Interview: Switchfoot Talks Film, Surfing, Philosophy & ‘Fading West’

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By Annie Reuter

The members of San Diego band Switchfoot spent more than two years traveling, writing, recording and filming their latest album Fading West.

Yes, filming: One month before Fading West hit stores, the group also debuted a film of the same name that was created in conjunction with the album. And as the band explains, the two are part of the same project, and separating them doesn’t really work.

“It’s kind of like following the sun, chasing the sun west,” Switchfoot’s Tim Foreman explained of the concept behind Fading West, during a recent interview with Radio.com. “For us, the whole concept was one part film, one part album.”

And, maybe, one additional part surfing, as that is a passion for them that worked its way into the film as well. “It [was] an excuse for us to surf at a lot of our favorite surf spots and call it work,” said Tim. “Chasing songs and waves around the planet.”

The film Fading West offers insight into the band’s creative process and what propels their music. “I want our songs to be the songs that open the doors of the soul, to look at a story bigger than ourselves,” Foreman said in a teaser for the film (watch it below). Mixed in is footage of the bandmembers traveling around the world, as well as scenes of their family lives, all of which provide intimate and emotional moments for fans. 

Frontman Jon Foreman chimed in as well, explaining that when they were putting Fading West together, the bandmates wanted the film and the album to “feel like brother and sister.”

“I’m not sure what the sex was on either of them,” he joked. “But they’re definitely related. The movie followed us as we were looking for inspiration for the songs, and the songs are used in the movie. I feel like they possess the same journey.”

After releasing nine albums over their nearly two-decade career, Jon said he’s still blown away by the fact that their albums continuously top the charts.

“I’m always blown away and thankful that we’re still making music,” he said. “I know we’d be making music whether people would want it or not, that the songs are there. As long as you’re honest, that’s what you have to show for it. Whether people are coming up in thousands or one at a time and connecting with you. That’s what I’m in it for.”

A huge part of their success is their passionate fan base, which guitarist Drew Shirley defined people who are “thoughtful” and “really listen” and internalize their lyrics.

Jon Forman agreed. “I think that’s where you realize the music that you write for yourself at three in the morning in your hotel room, that it has a life of its own and you’re part of a bigger story, when you realize that has an impact on somebody around the world. The biggest impact music can have; we all go through rough times, but when a song can open your eyes to see something beyond the tough times.”

Jon credits his relatable and introspective songwriting to some of the authors and philosophers he reads.

“I love reading,” he said. “I’ve always loved the idea that other humans have thought of these questions that I’ve thought of, and they’re probably way smarter than I am, and I’ve got a lot to learn. When it comes to songs, usually for me I’m just writing about what’s on the top of my head, and sometimes somebody else has said it in a way that feels like it opens up a new way to say it in a song.”

“Whether it’s Søren Kierkegaard, Pascal, or whoever, these guys are much smarter than me,” he added. “If I can write a song that taps into their line of thinking, it feels like a good thing.”

Watch the interview on Radio.com

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