Here are more excerpts from my interview with Jon Foreman of Switchfoot…
Q: How did the European tour go last month?
It was probably my favorite time over there. The fans were great. It’s interesting when you travel the world and get a chance to see how different songs go over in different communities. Certain songs resonate better in Europe that they do over here.
Q: For ‘Vice Verses, the band worked on a select number of songs and honed them, instead of having dozens to pare down like on the last album.
We’ve tried the democratic process, where we all take blind votes. We’ve done records where every day, we’re taking another vote. You end up spending more time talking about the songs than you do actually recording them. For this album, Tim and I would filter through the material and focus more on the music, rather than which song to record that day.
Q: What was the experience like working with producer Neal Avron this time around?
He’s a very concise thinker and really good with songs. To work with him from the start, you have this cerebral element of how you’re going to get where you want to go. It’s much more charted out and thought through, rather than just throwing paint on a canvas and seeing where it goes.
Q: Drew has referred to “Where I Belong” as a song at the heart of the band lyrically. You’ve said at some shows on tour that it’s the last song you want to play if the band ever broke up. What was your mindset while writing it?
While you’re in the studio, a lot of times you get divorced from the live experience. I wanted to remind myself why I play [music] and thought ‘what songs do I want to sing live’...[Now], it’s always a moving experience to play it live.
Q: Have you found people are very surprised after hearing “Selling the News,” which is a real departure for the band?
Yeah, it has been for some folks. There are always songs we’ve never released that feel a lot more adventurous than that one. [Since] they’re unreleased, they’re a part of you that no one has ever heard.
Q: The subject matter really makes you think.
At the moment, we have to remind ourselves how we define news. News is happening all around us. Your sister having a baby is news; it’s not necessarily something that’s going to hit the front page…sensational stories are going to come to the top. That becomes the backbone of what we think is the world and what is happening in the world, when in reality, that’s a very small portion of what would be deemed ‘news.’
Q: You’ve been periodically writing blogs for Huffington Post. Do you find that has been a good outlet to get your thoughts across on ideas that don’t fit into Switchfoot songs?
It’s been great to find space for a broader idea that might not fit into a three-minute pop song and fun to figure out how to write in that style and a really great outlet to get other ideas out.
Q: This year marked the band’s 15th anniversary. Can you believe it’s been that long?
In once sense, I’ve always been playing music. I was in a Led Zeppelin cover band in junior high. In that sense, it feels like I’ve been in a band all my life. In the other sense, it feels like just yesterday we were starting the band. Time has definitely flown by and we’ve enjoyed every moment of what we’ve done. Maybe the old adage, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ is definitely true for us.
Q: Do you find your solo projects in recent years like the seasonal EPs and Fiction Family album with Sean Watkins help you engage in other musical avenues you can’t with Switchfoot?
It’s invigorating to have other outlets for different songs because I feel that strengthens everything. You’re not put in a box in any location. For me, to have the seasonal EPs to throw mellower songs that would never fit on a Switchfoot record. Then to write with Sean Watkins and have that record be something completely different - to come back to rock ‘n’ roll, Switchfoot-style, it feel invigorating to dream up what you can do. I feel like ‘Hello Hurricane’ and ‘Vice Verses’ definitely came out of that limitless space where anything goes.