Switchfoot 'Let's Go' Chicago © 2003
The Beautiful Let Down
Photos by Adam Bielawski Who is Switchfoot? Well aside from their thoughtful lyric's excellent harmonies and catchy melodies they are kinda famous. No actually they're really famous their fans swarmed them after the show for autographs and photos, any chance to get close.
However if you try to spot the band by looking for the typical debauchery, or even self-importance, usually associated with most rock shows you won't find them. What you will see is a Christian band with such strong belief that is living a vision, successfully crossing over from Christian rock to the mainstream.
They're a real delight to talk to as well. I recently got the chance to sit with the Lead singer/guitarist John, drummer Chad, vocals/guitarist Tim, and vocals/Bass/Keys Jerome, before their set headling at Chicago's Metro to discuss their new album, the then impending war, how Jerome almost broke his ankle on stage, and the battle inside. And what I said made John with something to think about
PB: "So tell me what you think the overriding theme of [A Beautiful Let Down] is."
John [Jo]: I think that a lot of these songs are songs of questioning and I think that in our world a lot of people are throwing around answers to questions that have never been asked. I think that we have taken a more Socratic approach where were asking questions that sometimes tend to produce answers that are a lot more close to the heart that's what A beautiful Let down is about, finding hope in hopeless situations and trying to get your arms around the human condition.
PB: I was going to push this of but speaking of the human condition, questions and answers, how do you feel about this time that's going on right now in America? Does anybody want to...?
Jo: I'll throw it out again I talk more than these guys, I don't know I guess they're just used to it now. For me I think that um. The other day I was talking to somebody doing an interview in Dallas and their question was ‘with all of the things going on right now where is God?' ya know? And I think that it's a good question because it's kinda similar to what you're asking you know um, what do I think about it. I think there are so many things I would like to see changed within my own heart that the current situation kinda highlights all the things that I'd like to see changed about our world in general. Ammunition is about the fact that no matter what government is in control the human heart remains unchanged. You know go back to Rome or however far back you want to go back the war inside hasn't stopped and until that stops the wars outside can't stop either.
b>PB: Hey that's all right... How do you think music can change that battle inside and help people shift their motives to another way of thinking?
<Tim [Tm]: I think music's a very spiritual thing you know? When I think of all my favorite music it's usually coming from a very spiritual place and I think because of that it is a very powerful tool. So we take that very seriously we realize we have a large audience and want to make the most of that. We want to see our world changed and what better way to do it than to use our songs to bring about that change.
PB: What's the oddest thing that your fans have been saying to you lately now that the shift has kinda changed in America? You know in relation to how they are relating to your album, how they would normally relate to you about it and how they're relating now with the way things are going?
Jo: I think that everything changes when like say you just got into an accident or you're confronting death the whole evening changes after you're just thankful to be alive. Or say you just lucked out of getting a speeding ticket, the cop passes you by, the way that you drive right after that is...you're diving differently than before, and think that a war is the same to a much larger extent with the human heart it changes. It forces us to come to terms with our own mortality. I think with that in mind everything takes on a new gravity and music is one of those things. I think that people are looking a lot deeper into our songs than they have in the past, and finding a meaning and a hope that they might not have looked for before.
PB: Do you try to not explain your songs so that people can get their own meaning from it?
Tm: We go either way. I think the beautiful thing about music is that it is objective and subjective at the same time. You can write down the chord structure of a Miles Davis song but you can't document how it moves your soul. So to the extent that we can we definitely explain who we are and where our songs are coming from but I try to ask people what they think the song means. When they ask me ‘hey what does this song mean?' I try to ask ‘hey well what does it mean to you?' then go from there. I think that the listener's opinion is truly important my opinion is not the only important thing that matters.
PB: Where are you being played are you still in America? Have you toured internationally yet?
Chad [Ch]: There've been some opportunities over the years we've been a band for about seven years now and we've been over Europe a few a few times and this album is going to be released there soon. Actually John just spent the morning talking to a bunch of people over in England. We've truly been excited to be able to go somewhere that we're not from and be well received.
PB: With the way things are...with this war coming up how do you think you'll be traveling? Do you think there will be a lot more opportunities?
Jo: Ya I don't know. My dad just got back from Crete, the island of Crete, and um that was pretty intense cause it's very close to the conflict there and he had to fly through Egypt and change planes down there. It's a lot closer to the conflict than I would want to be at this point. Ya it definitely changes everything but bringing it back to the songs there's a song called "Meant to Live" on the album that kinda documents the idea that that so many times in our modern world we get stuck in ruts of materialism or pride or whatever and I hold as a conviction that we are meant to live for a lot more then what the world is currently living for.
PB: What kind of injuries have you sustained on tour?
Tm: That's a good question...
Jerome [Jer]: I practically broke my ankle jumping on John's foot. So I was out of commission for like two and a half months.
