Unsure exactly where to go upon entering a Los Angeles studio to begin recording their latest album, The Beautiful Letdown, Switchfoot asked the receptionist where their producer, Jack Joseph Puig, was. She gave them labyrinthine directions to his recording lair.
Numerous passages and sharp turns later, they arrived at a door with a note reading "Closed Session." Since Puig is known as a private man, they figured this was the place. Frontman Jonathan Foreman barged in and bumped into two of his musical heroes, Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood
and Thom Yorke.
"I'm thinking, 'Man, this is incredible. These guys are hanging out in our studio,' " Foreman recalled. "I walk up to them and say, 'Hey, what's happening? I really appreciate your music.' And they're thinking, 'Who is this punk in our studio?' "
Caught up in his excitement, Foreman failed to realize he was in the wrong room. He also suffered a memory lapse and an acute case of awkwardness. "I'd met Jonny's brother at the Grammys a couple of years ago. But I got confused and said to Jonny, 'Hey, I met you at the Grammys.' He said, 'That's funny, because I've never been to the
Foreman's not usually as thick as his band's dense, melodic rock, but this was an exception. When Greenwood explained that he and Yorke were working on a musical passage, Foreman thought they were simply borrowing Switchfoot's studio, so he remained in the room, causing Yorke to sigh, shuffle up and exclaim, "Listen, I don't mean to be a
jerk, but there's a sign on the door and it's for you. You shouldn't be here," Foreman recalled. "That's when I realized, 'Oh sh--, I'm in the wrong studio!' "
The experience was a beautiful letdown indeed, but it didn't inspire the title of Switchfoot's fourth record. The Beautiful Letdown refers to modern life, which seems flush with wondrous technology and colorful pop culture but lacking in substance and meaning, and is ultimately a bit empty.
Whether or not the message has caught on with hard-rock fans is unclear, but Switchfoot's music sure has. The album has gone gold and spawned the single "Meant to Live," which has fared well on commercial rock radio. Switchfoot will soon release "Dare You to Move" as their second single. The track, originally on the San Diego rockers' 2000 album, Learning to Breathe, was rejiggered and re-recorded.
"It's a song we've always believed in," Jonathan Foreman's brother and bassist, Tim, said. "We've been playing it live for four years, and when you play something live for that long, you get your arms around it in a different way. So it's great to have the opportunity to capture what we've done with it live."
Switchfoot will play February 7 in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, and February 13 in Searcy, Arkansas, before launching a tour February 25 in East Lansing, Michigan.
Switchfoot would be thrilled if "Dare You to Move" became a monster hit. But even if it stiffs, they'll eagerly continue plugging their music and message. They feel no pressure to continue building their fanbase and eventually record another commercially successful record.
"We try not to look at numbers, because that stuff doesn't mean anything," Foreman said. "It feels great whether you're playing in front of 50 or 500 kids and they're singing along. When Tim and I were in a band in high school, we scrimped and waited tables to make enough money to print 1,000 CDs, and it was incredible when we sold 500 copies
and broke even. It's amazing to know people are getting into what you're doing."