According to Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman, the band's forthcoming album, Oh! Gravity, is a conceptual work, but not in the typical sense. Instead of building the LP's 12 tracks around a common theme, Foreman said the record is about what's been going on in his life and what's been on his mind. Like, say, his theory of social entropy.
"In the physical world, there's a force called entropy, which basically means that everything moves toward a lower state of order," he explained. "Your car will fall apart. Your house will decay. Everything will die eventually. And I think that's something we have socially as well — whether it's divorce, or the lack of our ability to keep peace or even the partisan politics going on right now. We are constantly falling apart on a social scale. Somewhere in there is the idea that good things happen to bad people, not bad things happen to good people."
If that sounds slightly confusing, don't worry. Foreman says it will all make sense once you've heard Oh! Gravity, which lands in stores December 26. Switchfoot compiled the effort from more than 60 songs they'd stockpiled over the years and then refined in the studio.
Unlike 2005's Nothing Is Sound, which the band recorded while touring, Gravity was tracked in a studio close to where the San Diego band lives, with producer Tim Palmer (U2, James) and executive producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, Talking Heads). This, says the singer, will also be evident to the listener.
"We had a blast making this record," said Foreman. "You can hear what the environment was like during the creative process when you listen to a record. You can tell what was going on and what they were thinking and what they were drinking. That all comes through in the tracks."
The forthcoming outing, Foreman says, is merely the next step in Switchfoot's evolution as songwriters. "It's really interesting when you watch the creative growth of a band like the Beatles or Led Zeppelin, because they came out with so many records in short spurts of time, and you can actually see where they're coming from a lot better than, say, a band that releases one record every six years," he said. "It's a real treat to be able to put out two records in two years, so people can witness our growth."
Switchfoot had so much material to pull from because they're always writing — on the road, at home, in the studio. In fact, some of the material on Gravity was written before the recording sessions for Nothing Is Sound wrapped. For Switchfoot, crafting tunes has become less a vocation than a therapeutic pursuit.
"Some people keep a journal, but I write songs," Foreman said. "Most of these songs began as existential questions about why we're here and trying to make sense of the planet. I used to think that was kind of an obvious place to start, but then you realize that any good song has to start there to some extent."
Creating this album, Foreman says, was also about control. "Sometimes I feel like control is this illusion we have — we all think we have control, but in reality, life can end at any second," he said. "But we do have control over who determines our self-worth, and if we're letting other people determine what we think of ourselves, that's a really dangerous place to be as an artist because suddenly you're totally vulnerable. This record was about not really caring what people think anymore, getting back to the roots of who we were as a band and experiencing the joy of playing music for the heck of it, because I feel like that's when you're making your best stuff."
Earlier this month, the band shot a video for the album's title track with director P.R. Brown (Audioslave, Buckcherry). Foreman wouldn't say much about the video's concept, but revealed it was shot in front of a green screen and incorporated several of the aesthetic elements from Oh! Gravity's artwork.
Switchfoot are currently on a 29-date tour of intimate venues that will wrap November 22 in Las Vegas. Moses Mayfield has been tapped as opening act (see "Switchfoot Slipping On Tour Boots Again As Gravity Approaches").