Jo: Longer than that!
Jer: Ya cause it took a while to heal. Ya it was a bad jump.
Tm: We like to goof around on stage.
PB: Tell me what each of you was listening to while you were recording this album.
Jer: Well for me I've always listened to a lot of electronic music. Massive Attack, Kruder and Dorfmeister.
Tm: I definitely listened to a lot of Radiohead, the Kid A album.
Ch: I think that during the recording I was listening to a lot of Dave Grohl's drumming for influence cause I think uh probably the last couple of Foo Fighters albums were really fun Colour and the Shape actually is the one I really I back to.
Jo: I wasn't really listing to much I was focusing on task at hand but it's funny cause at the end of the day listening to music kinda the last thing that you want to do is listen to an album. But the Doves is a really great album that um is a palette cleanser the Doves and Kinda Blue by Miles Davis they're kinda like you can relax you know and forget that it's music and travel with it.
PB: Do you feel like you are influenced by others peoples songs when you listen to them when you're trying to write do you feel like.
Jo: You can't borrow an artist's style you can maybe see a color you like and say hey I want that on my palette too, but you still have to paint it yourself. I think that whenever you listen to somebody else those colors are kinda stored up here [points to his head] and they come out when you least expect it.
PB: You've been a band for so long do you any of you have side projects that you are involved in? Dave Grohl as you mentioned is notorious for that...
Ch: Jerome definitely...
Jer: Well before I joined this band I was in a band called Full Zanjura and an industrial band called Mortal
Jo: Right now we don't have a whole lot of free time we are pretty much full time Switchfoot and we're loving it.
Tm: Ya my side project is a book. I'm working on a book.
PB: Ok, I talked to a band earlier this year, Vendetta Red, and we talked about what kinda stuff they were reading. Are any of you reading anything interesting now?
Tm: Ya I just read a book called "The Abolition of Man" by C.S. Lewis. It's been changing my perspective on time and space. It's interesting that we have such an effect on the generation after us. You guys reading anything?
Jer: I'm reading a book called "Imagine" written by I think the guy's named Steven Turner. Someone just gave it to me.
Tm: I just finished reading a physics book about stream theory and quantum physics all that sort of stuff, which is really fascinating. I recommend it.
Ch: I just picked up this book called the "Sacred Romance" by John Eldridge & Brent Curtis. I mean I read it a long time ago but I'm re-reading it again.
PB: I think that's a real poignant thing that it seems like instead of trying to be vigilant physically most of us are trying to go inside and change who we are so that collectively we change do you feel like that is what our generation does in comparison to past generations. I hear people saying that they want to fight for their country but you know there is more a prevailing theory to change who you are, do you feel like that? Instead of putting all of your faith into country and external things [focusing on] inside?
Jo: I definitely feel that tension inside of myself of wanting to change and I can't say that I've noticed it as a collective country, that's certainly exciting, I've got to think about that one. But I definitely know within me there are a lot of things that I would like to see changed and that's always a good thing.
PB: I compliment you on your humility that's really cool. Um tell me what kind of things you do for fun on tour and what kind of [rituals] you do before to get hyped up for stage?
Jo: Well when we're home we enjoy a good surf, but um no surf in Chicago
Ch: The great lakes...
Jo: I think like taking simple pleasures of like and the good thing we've all got... we're fairly easy going and have a good sense of humor, so practical jokes are always fair game and most of the time appropriate (Chuckles) and um to get us psyched up for stage I don't know. After a day like today where you do like 12 interviews sometimes the best thing to do is take a nap; then you know wake up and you're all ready to go.
PB: Take a Nap?
PB: Some artist's say they can't sleep before, like they can't stay still they got to go play...
Jo: Right, we're real excited to play tonight it's our first time at the Metro; it's exciting for us. Chad has actually fallen asleep on stage before
PB: Oh no
Jo: Ya, after you know you do like all these red eye flights and you don't sleep for days It catches up with you eventually
PB: How many shows are you playing?
Tm: About 12
Ch: Ya this tour's probably about 30 shows
PB: Doing summer stuff too? Going all the way through the summer
Jo: Ya, on average we play about 100, 150 show a year.
PB: One more thing do any of you get into visualization, of writing or how you want to play or even how you want the album to be pushed? Do you visualize it or do you just let it flow.
Jo: Well I think like we always try to put our goals in things that are kinda more attainable than like record sales or things like that cause um like winning a Grammy or something like that is very much outside of what we do daily. So our goals are more along the lines of playing a great show, being great people, and you know I guess more personal goals you know the way that we treat each other stuff like that. Being the same people on and off stage those are our goals. And certainly I'd love to hear, because these are my songs these are my heart, I'd love to hear [or have] the whole world have a chance to listen but then again I know that they'll be heard by the people that need to hear it and there's a contentment there, you can rest in that.
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