“Men on a Mission”

by Leslie Krouse

Switchfoot’s first release “Mess of Me” off their latest CD ‘Hello Hurricane that debut in November is quickly rising up the charts. It seems this San Diego band is well on their way back on top. With past hits like “Meant to Live” and “Dare you to Move” topping the charts in the mid-90’s, ‘Hello Hurricane’ is sure the be their most powerful record as of yet. Now having the freedom of their own record label, they were able to create music that is 100% Switchfoot.  Music is not the only thing that strives these guys to move forward. One of their biggest accomplishments is their Switchfoot Bro-Am in Encinitas, CA. 2009 was the 5th annual, where they raised an estimated $93K for the StandUp For Kids Foundation. “I feel as a band this is an attempt to give back the many gifts we have received ourselves,” explains Jon Forman. Turning the event “Green” this year they have gotten rid of all generators and use solar energy to power the stage, “As a band we have an opportunity of trading a very large footprint for a smaller one” states Tim Forman. They have also helped to re-build houses left in Katrina’s wake. And are now collecting food Nation Wide at their concerts to help the local chapters of the Food Banks. I got a chance to sit and chat with brothers John and Tim to find out a little more about their lives and the music.

RIS: Well here you go again, are you guys excited?

JON: Yeah, we’re amped. If we weren’t as passionate about these songs as we are, we’d be a little nervous about starting the machine back up again. We are just really exited about playing these songs out on the road. So much of the record was tract with the idea of what they would sound like live. So, to be able to play songs 1-12 live, that’s what the record was intended for, it feels like it’s coming to fruition.

TIM: Yeah, it’s been a long time in the making. We actually have been done with the album since early May. We’ve been sitting on it for a while. I’m excited to get it out. We didn’t want to have any conversations about record labels or distribution, or how we where going to get the album out while we were making it. We just didn’t want any time constraints. Once we were finished, then we had that conversation. It took us a few months to figure it all out. We’ve spent too much time making this record just to rush the release. So it feels good, we are definitely ready.

RIS: Last year you started your own record label “Lowercase People Records.”  What inspired you to start your own label?

JON: We have always done what we want, to an extent. Whenever you partner up with someone you’re letting them into the think tank. But, to have complete autonomy on the record is something we haven’t experienced in a long time. The idea of playing a record completely on its own, I don’t think any record company would have bought into us on that. Definitely the record we created wouldn’t have happened, if we had some kind of timeline that we would have been held to by somebody else.

TIM:  It was very self-motivated starting the label. After we left our relationship with Sony/Columbia, we now as an independent band, we had to start thinking of ways to hand deliver these songs to the people who listen to them. It grew from that. Also to help John with his solo music, and his side projects he’s done over the last couple of years. We have a vision for eventually growing it, to be able to showcase other independent artists. I think we’re in an exciting place. There’s a lot of freedom that we have, and we’re just scratching the surface.

RIS: Would you say that being on your own label it has given you more freedom to express yourselves, do what you want to do?

JON: A record company doesn’t tell you what to write. Essentially what you are looking for in a partner is a team. A team of people who understands who you are, and what you are all about, and are able to communicate that effectively and move foreword together. The trouble we encountered at Columbia was that they were continually destroying the team. Half the team would be fired every other month. We knew we had to find a new place for our music to go. Where it felt like it was being released in a manner that would be keeping with the songs we’d been writing. That’s why we chose to create our own studio and be completely independent.

TIM: Yeah, I think the biggest thing is there was no timer ticking. Another part is that we build our own studio in North County San Diego. So those two combined gave us enough time to make the record we wanted to make. We spent the next 2 1/2 years making about 90 songs. It was a real prolific time for us, in the fact that we had no boundaries, and anything was possible. That became a struggle within its self. As a result it was the hardest record that we’ve made. I don’t think it could have been done any other way.

RIS: Out of the 90 songs, how did you choose these 12 for “Hello Hurricane?”

JON: These were the songs you couldn’t live without. That seemed to be very obvious towards the end of the record. That certain songs were really enjoyable to play yet they didn’t capture your insides, the way some of the songs did. I don’t know who said it, I think it was Dolly Parton “if you’re not crying while your playing it” this became the running benchmark on whether a song was going to make the album or not.

TIM:  Yeah, the motto became “if you’re not crying why are you singing it.” What are the songs you want to die singing? Out of those 90 songs there is a lot of music we are really excited about. Some really experimental, inventive idea’s musically. Some songs have gone in a direction that we’ve never done before. But, ultimately the songs we chose for this album were the ones that were so important, we couldn’t wait another two years before they came out. Songs that we want to sing around the world for the next 10 years.

RIS: The first release of the albumn “Mess of Me” is there a personal story behind it?

JON: Yeah, I think pretty much every song comes from, well; I’m a horrible actor so I only write about things I know very well.  I think that I found that I’m not alone in looking for a quick fix. When you’re in pain and you’re uncomfortable, you want a quick way out of it. “Mess of Me” for me is some sort of battle cry to make sure I’m not settling for the quick fix. Because, the quick fix is neither quick, nor a fix. That’s where that song has come from in my life.

TIM: “Mess of Me” went through the most changes of all the songs on the record. I mentioned that we tract 90 songs, each of those songs were probably tract at least 4 or 5 times, at least the ones that we felt were the most promising. So, with “Mess of Me” there were probably 20 different versions that we recorded of that song. It went on quite a journey of twists and turns, before it got to this final version. But for me, it’s a hopeful song. It acknowledges the pain that we all feel, when the storms come in our lives, and that there is no quick fix. Which I think that’s where the hope comes in, the idea that “I want to spend the rest of my life alive” and that means not settling for a quick fix, whether it’s a drug, or whatever it is. It kind of comes back to the concept of “Hello Hurricane” which is the idea that we are standing in the face of the storm, and not running away.

RIS: How much has living in San Diego influenced your music?

JON: I think San Diego is one of the best places to come home to. As far as influencing our sound. When we were coming up, and it is still the case, but I think it was more so then. There was this incredible open-minded element about playing music in SD. It didn’t matter whether you fit into the scene or not. I think every time there is a trend it puts an expiration date on that song itself.  Like wearing a certain type of jeans or a style of haircut, it can’t mean anything other than for that moment. It has a hard time expanding out of that particular time. I think we were very fortunate not to be stamped with a barcode, or a time expiration date. I feel very lucky that our sound has remained the same. We’ve been able to be ourselves, outside of the trend. I don’t think that would have happened if we lived in Seattle or LA, or even New York. I think we would have been more susceptible to the trends elsewhere. Fortunately, or unfortunately we have never been trendy.

TIM: San Diego has had a huge influence on our music. I think what makes SD so unique; certainly from LA and other music scenes is the camaraderie. I know this from growing up in SD, and seeing other band, like Boilermakers, and Rocket from the Crypt, and other great bands. It always seemed everyone was rooting for each other. There wasn’t that underlying competition. I think that’s a great breaking ground for young artists, and up and coming bands. Where people take you under their wings and allow you to grow. To become the artist you want to be. I think that’s what makes SD so unique. It’s what makes us proud to be from San Diego.

RIS: Any shout outs to anyone in San Diego?

JON: Yeah, I’d like to give a shout out to my friends in The Howls, the great North County band fronted by my friend John Cooper, who’s almost a little brother to me. I also like to give a shout out to Mr. Casey D. Lou’s Records, and why not Rob Machado, and a shout out to the Cardiff Kook.

TIM: I could fill up your magazine.  We probably know half the people reading this, so we love you.

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