International Christian rock band Switchfoot have stepped into unchartered territory with their ground breaking release ‘Hello Hurricane’.
Journalist KERRYN BRICKNELL spoke to front man, Jon Foreman about the deconstruction process that the band undertook for this new album.
Jon when we last spoke it was back in 2007 when you had just released your solo EPs. You talked about creating a new landscape with Switchfoot and that you wanted to go somewhere you had never gone before. Do you think you have accomplished that goal with ‘Hello Hurricane’?
I feel like we have. The difference between this record and records of the past, is that every other record we had a destination in mind before we started to press record. On this record we knew that we wanted to go somewhere new. We didn’t exactly know where that location was or what it looked or sounded like. We wrote a bunch of songs and recorded 80 of them. From those 80 we began to get a feel for what the heart beat of this record would be.
On the album’s DVD you talk about how you deconstructed Switchfoot – tell me why you needed to do that and how did you go about that process?
Making the same record becomes easier. The water flows in the same places and you get really good at your instruments and at doing the same things that come naturally. So to take up a guitar like it is the first time becomes harder and harder. A big part is deconstructing everything we have done and trying to approach it from a new angle. What helped us start off in an unchartered direction was firstly having our own studio and secondly, going away from everything we have done by doing the solo EPs and the side project.
Is this a new beginning for you as a band?
Absolutely. I feel like out of this process we have rediscovered so much of what we love about music and what we want to do for the rest of our lives. The big motto for the record had to do with heart. The songs that did make the record out of the 80 had to do with whether we were captivated by the lyrics. If it didn’t move us then it wasn’t worth singing. We had this motto ‘if you ain’t crying why you singing it’. If it doesn’t move you maybe it is time to move on to the next song.
So you built your own studio – did you have a plan about how you were going to tackle it?
We didn’t really have a plan and that is what I mean by unchartered territory. We just basically imitated all the studios that we have liked in the past. We didn’t have some sort of acoustical engineer come through and make it perfect. We just made it liveable and we decided to make a good studio and a great album and rather than the other way around.
It is evident that this album has been a labour of love. What has been the most difficult part?
The most difficult part was identifying which songs were not going to be on the record. It is basically the unenviable task of cutting your kid from the football team and he doesn’t make the cut. And every one of these songs we had grown personally attached to in one way or another and yet you can’t put out a record with 80 songs on it. That was the hardest part, absolutely. However, that process was very useful to try and determine ‘what are the songs that we would want to sing’; kind of a double edged sword on that front.
Looking back would you do the album the same way?
I don’t see any other way to do this type of record because we didn’t have a destination in mind when we started out. We just knew we had a dream and figured we know when we got there. Although it was a really difficult and painful process I don’t really know any other way to arrive at this result.
Hello Hurricane – what is the significance of the name of the record?
‘Hello Hurricane’ to me is the attitude of facing the storm. Essentially, where I see it, you can’t control when the storms of life are going to hit; you can’t control what the intensity; how they are going to affect you. You know that many of these storms of life may tear down pieces of the structures you depend on that tear us apart. Often there is a lot fear of involved. ‘Hello Hurricane’ actually determined that you will not succumb to doubt or fear, anger or bitterness because these are not appropriate responses but rather responding in love and taking a challenge the way we see each other. So for me the title track ‘Hello hurricane, you can’t silence my love’ is somewhat of a declaration singing into the storm.
Each of the songs have a real stamp of individuality on each of them and yet there is a real cohesion between them – how did you in the end chose 12 songs from the 80 or 90 songs you wrote?
It really came down to weigh through the songs we wanted to die singing. That was kind of the motto – if you were singing your last song, would this be an appropriate one?
The inspiration for the songs – are they life experiences or other people’s experiences?
I write songs from a personal perspective and they are autobiographical in nature. Ultimately, it is somewhat of a journal for me. I mostly write about things I don’t understand. The song is a safe place to question, to doubt, to express fears, anger, frustrations and to look for hope. Ultimately, the song is a vehicle to move from one place to another.
When I watched the DVD, everyone seems to have a role to play in the band and you all are complimentary in the way you operate.
It’s an organism which it means it can change. It’s living, breathing, interacting and working through the friction and frustrations. It’s not a perfect system of rules; it’s relationships that ultimately are built over time. For me, these are my best friends out on the road. There is camaraderie that goes deeper than the songs and we couldn’t do what we do and be at odds with each other.
It is very evident your relationship with your brother, Tim is quite unique. You’ve got a synergy happening. Has that always been there or has it developed over the years?
My parents moved around a lot when I was a kid and that forced somewhat of camaraderie with my brother – simply because you moved to a new town and he is the only guy you know. There is certainly moments of disagreement and tension but, I think all of these moments stem from a passion for the song and a true place where there is intentionality and a care for these songs. I wouldn’t trade that. Having done the solo thing, you have people come in and they play their part, leave and never hear the songs again in their life. Whereas with Tim, Chad, Drew or Jerome we all know these are parts we are going to be playing for the next couple of years so to have your name on the back of the CD means something different. Ultimately that passion is worth the tension.
Do you enjoy playing Hello Hurricane live to audiences more than the studio experience?
It depends. I like them both for different reasons. This experience has actually been a rare treat for us probably because we’ve never done this before where we’re playing the record from the start to finish from track 1 to track 12. Ultimately it’s our chance to bring the studio out on the road; to present the studio experience to everyone there and deliver our record first hand. So I don’t know which one I prefer more. I will say that music for me is a communal experience. I‘m always am drawn to bands that interact. It’s not simply some display of musical ability but rather their music takes a journey and the band and audiences are integrally involved in every step. For us that is a huge part of it. To have everyone singing along with these songs less than a week after it is released, it’s just an incredible feeling.
When will you be heading ‘Down Under’?
We will be heading down under to Australia in April as part of our world tour and playing in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.