It’s a good thing the Switchfoot dudes are surf rats who totally dig the water, because the treatment for their video for “Stars,” the first single from the upcoming Nothing Is Sound, is heavy on the wet stuff.
Frontman Jonathan Foreman seems to recall having at least a few misgivings about the concept, however, at some point between his fourth and fifth straight hours of submersion.
“It was like being on the moon because you’ve got these scuba divers lumbering past you and these speakers barking commands like, ’Can you turn the light to the left a little bit?’ You can’t see anything,” he said of the clip. “It was very surreal. It was in the middle of the night, so it’s like 3 a.m., and I’m thinking, ’What am I doing 20 feet [underwater] at the bottom of this pool?’ ”
Thankfully, Foreman, his bass-playing brother, Tim, drummer Chad Butler and keyboardist Jerome Fontamillas survived the water-logged shoot with little more than a severe case of prune hands.
“We were all trained as Navy SEALs before the video, so we all passed with flying colors,” Butler joked as he described how a rainmaker device marinated the band with thousands of gallons of water. “We’re personally responsible for the drought in California. It all ended up in our video.”
Foreman said Switchfoot chose to release “Stars” as Nothing Is Sound’s leadoff single because they wanted to make something of a splash.
“I’m a fan of a good guitar riff,” he said. “My brother and I were in a Led Zeppelin cover band in junior high, and Led Zeppelin cover bands cover riffs. For me, ’Stars’ is just a really great, hooky guitar riff, and it feels so good to play live. The song itself is about perspective, and I feel like this is an album that wants to step back from life and look at it objectively. The record’s overarching lyrical inspiration would be one of attempting to be truly human in an upside-down world, where I feel like a lot of things are thrown at us, and it begins to be a real challenge to try and find your head and put it on right.”
Before Nothing Is Sound drops on September 13, Switchfoot plan to start previewing all of the disc’s 12 tracks on their Web site, starting on September 1 with the record’s first song, “Lonely Nation.” A short snippet from each cut will be available over the course of those first 12 days of the month; they’re calling it the Twelve Days of Switchfoot.
Much of the album was written and recorded while Switchfoot were on tour, Foreman said, which let them test-drive the songs live and fine-tune them.
“The biggest impact that recording the record on the road had was the idea of the instability you have on the road,” Foreman said. “You can’t remember where you put your keys or your wallet, let alone where the bridge of the song was going. It helped the record, and it gave us perspective because you’d come back to the song in a different city with a different frame of mind, and you could sort of get a bird’s-eye view of it.”
“And you can’t fake it live,” said brother Tim. “You know if a song is working or not when you step onstage and play it.”
“In many ways, our crowds every night would help us produce the songs,” Jon said. “You can tell. You look in their eyes and you can tell if a chorus is working or not.”
This fall, Switchfoot will head back on the road for a U.S. headlining tour, but first they’ll roll out a new project called Lowercase People, what Foreman called an “interactive online magazine for art, music, literature and international issues of social justice.
“The things you find yourself talking about with your friends late at night — this new band, this book you just read, maybe something that’s going on in Africa — and this will give you a chance to be part of a bigger community than just you and your buddies,” he continued. “For us, it’s an opportunity to give back to a lot of people who let us sleep on their floors or had given us a tank of gas when we needed it. There’s a lot of incredible musicians, artists and writers who we look up to, and this is our chance to spotlight them and what’s going on in Africa and India. It will give people a chance to see art truly interact with the world.”
A nonprofit component, a partnership with Geneva Global called the Lowercase People Justice Fund, will raise money for “selected indigenous communities around the world” and fund educational programs. Switchfoot recently visited several South African villages and recorded the Kuyasa Kids children’s choir in Cape Town. The band plans to release it on CD and give all the profits to the kids’ destitute community.
“As a rock band, we’re not overly idealistic about single-handedly changing the world,” Tim Foreman said, “but we do know that people are listening to what we have to say … so we want to use what platform we have been given to make a difference.”
The Nothing Is Sound track listing, according to Switchfoot’s label:
- “Lonely Nation”
- “Happy Is a Yuppie Word”
- “The Shadow Proves the Sunshine”
- “Easier Than Love”
- “The Blues”
- “The Setting Sun”
- “The Fatal Wound”
- “We Are One Tonight”