Best 'foot' forward
I was 9 years old when I saw the trailer for “A Walk to Remember,” and not even three months older before my sister bought its soundtrack. Track one stuck out almost immediately: Switchfoot’s “Dare You to Move.” It’s a decade later and that band, bolstered by a string of hit singles, soundtrack inclusions and a Grammy Award, still maintains a hefty fanbase. In a conversation that satisfied the dreams of my 13-year-old self, Drew Shirley (guitar/backing vocals) elaborates on the future of the band and on continuing to make waves — in more ways than one.
Arts & Entertainment: You guys will be at the Paramount Theater on Oct. 16. What’s in store for the audience?
Drew Shirley: This tour is like nothing we’ve done before. There’s going to be a screening of our new movie, “Fading West,” at each date. Afterward, the guys and I are going to have a [VH1] “Storytellers”-type acoustic set with a Q-and-A session for the fans. We’re going to kick off the leather pants and sunglasses and show a different side to our band.
AE: What propelled Switchfoot to create “Fading West”?
DS: We wanted to connect the audience to our love of surfing. “Switchfoot” is a surfing term, and we always hit the waves when we travel around the world. A film crew ended up approaching us so it seemed like the right time for our band to tell that part of our story. It has got elements of “The Endless Summer,” “Rattle and Hum” [U2’s rockumentary] and even a little bit of “Dumb & Dumber.”
AE: There’s a record coming out with the same title as the film. Is it a continuation of what we’ll hear during the screening: a portrait of the band at its most organic?
DS: Well, an EP with three songs featured in the movie and on the record (out next January) is available online and at all dates on this tour. If you like what you hear, each physical copy comes with a download code to grab the full album on its release date.
The songs have a completely new sound for us. We did take some liberties when creating some “movie-type” tracks, but it’s a true Switchfoot studio album. There are some pretty unique elements that came with filming the documentary that show up in the songs. When you travel the world, you discover that there are a lot of other ways to do things … cultures, traffic patterns, even how they handle a band playing music in their country. Traveling adds an “outside of yourself” feeling that we captured on tape. Songs have everything from features of a South African children’s choir, an Indonesian gamelon player, and even kids from home on the chorus of the first single “Who We Are.” The film and the album aren’t about the band. It’s about doing our part for the culture. I think music is like a story or a river. It was flowing before we started making music and it’s going to continue long after we’re done, so we’re just adding ourselves to it while we can.
AE: How does the record reflect the attitude of surfing portrayed in the film?
DS: It correlates a bit just from the fact most of the music was written on a surf trip. Surfing is a hobby and a definite escape. When you’re out there on the water, you’re underneath the sky and the ocean stretches farther than you can see. It comes with a perspective that makes it easy to think separately from all the technology and noise in our lives. Music, for our band, is also an escape. It’s easy to get lost in the vibe of a song for four minutes. Our job is to write honest songs that we like and that are meaningful. We are all the same at some level. We just want to bridge that connection.
AE: What does the title “Fading West” mean?
DS: “Fading West” was the first song Jon [Foreman, vocals/guitar] wrote for the project. We’re from the west — San Diego, Calif. — so when we look farther west, we see the open ocean. That image stuck with us, as did the title. We ended up naming the movie first, and the album’s title followed suit.
AE: What do you want concertgoers to take away from this unparalleled experience?
DS: We want our fans to get to know us in a new way. We’re quirky and fun on YouTube and with our podcast episodes, but this snapshot of Switchfoot is more serious and personal. In fact, there were some incredibly personal scenes we debated removing from the film that we kept in because “Fading West” is an unfiltered journey and a story. Honestly, we hope that people come away with a love of their own lives and the things in it.
If you’re into loving life, Switchfoot comes to the Paramount Theater with their new film on Oct. 16. I know I’ll be there.