its overarching theme of purpose and ministry in the rock alternative genre.
“Switchfoot’s a Christian band that been really successful,” he said. “That’s a small circle of bands, and I think it brings positive influences to Baylor.”
Butler said this new inspiration from their first love of surfing has reinvented the way they tell their story as a band and as believers.
“We have a whole new show; the way we approach music is completely different in this tour,” Butler said. “It’s not the typical rock show, although we’re bringing a lot of interesting new things. It’s got a different look to it, the way the stage is set up, and yet it’s very intimate.”
As the band shifts into new arenas of entertainment, no evidence of growing pains are present in its music. For now, Switchfoot plans to continue discovering itself as a band of artists and float along to ride out the waves as they roll.