Monday, February 24, 2014

Bonus Q&A with Switchfoot

Here is more from my interview last month with Switchfoot guitarist Drew Shirley, who was heading up the 5 freeway to an in-store appearance in Long Beach at the time. 

Q: What has the early feedback been from fans on the new album and film?
The setup has been better for this album than any we ever had. With the movie out, people are really getting interested. 

Q: What can you tell me about your using a gas can guitar you found in Africa on "Love Alone is Worth the Fight?"
Over there, you buy gas in these tin cans. That’s how they’re delivered. And they make these tin cans into guitars because they resonate pretty well. This guy made a neck and some pickups for it. I played it in the studio with a slide. It adds a lot of vibe and interesting sounds. 

Q: How did using fewer guitars change your approach to writing the music? 
I found myself layering background vocals, working on drum parts or just staying out of it for a little while [laughs] to see what happens.

Q: Are those your kids doing background vocals on “Who We Are?”
Yeah. They’re not all mine [laughs]. A couple are. Actually, they’re all the band Switchfoot’s kids. It was a very cool memory. That song is very special to us. It not only talks about identity and what more wraps up identity in such a crazy way than your son or daughter? It also reminds us of home when we play it.

Q: The song “BA55” has quite a dark, intense vibe with the bits of scorching guitar. Is that one of your favorites?
I really like that - especially the end backwards guitar solo that has the Led Zeppelin flange on it.

Q: Neal Avron and Mike Elizondo returned to work on this album, having previously done "Vice Verses." What was it like working with them again?
They know how to bring out the best in us and how to manage us in the studio. We all really like to produce and we all like to be working on stuff and taking a stab at it. They help us all do things in a timely manner, in an articulate way. Make sure we don’t accidentally erase things on the computer.

Q: One part of the film I particularly enjoyed was when the band played a metal fest Down Under and came across like a fish out of water.
That happens sometimes. We just want to play music in whatever place we can and make new fans in those areas. It’s funny: the people that come up to you at those shows in dreads, high heels, makeup and tight leather pants and say, ‘I love your band. I have all your albums.’ And I’m like, ‘whoa. I never would’ve expected that.’ It’s all good. It’s music. It’s cool for us to be in that environment.

photo by Chris Burkard
Q: You’ve referred to yourself as a “tone collector” before. Are the other guys usually open to letting you explore varied sonic terrain when you record?
Yeah. That’s one of the cool things about having your own studio. We’ve recorded the last three albums there. You get to know the gear and the room. You get to amass amps and pedals and have things all in one place where you can use them the way they’re supposed to be used. You’re able to try stuff. I would usually be there later into the evening, just trying to make sounds and try some new ideas.

Q: Speaking of sounds, you have a new tube amplifier company called Revival. What prompted you to start that?
I love guitars and amps. It’s something I’ve collected and done for awhile. My guitar tech at home has been making me amps for the last couple years. We just decided to start a company and let people hear [what we like]. I play guitar for my profession. To have my own guitar amp company is a great legacy and thing to be able to share and mentor other players with tone. Show some people how get the sounds I get. I like to ... give away what I know to someone else coming up. Having an amp company is a way to do that for me. We’re probably going to launch the web site soon.

Q: Will there be several different models on offer?
Yeah. We’ve got an 8” combo, a 12” combo and a head and cabinet. The white amp, we were inspired by an old amp from the ‘50s.

Q: Are you taking orders now?
I don’t think we’ll open it to the public just yet because we’re dealing with pros and tastemakers right now. People in the industry, guitar player friends. The list got really long fast when we said we had some ready. They’re almost all spoken for. I believe the next run we’re going to offer to the public on the web site.

Q: Turning to some local background info, what initially lured you to Riverside to attend Cal Baptist U?
I had a friend who went there. He said, ‘I had a great experience at that college.’ I thought I’d go check it out. It was just far enough from San Diego to where I could still drive home and do laundry.

Q: When you were a member of All Together Separate here in Riverside, what was your take on the IE music scene at the time?
There were a few ska bands and a lot of emo bands when that was starting as a title genre. When that sort of movement happened, I think Riverside had at least three or four good up and coming bands. Being in a suburb of LA, I went to tons of shows in LA and Hollywood.

Q: After ATS had run its course, were the Foreman Brothers aware of your work and then asked you to join their band?
Yeah. We were friends for awhile before that band broke up. It was really uncanny the way it happened because Jon said, ‘do you want to play a few shows with us on guitar?’ I said I was going to be free for awhile because my band decided to break up. It was really incredible timing.

Q: Has San Bernardino station KCXX/103.9 FM always been a big Switchfoot supporter?
We’ve played shows for X103.9 multiple times. I used to listen to them and still do on my drives through [the IE].

Q: And you did a holiday charity drive show for them at M15 in Corona last month.
That was really fun. An interesting venue right off the freeway.

Q: When you perform in the IE, do any of your old college pals turn up?
It’s funny: ex-girlfriends and people like that.

Q: Since you’re a collector of fine footwear, do you get excited whenever Switchfoot teams up with Macbeth for a new signature shoe?
I do. Just got a new pair of ‘em last night at the in store and saw it for the first time. It’s really low profile. They’ve been a great company to work with and they’re just around the corner from my studio. It’s pretty handy when you need to stop in for a new pair of kicks. It’s our second shoe with them. 


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